Are Black immigrants taking African Americans’ Opportunities to attend Universities?

Controversy has risen from a recent study that states black immigrants are more likely to attend selective universities and colleges than African Americans. This study conducted by sociology professors Pamela Bennett of Johns Hopkins University and Amy Lutz of Syracuse University demonstrates that 75.1 percent of immigrant black high-school graduates attend college, compared to 72.5 percent of whites and 60.2 percent of native blacks.

The reasons given to these variations are controversial. The study indicates that class and family background may have contributed to the success of the immigrants since the statistics have shown that most of them have educated parents, are from two-parent households and attend private schools. In addition, the study also suggests that the admission process might be influenced by the stereotypes that black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean do better in academics and are hard working.

Another study conducted in 2007 projected the same result. Both the 2007 and 2009 studies resulted in the controversy that is dividing the black community. In May 2007, in article entitled ‘Any black will do’ the Guardian recorded the disappointment of Shirley Wilcher, who is the executive director of the American Association for Affirmative Action, when she found out about the disparity. It is claimed that the black immigrants are enrolled to these universities with the affirmative action that was supposed to benefit African Americans of slave descendants. Wilcher’s concern was also that ‘selective, usually private, universities are taking an “any black student will do” approach to diversity.’

The same debate has sparked after the release of the new study. Generally, the reasons attributed for the success of the black immigrants are contradictory. The studies show that black immigrants are more likely to get admission in such elite universities because of their educated family background. Mostly educated immigrant parents from Africa and the Caribbean push their kids to be serious about education and seize the opportunity they have in their new home in America. This is typical of most immigrant groups. The study conducted in 2007 recorded ‘70 percent of immigrants’ fathers graduated from college and 43.6 percent had advanced degrees, compared to 55.2 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively for native blacks.’ This attribute coupled with the fact that most of the black immigrant students attended private school might make them get admission without the consideration of affirmative action. The percentage of the black immigrants (75.1) is also higher than white students (72.5). This might be an indication that the black immigrants might not be taking the affirmative action opportunities that were supposed to be given for the African Americans. In relation to this, the 2007 study explains that the admission offices ‘do not seek out immigrant-origin blacks per se but nonetheless admit them with greater frequency because they possess objective characteristics-higher grade or better scores- that makes them more attractive as potential students, on average, than the native origin blacks’.

The assumption that black immigrants are preferred by the universities and are taking African Americans’ affirmative action spots might incur unnecessary collision within the black community. This doesn’t mean that the disparity shouldn’t be regarded since the disparity is shown in the selective colleges (otherwise the study shows that the rate is the same for two-year College and non-selective schools). The admission offices, therefore, should take into consideration the outcomes of the studies because biases and stereotypes could play a big role in such decisions. In support of this, the study conducted in 2007 states that ‘for white observers, black immigrants seem more polite, less hostile, more solicitous, and ‘easier to get along with’. The influence of such biases on the admission can’t be ignored. In the same token, we can’t ignore the stereotypes within African American students that consider good students as ‘acting out whites’, which might hinder some of them from attaining higher goals in education.

Different studies shows that generally immigrants (not just blacks and not just immigrants in the US) have greater motivation for education. For example, a study entitled ‘Where immigrants Succeed’ examined 17 countries and found out a strikingly higher motivation for learning among immigrants than their native counterparts. This doesn’t mean all immigrants succeed in higher rates, but this motivation could play a big role in the possibility of their success if other limitations are balanced. This by itself could be one of the many explanations behind the black immigrants’ relative success.

Yohana Otite

Yohana Otite is the co-founder of BornBlack and writers on issues that revolve around the intersection of race, gender and class. Yohana also manages the Hamilton DiverseCity onBoard program at Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *