Black Immigrants Overrepresented in the Ivy League

Illustration for article titled Black Immigrants Overrepresented in the Ivy League

Blacks native to America—or JBs are we are sometimes wont to call them—are not well-represented in the Ivy League.


Black immigrant student or those who parents are immigrants are, by contrast, overrepresented in relative to their figures in the general population. Few are aware of this fact because both groups are ostensibly Black.

On the Huffington Post, Evelyn Hsieh details the nuance, dynamics and difficulties of distinction on the various college campuses and their larger affect on the diversity and Affirmative Action debate. Hsieh writes:

"Immigrant blacks," who come from families who have emigrated from the West Indies or Africa (mostly Ghana or Nigeria), make up 41 percent of Ivy League schools, according to a 2007 study by Princeton and University of Pennsylvania researchers. In contrast, black immigrants only make up 13 percent of the black population of 18-19 year olds in the United States.


The overrepresentation of immigrant blacks on Ivy League campuses is forcing students to redefine their own "blackness" and black culture, while raising questions about affirmative action and access to the best universities in America.

At Harvard, which has 16 different black student associations, from the Nigerian Students Association to the Black Men's Forum, in the undergraduate college alone, it takes some time to get used to the fact that there is more than one kind of "black."

In discussing cultural distinctions, Hsieh writes:

"Timothy Turner, a Harvard senior from Tennessee (who would be classified as a "native black" in the study) and 2008-9 president of Harvard's Black Student Association, wondered whether or not the immigrant mentality and work ethic contributed to the larger proportion of immigrant blacks at his school. He had decided to apply to Harvard when a diversity recruiter from the school called him. Before that, he hadn't even considered the school. "You just don't think that you fit the mold to get into Harvard. It just didn't seem real," he said. Turner mentored minority students in Boston, and said it struck him how some of the brightest high school students still felt like Harvard was out of reach.


"Some of the intelligent students don't feel like Harvard is attainable, " he said. "At the same time, the way the Harvard is perceived, you understand why that would be the case… the legacy of classism, elitism, racism. You understand how that's passed on to the children. That history is something a lot of immigrants aren't aware of. They think this is the land of opportunity and take any chance they can get."

A divide of experience exists, and the students are aware of it. Said Onyi Offor, Harvard alum, Nigerian immigrant, and the daughter of a doctor and engineer:

"I've heard people talk about how if you don't grow up in this country, you don't feel the racism, you don't grow up with that burden on your back."


Perhaps it was just an issue of time, she said. She did not experience enough racism for for it to have a serious psychological impact, or any that would prevent her from striving academically and professionally.

Interesting article. What are your thoughts?

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