Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The New Model Minority?

To come in the first issue of 2007, The Coup Magazine's newest addition, Associate Editor Wendi Muse examines a recent study proclaiming black immigrants as the new model minority, and its possible affects on the black community in the United States. The preview is below:

Although uncharted land, wild animals, safari rides, and the AIDS crisis are, unfortunately, often the first images that come to mind when most Americans think of Africa, a recent high academic achievement study didn't exactly find itself in their thought bubbles. According to a recent study produced by Douglas S. Massey of Princeton University and Camille Z. Charles of University of Pennsylvania entitled "Black Immigrants and Black Native Attending Selective Colleges and Universities in the United States," the black immigrant population, which, in this case, includes black Africans and blacks from the Caribbean and Guyana, “make[s] up 13 percent of the nation's college-age black population, [and] account[s] for more than a quarter of black students at Ivy League and other selective universities" (Fears, "In Diversity Push"). While reflecting on these statistics, I wasn’t exactly surprised.

The nation's most elite colleges and universities are bolstering their black student populations by enrolling large numbers of immigrants….the large representation of black immigrants developed as schools' focus shifted from restitution for decades of excluding black Americans from campuses to embracing wider diversity, the study's authors said. The more elite the school, the more black immigrants are enrolled (Fears, "In Diversity Push").

In a time when conservative college political groups hold rallies with the purpose of ridiculing immigrants, legal and otherwise, and students protest Affirmative Action policies by way of lawsuits, I found it odd that universities were somewhat adding fuel to the fire. While there is already considerable tension and competition between blacks and whites on college campuses, the act of increasing their black student population by enrolling a high percentage of black immigrants seemed like an early stage in the “divide and conquer” process we see all too often in a society where people of color are at constant competition for resources.

Last time I checked, Affirmative Action was a government policy with the intention to “right the wrongs” of slavery by providing more opportunities for black American descendants of slaves, who, for centuries, have been systematically barred from equal access to resources and active participation in American society, not necessarily to assist immigrant populations. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Lani Guinier, two Harvard professors and well known scholars in the area of black American issues, argue that affirmative action may have lost its course as schools “are skirting long-held missions to resolve historic wrongs against native black Americans by enrolling immigrants who look like them." Guinier goes on to state that high black immigrant enrollment “. . . 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," and thus challenges the notion of whether Affirmative Action programs should include black immigrants at all (Fears, "In Diversity Push").

However, the universities themselves are not entirely to blame for this shift in focus. With the multiculturalism movement in the 1970s, Affirmative Action became less neo-Reconstruction, if you will, and more an open embracing of diversity in all forms. This definition of diversity was not only limited to race. It included gender, ethnicity, and, more recently, class, sexual orientation, and nationality. After all, we cannot view the “black experience” in a vacuum, or, in other words, continue to address only its effects on black Americans. If we wanted to be more specific about who deserves what from whom, we could expand government programs to a global level, so black Americans would receive a form of reparations from Spain, Portugal, England, West Africa, and many Middle Eastern countries, as they all played a role in slavery, and most Africans would receive a form of reparations from Western European nations as well as the United States, for the role they played during imperial expansion, as well as mass land displacement and apartheid.


blair said...

In Medieval times, Asiatic and Arabian armies conquered much of Europe, driving to the outskirts of Vienna. In 700, African armies crossed the Mediterrean and invaded Southern Europe. Their conquest of Spain lasted 400 years. During this era, millions of white European slaves were transported to Asia, Arabia and Africa. This invasions were the driving force behind the creation of European nations and military forces.

European slave traders did not raid African villages to kidnap and enslave African. They purchased slaves from African tribes for transportation to the Americas. Although European nations did particpate in the Atlantic slave trade, they were the first to outlaw salvery. European military forces used their military power to virtually abolished slavery around the world. Now that the Europeans have withdrawn from their colonies, slavery is making a strong comeback in Asian, Arabia and Africa. More human beings, many of them children, are trafficked today in Central African along than during the height of the Atlantic slave trade.

The primary argument against raparations for slavery to African Americas is that African Americans enjoy a much higher standard of living than Africans whose ancestors were not transported to the Americas. In the United States, blacks as well as whites owned slaves. About 6 percent of whites onwed slave and about 1.6 percent of free blacks owned slaves.

The European colonies in Africa turned out to be a financial drain rather than a boost to European treasuries. Europe lost money on Africa. That why the rush to get out of Africa in the 1900s was as urgent as the rush to get in was in the late 1800s. Today, millions of Africans owe their lives to financial aid from Europe and the United Sates.

While South Africa during apartheid is usually protrayed as the evil empire of Africa, black South Africans enjoyed a much highest standard of living and greater freedom then blacks in other African countries. As a result, the influx of black immigrants into South Africa virtually depopulated neighboring nations. Perhaps South Africa will continue to prosper under black rule; it remains to be seen.

Wendi Muse said...

I question your use of the word "prosper," particularly considering that many black South Africans are still in a position of poverty due to the restrictions they faced during Boer-led colonialism and then apartheid. What I consider in the article (as you will see once you get to read the fulltext in the magazine) is less about the individual plight of certain African groups and more about the possible worsening of tensions between black immigrants native-born blacks due to the portrayal of the recent achievement study by the press.

I also take issue with your mention of Europe leaving African nations for financial reasons. Of course, economy plays a large role in their reasoning, however, they also found themselves in grave danger due to the multiple guerilla uprisings against colonial rule that broke out in Africa, initially North Africa, in the 1950s. To not mention the independence movements and to solely attribute their desertion of the colonies to economic loss is a grave oversight that robs African intellectuals, political leaders, and organizers of their agency. The Europeans wanted to protect their lives and culture as well, and they fought with their colonial subjects to do so.

You also mentioned the following: "The primary argument against raparations for slavery to African Americas is that African Americans enjoy a much higher standard of living than Africans whose ancestors were not transported to the Americas." This also is not really of issue in the article, but I think it's important for me to respond. I don't agree with you with regard to this being the "primary argument" against reparations. Most people who have issues with reparations do not compare black Americans to blacks in Africa in their arguments. What I find to be far more prevalent is that a) it's hard to determine who is actually owed reparations among black Americans as there is no set government-based way of deciding who is a descendant of slaves and who is not, and for that matter, who even qualifies as black as it is very much a self-assigned category and not a scientific assignment (as race is not technically "real" and because people can select whatever race they'd like for their census responses), b) not all white Americans, or all Americans for that matter, played a direct role in slavery, despite possibly benefiting from it and its aftermath (i.e. Jim Crow laws, de facto segregation, redlining, quality of schools), and therefore should not be held responsible as tax payers to take said responsibility, c) that, like other immigrant groups (though not necessarily compared to black immigrants, as they are often ignored in debates regarding immigration), they should be required to work on equal footing and not be given any assistance from the government, d) that the real issue is class and not race, therefore, America should shift its aid to the poor and be race-blind, and e) America is a nation of many ethnicities, nationalities, and races, and therefore we should lead a colorblind society...meaning that programs like Affirmative Action and other attempts at reparations, run counter to this goal.

However, in short, as I assume you added these historical notes in response to the final statement in the preview about who should get reparations from whom. However, once you read the article in its entirety, you will see that I basically argue against a global reparations program due to its not being feasible and because I do not think it should boil down to a question of "which group had it worse" in reference to black immigrants vs. black Americans benefiting from Affirmative Action programs in universities.

Thanks for your feedback. ~Wendi
p.s. I would like to know where you sought your statistical information. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Crabs in a barrel syndrome. Jealous much? Maybe you need to do better in school and stop being hateful towards others for your failures. Additionally, you may want to travel to Africa, dear African American, or at least read carefully about it.

(rolls eyes).

Ms. Dortch said...

Is there any way to access the full text of this article? I am researching African Immigrants and Identity in the US, and would like to read the entire article. The link to the Coup Magazine goes to a rugby club site. Thank You!