African immigrants a model minority? Nonsense.

First off, what is an African immigrant? What's the time line? Everyone from Africa coming to America after the emancipation proclamation? After the slaves' general strike, which DuBois teaches us really ended slavery? After the civil war? After black reconstruction? After colonial rule in Africa -- which country? Is it the forced migration of slavery that makes one not an African immigrant? What about Africans like my mother, forced to migrate and live in America because of the turmoil on the African continent? Murky waters indeed.

Ultimately the attempt to treat a study like this as historical fact and some sort of social science is the first mistake. All is narrative and perspective in this and many instances.
1) You assume that there are certain points in time that are more important than every other moment in time, and that at these important points in history, distinct identities are created, specifically, that there exists a moment where Africans who remained on the African continent became separate from Africans who were migrating to or already living in America;

2) You assume that there is no such point (among every moment of elapsed time in history) that can be identified and that there is no point in trying to identify any one that is more important than any other;

3) Or you admit that there are indeed several historical points where distinct identities have been created under distinct circumstances BUT that, while they do matter, they are secondary to the fact that point of origin is what all of these identities have in common, therefore diminishing their importance. Further, that the reason these distinct identities are secondary to a shared one is because there are shared problems that all of these identities continue to have in common. Even further, that there are also shared principles, values and spiritual perspectives that these distinct identities have in common. Further further, (lol) that in these times a rediscovery of these common principles, values and spiritual perspectives are necessary to human survival.

(Houston Chronicle) Blacks from Africa as America's true model minority? Do African immigrants make the smartest Americans? The question may sound outlandish, but if you were judging by statistics alone, you could find plenty of evidence to back it up.

In a side-by-side comparison of 2000 census data by sociologist John R. Logan at the Mumford Center, State University of New York at Albany, black immigrants from Africa average the highest educational attainment of any population group in the country, including whites and Asians.

For example, 43.8 percent of African immigrants had achieved a college degree, compared to 42.5 of Asian-Americans, 28.9 percent for immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada, and 23.1 percent of the U.S. population as a whole.

That defies the usual stereotypes of Asian-Americans as the only "model minority." Yet the traditional American narrative has rendered the high academic achievements of black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean invisible, as if it were a taboo topic.

Instead, we should take a closer look. That was my reaction in 2004 after black Harvard law professor Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of Harvard's African-American studies department, stirred a black Harvard alumni reunion with questions about precisely where the university's new black students were coming from.

About 8 percent, or 530, of Harvard's undergraduates were black, they said, but somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of black undergraduates were "West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples."

If we take a closer look, I said at the time, I bet we'll find that Harvard's not alone. With all of the ink and airwaves that have been devoted to immigration these days, black immigrants remain remarkably invisible. Yet their success has long followed the patterns of other high-achieving immigrants.

As one immigrant Jamaican friend once told me, "I'm too busy working two jobs to worry about the white man's racism."

Now comes a new study that finds a consistent pattern of Ivy League and other elite colleges and universities boosting their black student populations by enrolling large numbers of immigrants from Africa, the West Indies and Latin America.

Immigrants, who make up 13 percent of the nation's college-age black population, account for more than a quarter of black students at Ivy League and other elite universities, according to the study of 28 selective colleges and universities. The authors of the study, published recently in the American Journal of Education, included Douglas S. Massey of Princeton University and Camille Z. Charles of the University of Pennsylvania. The proportion of immigrants was higher at private institutions, 28.8 percent, than at the public ones, where they comprised 23.1 percent of enrollment.

Are elite schools padding their racial diversity numbers with black immigrants who do not have a history of American slavery in their families? This development immediately calls into question whether affirmative action admission policies are fulfilling their original intent.

But as Walter Benn Michaels, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, writes in his book The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality, the original intent of affirmative action morphed back in the 1970s from reparations for slavery into the promotion of a broader virtue: "diversity." Since then, it no longer seems to matter how many of your college's black students had slavery in their families. It only matters that they are black.

That said, I don't begrudge black immigrants or any other high-achieving immigrants their impressive achievements. I applaud them. I encourage more native-born American children, particularly my own child, to take similar advantage of this country's hard-won opportunities.

But I also think we need to revisit the meaning of "diversity." Unlike our current system of feel-good game-playing, we need to focus on the deeper question of how education can be improved and opportunities opened up to those who were left behind by the civil rights revolution.

We tend to look too often at every aspect of diversity except economic class. Yet, the dream of upward mobility is an essential part of how we Americans like to think of ourselves.

It's also why a lot more people are trying to get into this country than trying to get out. (article)

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