This next post I am about to drop is close to my heart. It is because I can’t tell you how many
discussions arguments I have had with West Indian friends and family members about their misconceptions when it comes to our African American brothers and sisters who were actually born here, and the different struggles that they face.
The Field Negro education series continues:
“Black Lives Matter” has become one of the more memorable protest slogans in recent memory, and now a new study is shedding more light on whose lives that phrase represents. The study, released this week from the Pew Research Center, shows that a growing number of black people in America are foreign-born immigrants.
The study, which was based on U.S. Census Bureau data, showed that 9 percent of blacks in the United States were born outside the country—often in the Caribbean but, increasingly, also in African countries such as Nigeria and Ethiopia. The number of foreign-born blacks in the U.S. has tripled since 1980. The Census Bureau projects that by 2060, more than 16 percent of U.S. blacks will be immigrants. The study found that black immigrants tend to be older, better educated, and wealthier than U.S.-born blacks.
The report also found that in some metropolitan areas, immigrants already made up a sizable portion of black residents. In Miami, immigrants made up roughly one-third of black residents. In New York City, they made up 28 percent of black residents.
The numbers paint one of the most descriptive pictures of America’s diversity. They also come on the heels of increasingly public conversations about what such diversity means in a country with such a difficult racial history. “Immigrants in general have to deal with adapting to a new country,” William Frey, a demographer and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, told TakePart. “Often there’s a language issue, and sometimes it’s being able to find jobs. The African-American community goes back many generations and has its own set of issues that many feel haven’t been dealt with yet, but those are distinctly different concerns than the ones facing black immigrants.”
In recent years, the dynamic between native and foreign-born blacks has been thrust to the surface of America’s cultural and policy conversations. A 2004 Princeton study found that immigrants accounted for more than a quarter of black students at America’s Ivy League schools. That led some to question the relevance of affirmative action policies, which were originally intended to help bring talented members of historically marginalized groups into many institutions of American society. In 2007, Lani Guinier, a professor at Harvard Law School, famously theorized about why in The Washington Post: “It has to do with coming from a country, especially those educated in Caribbean and African countries, where blacks were in the majority and did not experience the stigma that black children did in the United States.” What Guinier and other black Harvard professors later argued was that affirmative action policies were not helping America’s most disadvantaged blacks—those who were the direct descendants of American slaves—access the country’s most prestigious colleges.
Central to this narrative is if—and how—black immigrants experience race and racism in America differently than U.S.-born blacks.
The conversation is playing out in Hollywood. It’s worth noting that some of the most popular recent films dealing with America’s race legacy have been driven by non-U.S. black actors. One example is 12 Years a Slave, which starred Chiwetel Ejiofor, the British son of Nigerian immigrant parents, and Lupita Nyong’o, who was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya. Similarly, Selma starred David Oyelowo, a British actor of Nigerian descent. One writer at Madame Noire, a popular black blog, wondered if Hollywood was replacing African American actors on screen with African ones.
Trevor Noah, the newly announced host of The Daily Show, is a biracial South African comedian who has sometimes made fun of African Americans. It’s humor that may not be popular with many blacks in the U.S., but it certainly doesn’t preclude him from offering a new and important perspective on race. After all, he grew up in the shadow of apartheid—he’s certainly got something to add, or else he wouldn’t have been chosen to host the show in the first place.
Still, others have argued that black immigrants are not immune to the hazards of American racism. It’s estimated that there are at least half a million 400,000 black people living in the United States who are undocumented.
Black America has always been diverse, and it’s important to have hard data on what that diversity actually looks like. But how to deal with that diversity is the bigger issue.” [Source]
I think black immigrants who come to this country and believe that they somehow enjoy a special status over those blacks who were born here are delusional.
I also believe that black Americans who somehow think that blacks immigrants who come to this country –in many cases with little more than the clothes on their backs— somehow enjoy a special privilege in the eyes of white America are equally as delusional.
The truth is, we all face our own unique struggles, and we all have to find ways to overcome them.
Sitting back and pointing fingers at each other will not help us achieve the goals that I am sure we all share.