Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity

Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity

Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity

Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity

Synopsis

Historically, Black Americans have easily found common ground on political, social, and economic goals. Yet, there are signs of increasing variety of opinion among Blacks in the United States, due in large part to the influx of Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, and African immigrants to the United States. In fact, the very definition of "African American" as well as who can self-identity as Black is becoming more ambiguous. Should we expect African Americans' shared sense of group identity and high sense of group consciousness to endure as ethnic diversity among the population increases? In Black Mosaic, Candis Watts Smith addresses the effects of this dynamic demographic change on Black identity and Black politics.

Smith explores the numerous ways in which the expanding and rapidly changing demographics of Black communities in the United States call into question the very foundations of political identity that has united African Americans for generations. African Americans' political attitudes and behaviors have evolved due to their historical experiences with American Politics and American racism. Will Black newcomers recognize the inconsistencies between the American creed and American reality in the same way as those who have been in the U.S. for several generations? If so, how might this recognition influence Black immigrants' political attitudes and behaviors? Will race be a site of coalition between Black immigrants and African Americans? In addition to face-to-face interviews with African Americans and Black immigrants, Smith employs nationally representative survey data to examine these shifts in the attitudes of Black Americans. Filling a significant gap in the political science literature to date, Black Mosaic is a groundbreaking study about the state of race, identity, and politics in an ever-changing America.

Excerpt

Many people have some of their first interactions with groups of people they have never met before during their first year in college, and these interactions often lead people to think more deeply about their own identity. Mary Waters, in Ethnic Options, discusses this phenomenon for white college students who, for their entire life, may have identified as Irish or Italian and then go to college and realize that there are actually people from Ireland and Italy who would use the same ethnic labels; this experience leads these people to reassess their identity in the face of “authentic” ethnic white international or immigrant students. This was true for me as well as for a number of other people in my incoming class. a Trinidadian friend of mine, for example, told me that I was the first Black friend she had that was actually from the United States—that is to say, someone who had a long African American lineage. She lived in Miami and mentioned that all the Black people she knew were from one island in the Caribbean or another. and I met two Afro-Latina women who were best friends. One of them had a Black father and a Mexican mother. the other had a Black mother and a Puerto Rican father. They were connected at the hip and identified as Black (both pledged a historically Black sorority), but when they fought (in Spanish), they would make remarks about the other’s Mexican or Puerto Rican roots. I realized that my ideas concerning who was Black were actually very limited and constrained.

My undergraduate institution, like other elite schools in the U.S., had a large proportion of Black students who were first- and secondgeneration immigrants; the exact numbers are undocumented by the institution, but with a group of friends and a yearbook, we approximated that 30 percent or so of the Black students in our incoming class were immigrants or had at least one parent who was an immigrant.

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