Flore Zephir. Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait

By Mendoza, Aloma M. | Ethnic Studies Review, October 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

Flore Zephir. Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait


Mendoza, Aloma M., Ethnic Studies Review


Zephir explores Haitians' identification with Americans through the transitional nature of Haitians' ethnicity, roles of languages, the roles of bilingual educational programs, the generational transmission of Haitian ethnicity, and Haitians' and Black Americans' relationships. For historians and sociologists who are unfamiliar with the history of Haiti and Haitians in American, this book is informative and insightful, especially because of its useful maps and tables.

Scholars interested in migration and adaptation are provided with helpful demographic information on Haitians' immigration and settlement in America. Very relevant is a critical discussion of Haiti's history and the resulting effects in the behavior and attitudes of Haitian immigrants in New York.

Haitians' triple invisibility is explained with reference to their dilemma over ethnicity, race and language. Their notion of race and ethnicity conflicts with that of Americans. Hence, this theme of subordination based on blackness in America, becomes Haitians' quest not to be Black Americans or African Americans, but to identify themselves through their ethnicity and culture. The effects these issues have on Haitians' settlement in New York when they realize that inequality is part of their American existence would encourage interesting scholarly discussions. Zephir explores Haitians' ethnocentric perspectives on African Americans. Haitians identify with African Americans' struggle against racism, but believe in Haitians' ethnic superiority. Their views on assimilation, isolation, intermarriage, and adaptation show their strong need to be Haitians while maintaining strong cultural ties to their homeland.

Zephir makes a genuinely interesting argument for language being "real" and essential as Haitians' collective inheritance - the uniting force in the construction of their identity. The notion of ethnolinguistic vitality using status, demography, and institutional support shows that Haitians are not ambivalent about their distinctiveness in US society. …

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