by Thomas Froehlich, Christin Habermann, Nardos Mekonnen, Shivan Sarin, Carolin Wattenberg, and Gregor Wendler
Diversity and inclusion are two concepts frequently brought up in debates about transatlantic social, political and economic relations. Still, only a limited group of diplomats, academics, politicians and businesspeople determines the transatlantic discourse. This memo on diversity and inclusion asserts that the call for modernizing transatlantic relations can only be answered by including those groups formerly excluded from the transatlantic debate: communities in rural areas, the working class, communities of color, and migrant communities. More so than simply analyzing these groups’ compositions, their struggles, and their transatlantic ties, this memo highlights the clear benefits that arise from including these communities in the transatlantic debate.
Currently, a limited group of diplomats, academics, politicians, and international businesspeople have steady access to the transatlantic relationship and dominate its discourse, while a number of other communities have been nearly entirely left out of the transatlantic debate. As a result, these communities do not have the opportunity to join forces with their ‘sister-communities’ on the other side of the Atlantic and cannot benefit from such fruitful exchange. Yet, issues that affect these communities, whether they be rural communities, migrant communities, communities of color, and the working class, are mutual across state boundaries. Having a voice in the transatlantic debate and access to cross-cultural exchange enables these sectors to progress on those issues that affect them the most. This memo outlines some of the groups excluded from the transatlantic debate and focuses on how these communities as well as the current transatlantic relations can benefit from a more inclusive approach.
SELECTED MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES
Communities in Rural Areas
Brexit, the 2016 election of United States President Donald Trump, and the 2017 election in Germany have turned the public eye towards the growing divide between rural and metropolitan areas. The feeling of ‘being left behind’ has become a decisive factor in voting behavior on both sides of the Atlantic, pointing to a complex combination of economic and cultural factors.
In the US, for instance, explanations for President Trump’s appeal in these rural regions have focused on a number of factors: residents’ lack of trust in institutions (e.g. the federal government, news media); economic despair and concerns about the future; anxiety about immigration and globalization; and a general feeling that urban US Americans do not share the same values as their rural counterparts.
In Germany, the debate has focused on similar issues. Such analysis has asked whether people from underdeveloped regions in states like Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia have a higher tendency to vote for right-wing populist parties.
Rural areas account for 18% of the total US population and 24% of the German population. Yet, despite their considerable political power, rural communities are underrepresented in political debates in general and in transatlantic matters specifically. While it is true that political and cultural institutions, universities, think tanks, and other primary actors involved in these debates are mostly based in major cities or the nation’s capital, there has not been a concerted effort to diversify participants beyond urban centers. Transatlantic social cohesion depends on representing these communities and strengthening ties between rural communities in both Germany and the United States.
Migrant communities have grown consistently and changed considerably on both sides of the Atlantic over the course of the last century. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the size of the immigration population in the United States increased from 9.6 million individuals, or 4.7%of the population, in 1970 to 41.3 million, or 13.1% of the population today. Where in the 1960s the United States had the largest share of immigrants originating from Europe, the early 21st century has seen a shift to immigration from Latin America (with Mexican-born immigrants accounting for 28% of the foreign-born in the United States) and Asia (with India and China both accounting for 5%, and the Philippines representing 4%).
In Germany, one fifth of the population (18.6 million people) has a migrant background, with the largest group originating from Turkey (16.7%) followed by Poland (10%) and Russia (7.1%). Migrant groups residing in Germany for many generations have established community groups, e.g. The Türkische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland e.V. (Turkish Community of Germany) in order to honor and preserve their individual and communal identity. More so, these groups actively further successful social inclusion by establishing transcultural bonds between their countries of origin and their country of residence.
Despite the undeniable benefits migrants bring to the United States and Germany, their communities have recently been met with increased skepticism and disdain: Political figures have sought to restrict immigration and fomented anger against these groups that was quickly mirrored by significant shares of society. Including migrant communities in the transatlantic dialogue is then all the more crucial as it allows these groups to voice their thoughts, knowledge, and experiences regarding issues relevant for all of society: economic stability, political equality, educational opportunity, and cultural inclusion.
Communities of Color
People of color, similarly to migrant communities, face discrimination and social marginalization to a surpassing degree. Among other areas, this has also limited these communities’ contribution within transatlantic debates. One of the most prevalent and underrepresented groups in the transatlantic dialogue is the African American community, which amounts to approximately 13.3% of the US population.
Issues facing this community span a number of dimensions that could benefit from transatlantic dialogue. Mostly arriving in the United States as slaves, it took African-American communities almost two hundred years from the country’s founding to gain full legal and civil rights. However, these communities are still plagued by a lack of basic services, from effective education to economic opportunities to healthy food options ensuring sustainable growth. Even safety and security of the community has come under attack in recent years, underlined by the number of police shootings of unarmed black women, men, and children. Such tensions have only increased with the growing vocal nature of white supremacists and neo-Nazi rallies. Members of the community would benefit from discussions of effective strategies to tackle these challenges.
