The African name effect
Scholars have been studying West Indian and Afro Latino immigrant populations for decades, but the more recent, rapid rate of African immigration could re-focus attention on black immigration in a unique way: Generally, Africans are the only sub-group of black people in America that you can identify without actually seeing them.
If you were going through the phone book and saw the name Singh, you could safely assume it belonged to a person of Indian descent; Song, probably Korean; Rodriguez, Hispanic.
But Powell? Carson? Parsons?
Try Ogunlesi! Emeagwali!
The Ogunlesis and Dioufs and Gerimas and—yes, I’ll say it—Obamas are coming fast and changing the socio-economic landscape of America in unique ways.
Apart from being identity markers, the name signals of African immigrants could also have important economic and social effects. Efforts to boost black businesses usually come in the form of specialized business listings and networking mechanisms. With African names, one could look through the regular Yellow Pages and easily pick out a black dentist, lawyer or plumber.
Socially, this trend could enhance the role model aspect of affirmative action and other initiatives aimed at giving African-American kids positive black role models. If an ambitious young black person saw that the Chairman of Citigroup is a man called Richard Parsons, big deal. If he saw that the man who led a group to buy Gatwick airport in London is named Adebayo Ogunlesi, that could trigger a pause.
BUT, the African name also signals otherness from “African-Americans,” so the power to inspire will depend on the extent to which that “African-American” kid sees that African surgeon listed in the phone book as kin.