Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Residential Patterns and Political Empowerment among Jamaicans and Haitians in the U.S. Metropolis the Role of Ethnicity in New York and South Florida

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Residential Patterns and Political Empowerment among Jamaicans and Haitians in the U.S. Metropolis the Role of Ethnicity in New York and South Florida

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Contemporary United States is undergoing profound demographic and cultural changes due to the increasing importance of immigration from Latin America and Asia since the 1960s. Nowhere else has this remarkable transformation been experienced as it has been in gateway cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Miami--where immigrants make up one-third to half of the metropolitan population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). In New York City and Miami-Fort Lauderdale specifically, people born in the Caribbean are at the forefront of this demographic dynamics, with respectively 30 per cent and 55 per cent of the foreign-born stock (ibid.). Not surprisingly, these contemporary flows tend to make the traditional ethno-racial landscape of urban U.S. more complex. Ethnic and racial lines are increasingly blurred, with an old time black vs. white scheme being replaced by a recent newcomer vs. native scheme (Bean, Stevens, 2003). In the metropolitan context, residential as well as political strategies at the local level reveal that West Indians don't always match the Black American pattern (Audebert, 2006).

In the context of the tremendous impact of contemporary immigration on demographics, culture and urban change in the U.S., it is relevant to question the relation between ethnicity, residential settlement and political empowerment of recent immigrant communities. Indeed, this article explores the connection between the residential concentration of two prominent national groups of Caribbean descent--Jamaicans and Haitians--and their contribution to the making of a West Indian political power in the United States. Considering the significance of place (destination and origin) as major point in Caribbean social experience abroad, it focuses on a double comparative perspective in which Jamaican and Haitian immigrant experiences display similarities as well as differences,

in two different metropolitan contexts. Our analysis focuses on New York and the South Florida metropolitan area of Miami-Ft. Lauderdale where the majority of Black Caribbean immigrants in the United States live.

In this outlook, the fundamental role of ethnic categorization and residential geography in U.S. political life will be analyzed, as well as their implications on the rise of new ethnic constituencies. Ethnic polarization and the related implementation of redistricting as a means to ensure an equal representation of all minorities will be discussed. The growing presence of English-and Creole-speaking Caribbean people in New York City and Florida and the subsequent constitution of immigrant neighborhoods where West Indians form an important component--in some cases the majority--of the population is conceptualized as a challenge to the theories of spatial assimilation and place stratification. Moreover, changing the focus from the ethnic category on the national scale to the ethnic community at the metropolitan level, and from a solidarity based on national origin to a broader Caribbean perspective, I will explore how their political strategy redefine the meaning of Caribbean identity and raises the question of the pertinence of ethnic categorization in U.S. politics.

I. RACE AND ETHNICITY: RESIDENTIAL PATTERNS AND POLITICS IN THE UNITED STATES

In contemporary urban U.S., the incorporation of successive immigrant waves has shown an intimate link between ethnoracial categorization, residential geography and political representation. In particular, residential concentration of immigrant communities has paved the way for the constitution of electoral constituencies entailing ethnic empowerment. The ethnic and racial lines along which newcomers have been integrated play a key role in their visibility as territorialized communities in metropolitan areas.

Race, Ethnicity and Residential Patterns

Different theories have attempted to demonstrate the significance of race and ethnicity in U. …

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