Immigrant and Native Black College Students: Social Experiences and Academic Outcomes

Immigrant and Native Black College Students: Social Experiences and Academic Outcomes

Immigrant and Native Black College Students: Social Experiences and Academic Outcomes

Immigrant and Native Black College Students: Social Experiences and Academic Outcomes

Synopsis

The literature suggests that African Americans (native Blacks) differ from Black immigrants and children of Black immigrants (immigrant Blacks) in their educational outcomes. Thomas contributes to this growing body of work, showing through regression analyses and interview data, similarities in college experiences and outcomes. There is a unique Black college experience that transcends family immigration history. Social integration and intellectual integration into the university is different for Black students as compared to White, Asian, and Chicano/Latino students. The Black college experience is less favorable than the experiences of non-Black students. I conclude with suggestions on how universities can improve the intellectual integration and overall college experience of Black students.

Excerpt

California’s Proposition 209 banned the use of racial or ethnic preferences in institutions funded by the state. I lived in Berkeley in the years after the passage of Prop 209, and I noticed the dwindling numbers of Black students. I worried about the effect this would have on the future business, political, and academic leaders in California, the nation, and the world, which is what I believe Berkeley produces. This public issue sparked a research question: How would the smaller share of Black students affect their social experience on campus? Is there an effect on non-Black students as well?

A few years later, I read with interest the revelation that many Black students at selective universities are immigrants or children of immigrants. I wondered how Black immigrants and children of Black immigrants interacted with their native Black peers within the university. Did they come together as a unified Black student group or did mutual stereotyping make them wary of each other?

The Black immigrant group is interesting when juxtaposed with native Black Americans. It is almost a natural experiment: a group of highly-educated and motivated people (as West Indian and African immigrants are) who have a socially-constructed marker that is systematically discriminated against (as Blackness is in the U.S.). Will their strong, academically-focused ethnic communities protect their children from the allure of so-called ghetto culture? Can their immigrant optimism and belief in meritocracy overcome structural and interpersonal racism?

Examining the social experiences of Black students is made richer when making comparisons across other ethnicities. Thus, one aspect of my research is the exploration of the unique Black college experience. Does the milieu of the university differ by ethnicity? Are there critical . . .

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