The idea of measuring social integration has been around for years. But, in today’s world, where cultural and social forces continue to pull societies apart, concerned governments and cities are making conscious efforts to achieve reasonable social integration. For example, in March 2018, the mayor of London published his Social Integration Strategy (SIS), in which he listed a set of measures to track the city’s social integration. SIS highlights three main parts of social integration: relationships, participation and equality. The mayor placed high priority on improving social integration because he not only believes that social integration helps people live better, but that it also helps the city plan on how to best allocate resources.
There are many definitions of and ideas for social integration, but Wikipedia’s is simple and clear: “Social integration is the process during which newcomers or minorities are incorporated into the social structure of the host society.” On behalf of Nigerian Parents magazine, I set out to track the extent to which Nigerians are socially integrated in their host society. The result was just as revealing as it was surprising. There are two major misconceptions that Nigerians have about other people’s cultures:
- Social integration leads to a loss of identity and culture. Many Nigerians believe that social integration leads to this type of loss. This assumption could not be farther from the truth. In fact, the opposite is true. Social integration offers the opportunity for others learn about your culture, which you must practice with respect to the culture of the host society. Many Nigerians reject the idea of social integration for fear of losing their identity and culture.
- There is no innate value in other cultures. Many Nigerians assume, without empirical evidence, that Nigerian culture is inclusively superior to other cultures. Therefore, learning other cultures is a waste of time, and it waters down their more superior culture.
Some scholars have argued that, over successive generations, immigrants would be assimilated into the culture of their host society. But other scholars argue that immigrants could maintain their culture or even reshape host societies into multicultural places. Why is understanding social integration important? Because, in some instances, social integration has been related to economic and educational opportunities.
Members of minority groups often use social integration to gain access to economic and educational opportunities and, in most cases, services and rights available to the mainstream. Therefore, it is important to make concerted efforts to socially integrate into a host culture. The less the population of Nigerians in a host society is, the more integrated into the mainstream they are. On average, Nigerians in these places do better than others in host societies with Nigerian populations.
If you have any opinion on this article or stories of social integration in your culture anywhere in the world, feel free to share them with our audience.