Although Germany does not share the same historic relations with communities of color as the United States, many persons of color face the same marginalization and everyday racism. Including these communities into the transatlantic debate allows them to voice their issues and concerns, find solutions, connect with their ‘sister-community’ across the Atlantic, and create invaluable transatlantic cultural and social bonds.
The working class is subject to various definitions and alterations thereof during the course of the last 150 years. For this memo in particular, members of the working class are defined as follows: they hold no college degree and work in the manufacturing or service sector (blue-collar or white-collar work) and they lack cultural and financial capital. According to this definition then, around 40% of German citizens and between 43-67% of US American citizens belong to the working class.
Members of the working class, especially the so-called white working class, tend to share a conservative view, yet they prioritize economic over cultural ideologies. The working class is hit hardest by economic turmoil and its members continuously have to worry about their financial future as wages stagnate, prices rise, education becomes more expensive, and unemployment rates increase. Moreover, members of the working class have felt abandoned by their politicians, as upward mobility appears unachievable.
Albeit the numerically largest class in both countries, the working class is not a focus of transatlantic debates. Their financial struggles are regarded as a matter of purely national concern, which denies the similarities of working class people in the transatlantic region and hinders a joint approach to solving these problems. Unfortunately, some leaders of the transatlantic debate hold the opinion that the working class generally lacks the education necessary to understand and hence participate in the transatlantic discussion. This discourages not only members of this group to participate but also educational or cultural approaches that would further transatlantic inclusion.
OUTLOOK: BENEFITS OF EXPANDING THE DEBATE
Despite the various differences that exist between the communities and groups outlined above, including them into the transatlantic debate holds similar benefits and opportunities across all groups.
- Broadening the Debate: The inclusion of diverse opinions and viewpoints allows for more progressive and creative ideas on furthering transatlantic relations. Not only does an expansion of the debate permits issues and themes to surface that have formerly not been recognized by leaders of the transatlantic debate, but it also gives way to diverse forms of knowledge, thought, and understanding. Once streamlined into discussion and dialogue, this inclusive and joint discussion will yield innovative and modern ways of imagining the future of our transatlantic relations.
- Fostering Social Cohesion: Including formerly unheard and marginalized communities empowers the correction of past mistakes and thus prevents these mistakes in the future. Right-wing populism, one of the largest threats to successful transatlantic relations, is in part a product of politicians’ neglect towards the economic fears of certain communities, most prominently the working class. In general, receiving attention of their individual issues, views, and opinions is the first step to lessen and abolish anti-transatlantic sentiment and to foster social cohesion.
- Engaging with Benefits: If future transatlantic relations shall be successful, the consent of a majority of citizens is necessary, which presupposes informing a number of different communities about the benefits these transatlantic ties hold for them. Once the benefits are actively discussed, there is a high probability that people formerly against transatlantic endeavors may begin to support them.
- Sharing Best Practices: Issues that affect the respective communities can be solved more effectively through transatlantic cooperation of these communities through the sharing of information. As our research regarding the respective groups and communities has come to show, their issues, viewpoints, and concerns are increasingly similar on both sides of the Atlantic. Such collaboration not only aids in solving the emerging issues by sharing best practices but also increases the personal ties within the transatlantic region.
By promoting the benefits that inclusion and diversity hold for both the marginalized groups as well as ‘traditional’ stakeholders it becomes possible to amend many entrenched structures of the transatlantic debate. As much as diversity and inclusion have served as integral parts of the United States’ and Germany’s respective social, political and economic fabric, diversity and inclusion need to be just as much celebrated, furthered and enthroned transatlantically in order to modernize US-German relations.
 While this memorandum outlines some of the marginalized communities in the transatlantic debate, this list is not exclusive, and other marginalized communities should be included in the debate for a full and comprehensive debate regarding transatlantic issues.
 A recent Ipsos survey showed that globally, rural populations are less optimistic than their counterparts in big cities. See Ipsos Global Trends: Fragmentation, Cohesion & Uncertainty, p. 56 (https://www.ipsosglobaltrends.com)
 See Kleine Anfrage der Grünen (http://dip21.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/18/112/1811263.pdf)
 See The World Bank (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS)
 Migrant here is defined as a person present in the United States or Germany with no respective citizenship at birth.
 DESTATIS Statistisches Bundesamt (https://www.destatis.de/DE/ZahlenFakten/GesellschaftStaat/Bevoelkerung/MigrationIntegration/MigrationIntegration.html)
 See Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (https://www.bpb.de/wissen/NY3SWU,0,0,Bev%F6lkerung_mit_Migrationshintergrund_I.html)
 See U.S. Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045216 )
 Most studies in the United States define members of the working class as holding no college-degree and working blue- or white-collar jobs. German studies rather focus on the cultural and financial capital.
 See, for example, Michael Vester Soziale Milieus im gesellschaftlichen Strukturwandel, p. 15-16; Max Koch, Vom Strukturwandel einer Klassengesellschaft, p. 45.
 See, for example, William E. Thompson and Joseph V. Hickey, Society in Focus; Leonard Beeghley, The Structure of Social Stratification in the United States.