By Nicole Duncan-Smith | Atlanta Black Star
The Black immigrant demographic is growing at lightning speed. Fueled chiefly by an influx of people coming to the continent from Africa, over the past 40 years the number of Black immigrants in the United States has sextupled.
1 in 10 Black people living in the United States are immigrants. The organization used data from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau and the University of Minnesota as the basis of their study, and determined over the next 50 years, that number will double.
In 1980, approximately 800,000 Black immigrants lived in the country. Census Bureau figures indicate that by 2019 that number had increased to 4.6 million. The study predicts that the number will continue to swell and by 2060 9.5 million Black people in the U.S. will have been foreign-born.
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The study defines Black immigrants (for the purpose of this research) as individuals who self-identify as Black including single-race Black, multiracial Black, and Black Hispanic people. Many of these immigrants that have grown the number are Africans. Data collected reveals that between 1980 and 2019, these people have grown the Black population by 19 percent.
Research conducted before the pandemic reveals that 43 percent of African-born Black immigrants immigrated to the U.S. from 2010 to 2019. This rate is considerably higher than Black immigrants from the Caribbean (21 percent), Central America (18 percent), and South America (24 percent) during that segmented period.
The African-American population, consisting of those whose families are third-generation American or longer, is predicted to grow 29 percent between 2020 and 2060. In that same duration, Black immigrants are expected to grow by 90 percent. This means that in less than 40 years, foreign-born Blacks will make up about a third of the national Black population, outpacing U.S.-born Blacks in population growth.
Immigration across the board has gone up since the 1980s and that has been attributed to the redesign of U.S. policy toward refugees, undocumented immigrants, temporary immigrants, and those gaining permanent status under the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Immigration Reform and Control Act.
Additional research further shows that Black immigrants experience the same racial adversity as U.S.-born Blacks. They experience the same skin-based discrimination, are less likely to own a home than or to live beyond the poverty line when compared to white immigrants.
Forbes suggests it might be worse. While Black immigrants may experience a similar amount of over-policing and incarceration as American-born Blacks, they also have to worry about accent bias and being deported.
Abraham Paulos, the Deputy Director of Policy and Communications for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, told NBC News that his company exists to fight that same racism, criminalization, and the threat of deportation that seems to shadow many Black immigrants.
His Brooklyn-based nonprofit also “advocates for temporary protected status, which is granted to foreign-born individuals unable to return to their country of origin because of circumstances such as civil war or environmental disasters.”
Paulos said his battle is two-fold, “We fight for two things: racial justice and migrant rights …We fight for Black people.”
Despite racial divides that Black immigrants might experience, white-skinned Americans and immigrants displaying bigotry based on their dark skin, this robust population, specifically those from Africa, oftentimes finds themselves in conflict with Black Americans. Experts associate the negative opinions about each other embedded in internalized racism.
“I think there can be a lack of understanding from both ends,” Fieven Amare, a second-generation Eritrean-American, explained to psychologist Adaobi C. Iheduru in his 2012 doctoral dissertation. “Many Black Americans feel that Africans who migrate to America have a superiority complex and feel the need to delineate the differences among us.”
Phillip Gay, a former professor of sociology at San Diego State University said in the Los Angeles Times that he believes some of the division is based on the disconnect Blacks have from Africa.
“The overwhelming majority of Black Americans are, at the very least, six or seven generations culturally removed from Africa,” Gay stated. “They speak no African language. Their religious beliefs and practices are non-African. Their daily cuisine is non-African. Their marital and family structures are typically non-African. They have no relatives in Africa, and they have never themselves been to Africa.”
Perhaps, though the assessment was made in 1989, that is it in a nutshell. The stripping of Africa from African-Americans has created a divide that at least on the surface level prevents people of the diaspora from recognizing their sameness.
Jennifer V. Jackson and Mary E. Cothran in their study about the social distance within the relationships between Africans, African-Americans, and African-Caribbeans, write that even though these groups while in the U.S. have “similar interracial struggles that create some semblance of common bonds, they fail to appreciate their common heritage” and have participated in derogatory messaging about each other because they believe “myths, misconceptions, ignorance, and stereotypes” propagated by white supremacy.
Blackness, particularly in terms of nationality and ethnicity, is complicated and defined by nuances. Still, though not a monolith, Black Americans and Black immigrants are connected by the color of their skin and common struggles.