Ethnic and Racial Identities of Second-Generation Black Immigrants in New York City

  • Waters M
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Abstract

This article explores the types of racial and ethnic identities adopted by a sample of 83 adolescent second-generation West Indian and Haitian Americans in New York City. The subjective understandings these youngsters have of being American, of being black American, and of their ethnic identities are described and contrasted with the identities and reactions of first-generation immigrants from the same countries. Three types of identities are evident among the second generation - a black American identity, an ethnic or hyphenated national origin identity, and an immigrant identity. These different identities are related to different perceptions and understandings of race relations and of opportunities in the United States. Those youngsters who identify as black Americans tend to see more racial discrimination and limits to opportunities for blacks in the United States. Those who identify as ethnic West Indians tend to see more opportunities and rewards for individual effort and initiative. I suggest that assimilation to America for the second-generation black immigrant is complicated by race and class and their interaction, with upwardly mobile second- generation youngsters maintaining ethnic ties to their parents' national origins and with poor inner city youngsters assimilating to the black American peer culture that surrounds them.

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Authors

  • Mary C. Waters

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