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The (Re-)Making of a Black American

Tracing the Racial and Ethnic Socialization of Caribbean American Youth


Chonika Coleman-King

Historically, Blacks in the United States have been treated as a homogenous group with little regard for distinctions in ethnicity and immigrant status. However, the growing number of Black immigrants to the United States, and their location at the intersection of immigrant opportunity and racial barriers, has prompted increased interest in the group’s integration experiences. Grounded in the notion that racism is an inescapable marker of the Black experience in the United States, The (Re-)Making of a Black American explores the ways children of Black immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean come to understand their racial and ethnic identities, given the socialization messages they receive from their parents and their experiences with institutionalized racism and racial hierarchies in a U.S. middle school. This book highlights the contradictions between parental and school socialization messages and the struggle that ensues as Caribbean American youth are forcibly (re-)made into a specific brand of Black Americans.
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Chapter Seven: The (Re-)Making of a Black American: Findings, Implications, and Recommendations


← 201 | 202 → CHAPTER SEVEN

The (Re-)Making of a Black American: Findings, Implications, and Recommendations

Countless studies have documented the insidiousness of U.S. racism. Racism in the United States has been cited as one of the most significant factors affecting the physical and mental health of Blacks, their chances for upward mobility through education and enterprise, and their overall quality of life. Although some question the extent to which racism is still relevant, as seen in media debates that took place during the early stages of President Barack Obama’s presidency, the aftermath of his first election and re-election tell a very different story. Racism in the United States is alive, well, and thriving.

For some time, scholars have sought to define and theorize racism, highlight its pernicious effects across different stages of the life cycle and in different contexts, and call for a more just society. Still others focus on ways to mitigate the influences of racism. Al-though Black immigrants stand at a confounding yet provocative intersection of all of this, that group has not been made a priority in research agendas surrounding race.

The experiences of Black immigrants have great potential to inform what we know about the nature and impact of U.S. racism. Several insightful studies document the correlation between Black women’s birth abroad (in the Caribbean or Africa) and rates of producing babies of low birth weight. These studies have found that when controlling for risk factors, Black women...

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