The nation's most elite colleges and universities are bolstering their black student populations by enrolling large numbers of immigrants from Africa, the West Indies and Latin America, according to a study published recently in the American Journal of Education.If we are not making the exception for those who descend from slaves and the hardships and discrimination they have experienced historically in North America; then what are we doing?
Immigrants, who make up 13 percent of the nation's college-age black population, account for more than a quarter of black students at Ivy League and other selective universities, according to the study, produced by Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Black American scholars such as Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier, two Harvard University professors, have said that white educators are skirting long-held missions to resolve historic wrongs against native black Americans by enrolling immigrants who look like them.
In an interview, Guinier said that the chasm has less to do with immigrants and more to do with admissions officers who rely on tests that wealthier students, including black immigrants, can afford to prepare for.
Simple. We are allowing official bigotry to run wild. Shame on them.
As always, what these programs do is drive people apart - not together.
"To white observers," they wrote, "black immigrants seem more polite, less hostile, more solicitous and 'easier to get along with.' Native blacks are perceived in precisely the opposite fashion."From one American to another, wouldn't our dealings with each other and our national demons be easier if we looked at each other as just that - Americans?
On campus, native black Americans and immigrant students both embrace and wrestle with diversity. At the University of Georgia, native black American and African students met in the student union two years ago to discuss an emotional topic, "Where's the Africa in African American?" They were quiet at first, senior Oluwatoyin Mayaki recalled, but with some coaxing, the black American students spoke up.
"They were saying, 'I don't think it's fair that you get affirmative action like we do,' " said Mayaki, the American daughter of Nigerian parents. " 'This country was built on my parents' backs, not on your parents' backs. You didn't go through the years of slavery, discrimination or the civil rights movement.' "
Mayaki counts many black Americans as friends, but that was not always so. As a child, she was steered away from black Americans by her protective Yoruban mother, who emigrated from Nigeria in the 1980s.
"My mom wouldn't let me go next door for a sleepover with African American kids, but I could go five houses down to Asian houses. I kind of got along better with foreigners," she said. "You don't go to parties. You don't go to movies. You just study, stay at home, do your chores. My Indian and Asian friends got it. All my other friends, they never got it."
At Rutgers University in New Jersey, Ghanaian immigrant Abena Busia said that drawing distinctions between black Americans and Africans is divisive and dangerous.
"What disturbs me . . . is it immediately casts African Americans as unmotivated," she said. "It's like a good Negro, bad Negro syndrome and I reject it. It creates more problems than necessary. It's also a myth."