Both the Root and the JBHE article then question
..whether immigrant blacks should benefit from the race-based affirmative action admissions programs at these selective colleges. A few years ago Harvard Law School professor Lani Guinier questioned whether “in the name of affirmative action we should be admitting people because they look like us and then they don’t identify with us.”
There are several problems with this discussion. First, according to the JBHE article, the study makes a distinction between African and Caribbean students (and a note to Adkins at the Root and others: I have never in my life heard a person from the Caribbean refer to herself as "a Caribbean". So just stop that.) and "blacks who are descendants of African slaves", which makes me wonder who, according to them, are the forefathers of Caribbean Black people. The US doesn't have the only legacy of slavery. There are descendants of slaves all over the world, and the Caribbean has large numbers. Furthermore, the African continent and its people are still suffering the effects of the slave trade; many of them may not be descendants of slaves, but they are descendants of slavery, and have inherited a land and culture that was repeatedly plundered in order to build and sustain the United States and other White empires. The Caribbean was also used as a stopover for slaves who were later transported to other colonies, including the US. So it is certainly possible that my grandmother then went on to be owned by an American landowner. So while the US may arguably not have an identical duty to these immigrants as it does to Black Americans, the labour of whose forefathers directly built the country, it does have some responsibility to make restitution for the global effects of the slave trade, which didn't have such neatly drawn geographical and other lines as these articles are suggesting.
Second, the argument that "many of these immigrant and "second-generationers" are not interested in identifying with "African-Americans" yet continue to benefit from affirmative action" smacks terribly of regular, White mainstream anti-immigrant sentiment, which purports that once someone lands on the shores of the United States, he must immediately renounce his own heritage and culture and run gleefully into the arms of American culture. That argument applied to Black immigrants with regard to African-American culture is just as xenophobic and presumptuous as it is when made of Asian, Hispanic and other immigrants with respect to White American culture. There is no difference. Caribbean people have a culture of which we are proud, and a history that has made us who we are today. Your history of slavery and freedom does not trump our history of slavery and freedom. Because some of us may identify more with calypso and reggae than with hip-hop does not mean that we do no also acknowledge the shared struggle of all descendants of slavery. When I write about the Obama era (scroll down for all posts), Haiti's violation of women and Zimbabwe's fall under a despotic leader, it is because I consider these all my issues as a Black woman. I identify with you on my own terms, thanks. Not on yours. I already have an identity, and I have my own struggle, parts of which we share as Black people, but other parts of which we do not.
And as is true of other groups of immigrants, African and Caribbean immigrants are also subject to the process of acclimatization which might maintain them in their own groups for a period of time while they come to terms with their new situation. Or they may simply feel more secure in their own communities, because as some African Americans may not appreciate, it's often no fun out there for an immigrant. But even so, I'm not sure how much credit I give this argument of non-integration, particularly with Caribbean people. While there are Caribbean associations on American campuses, as there should be, the majority of Caribbean people I know who have attended university in the US do become involved in the shared issues of Black Americans. But the fact is, not all issues are shared, and you cannot assume that we will cast off all our struggles simply to fight only yours. That then becomes a new form of appropriation and colonization in which Black Americans are the new masters and Black immigrants are the owned. And we will not allow that.
All this said, there are certain parts of this argument, obnoxious though it may appear, that I understand. Any system that is meant to benefit Black Americans but maintains them in a similar position to that which obtained before that system existed needs to be examined. (Although I'm not sure that this is the case. Those interpreting the study seem to suggest that in absolute terms, it is unacceptable that a group of Black people other than Black Americans achieve higher rates of matriculation, rather than holding Afr. Am. matriculation against a historical benchmark.) And it is true that certainly in the case of the Caribbean, those who migrate for academic purposes are not the poorest in those countries. They are not the poorest, but in many cases they are also not the wealthiest. Certainly in the case of Barbados, many people from very humble beginnings are able to access education abroad based on their own achievement at home. But I see no value in pointing fingers at groups of people who are taking advantage of opportunities provided them, especially opportunities that are arguably due them, though perhaps not on the same scale as they are due Americans. If the system of affirmative action is failing Black Americans, it should not be remedied at the expense of other Black descendants of slavery, some of whom are incidentally also Black Americans. It should be addressed so as to envelop the still marginalized without disenfranchising a second time the (in this context at least) previously marginalized.