Ethnic Minorities and Social Services in Spain

Ethnic Minorities and Social Services

Enculturation and Cultural Conflicts

Within every society, the transmission of knowledge, norms, values, and beliefs, known as enculturation, ensures the adoption of new members into the group. Culture, therefore, is an inherited asset, shared and transmitted across generations. However, the presence of different cultures within the same area can create conflicts, leading to the marginalization of social groups and the emergence of ethnic minorities.

Defining Ethnic Minorities

In the social sciences, the term “ethnic minority” refers to a group of people with common bonds of nationality, race, culture, or historical tradition who experience an asymmetrical power relationship. In Spain, major ethnic groups include Roma people, foreign immigrants, and other groups often subjected to discrimination.

Racism, Xenophobia, and Multiculturalism

Racism is the belief in the intellectual and moral superiority of one group over another based on perceived phenotypic differences. Xenophobia, on the other hand, expresses fear of the stranger or the different, often attributing moral characteristics based on physical traits. Multiculturalism, in contrast, advocates for relationships based on mutual respect and understanding, fostering interaction and negotiation between different cultures.

Marginalization and the Legislative Aspect

The marginalization of “different” groups is exacerbated during times of economic crisis. However, the Spanish Constitution guarantees equal rights for all, regardless of race, religion, or sex. Article 13 ensures public freedoms for foreigners in Spain, while Article 14 emphasizes equality before the law. Furthermore, the Statute of Autonomy of the Valencian Community, specifically Law 5/97 regulating social services, addresses the needs of ethnic minorities. Article 25 outlines measures to promote social equality for individuals and groups belonging to ethnic minorities, including a comprehensive development plan that respects their culture and promotes social and labor integration.

Principles of Social Services

The law emphasizes the following principles for social services:

  • Responsibility of the Generalitat Valenciana to address social problems and provide necessary resources.
  • Solidarity and civil society participation.
  • Prevention, planning, and evaluation for effective management.
  • Equality and universality.
  • Inclusiveness and integration.
  • Decentralization, deconcentration, and coordination in management.

Intercultural Education and Social Transformation

Intercultural education is crucial for promoting social transformation and fostering acceptance of diversity. Schools, as primary agents of socialization, should provide intercultural education to equip students with the ability to embrace diversity as a source of enrichment rather than a threat. A multicultural society should not be viewed as a mosaic of isolated cultures but as a tapestry where diversity enriches both individuals and society as a whole.

Teacher Training and Integration

Spain’s efforts in preparing teachers for intercultural education have been limited and inconsistent. Both initial and in-service teacher training should incorporate intercultural education to ensure effective integration of ethnic and cultural minorities. Ultimately, a positive policy that promotes full integration is essential for the active and complete participation of ethnic and cultural minorities in Spanish society. As Horace Mann aptly stated, education is the great equalizer of human conditions, the driving force of social progress.