WHY THIS, WHY NOW?
– Adebayo is an African non-American. He has applied for a U.S. passport. If he gets it, will he then become African-American?
– Gwen is black and was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Is she African-American?
– Carlos is black, Hispanic and American. Is he African-American?
The African-American experience is typically expressed as a story that begins with slavery (involuntary immigration) to legal disenfranchisement to segregation, a narrative of victimization.
Yet there are millions of blacks whose American experiences do not fit neatly in that story. Look at the numbers:
- 3 million of America’s black population are foreign born.
- Between 1980 and 2005, the foreign born black population more than tripled.
- Haitians quadrupled.
- Ethiopians increased 13 times.
- In 2005, 1 million U.S.-born black children had at least one foreign-born parent.
- Black, immigrant women are having children faster than African-American women.
- 38% of African immigrants have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher. (The national average is 28%.)
In fact, one could think of a supplementary ‘African-American’ history which begins with Cape Verdean whalers coming to the shores of—think about it—New England.
The obvious point of interest with black immigration of the last century and half is that it is voluntary.
Another, less obvious, point of interest is that whereas Caribbean immigrants have been coming north for centuries, in the last decade the rate of African immigration has surpassed that of Caribbean immigration. African immigration could uniquely re-focus attention on black immigration through the African name effect.
(Numbers compiled from “Immigration and America’s Black Population” by Mary Mederios Kent and the 2007 American Community Survey by U.S. Census Bureau)