Black Mosaic

Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity

Candis Watts Smith
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Black Mosaic
    Book Description:

    Historically, Black Americans have easily found common ground on political, social, and economic goals. Yet, there are signs of increasing variety of opinion among Blacks in the United States, due in large part to the influx of Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, and African immigrants to the United States. In fact, the very definition of "African American" as well as who can self-identity as Black is becoming more ambiguous. Should we expect African Americans' shared sense of group identity and high sense of group consciousness to endure as ethnic diversity among the population increases? InBlack Mosaic, Candis Watts Smith addresses the effects of this dynamic demographic change on Black identity and Black politics.

    Smith explores the numerous ways in which the expanding and rapidly changing demographics of Black communities in the United States call into question the very foundations of political identity that has united African Americans for generations. African Americans' political attitudes and behaviors have evolved due to their historical experiences with American Politics and American racism. Will Black newcomers recognize the inconsistencies between the American creed and American reality in the same way as those who have been in the U.S. for several generations? If so, how might this recognition influence Black immigrants' political attitudes and behaviors? Will race be a site of coalition between Black immigrants and African Americans? In addition to face-to-face interviews with African Americans and Black immigrants, Smith employs nationally representative survey data to examine these shifts in the attitudes of Black Americans. Filling a significant gap in the political science literature to date,Black Mosaicis a groundbreaking study about the state of race, identity, and politics in an ever-changing America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-1111-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Many people have some of their first interactions with groups of people they have never met before during their first year in college, and these interactions often lead people to think more deeply about their own identity. Mary Waters, inEthnic Options, discusses this phenomenon for white college students who, for their entire life, may have identified as Irish or Italian and then go to college and realize that there are actually people from Ireland and Italy who would use the same ethnic labels; this experience leads these people to reassess their identity in the face of “authentic” ethnic white...

  5. 1 Black on Black History
    (pp. 19-44)

    In 1939, Ira De Augustine Reid took note of the fact that “between 1899 and 1937 approximately 150,000 Negro aliens were legally admitted to the United States” and in turn asked, “How does a group theoretically regarded as biologically unassimilable in the United States’ melting pot accommodate?”¹ Historically, Black immigrants melted into a larger Black racial category.² Contemporarily, some scholars argue that the significance of race is declining in today’s society, thereby allowing Black immigrants to make claim to distinct ethnic identities rather than being required to adopt an undifferentiated Black racial identity.³ The fact of the matter is, however,...

  6. 2 Diasporic Consciousness: Theorizing Black Pan-Ethnic Identity and Intraracial Politics
    (pp. 45-68)

    Sociological literature focusing on Black immigrants tends to imply that African American and Black immigrant relations will be primarily characterized as antagonistic, with elements of hostility, distancing, and competition. These predictions are primarily based on studies that show that first-generation Black immigrants tend to have negative stereotypes about African Americans and, in turn, seek to distance themselves and their children from native-born Blacks.¹

    Classical Black politics literature, on the other hand, primarily helps us to understand racial unity among Blacks in the United States. This literature suggests that as long as Black people feel that their fate is linked to...

  7. 3 From Group Membership to Group Identification
    (pp. 69-109)

    Who is considered Black, the definitions of “Black” and “African American,” and the criteria for group membership are all shifting as the ethnic diversity in the United States increases. The boundaries of Black identity have traditionally been shaped by historical and ongoing processes of racialization—or macro and micro processes that ascribe Blacks a stigmatized, lower status in the ethnoracial hierarchy of the United States.¹ Furthermore, it is typically assumed that immigrants of African descent will be subsumed into an all-encompassing and homogenized Black identity in a society where internal intraracial (or ethnic) differences are, for the most part, less...

  8. 4 Broadening Black Identity: Evidence in National Data
    (pp. 110-132)

    Both Roy Simon Bryce-Laporte and Milton Vickerman, writing at very different times, explain that upon arrival to the United States, Black immigrants must balance and negotiate what they have garnered from the racial socialization processes they experienced in their country of origin with the reality of race as it functions in the United States; they describe this state of being as “cross-pressured.”¹ This balancing act is clearly illustrated in the previous chapter, but chapter 3 also shows that in general, Black immigrants’ ethnic identity—their identity as it relates to their (or their parents’) country of origin—is generally a...

  9. 5 Politicizing Identities: Linking Identity to Politics
    (pp. 133-174)

    Group consciousness is a critical explanatory variable of African American political attitudes and behavior.¹ Gabriel Sanchez asserts, “group consciousness is a resource that generates political activity through an individual’s attachment to a group.”² Dennis Chong and Reuel Rogers further explain that racial group consciousness “potentially heightens awareness and interest in politics, bolsters group pride and political efficacy, alters interpretation of group problems, and promotes support for collective action.”³ Michael Dawson calls the psychological process that triggers these behaviors the “black utility heuristic.”⁴ African Americans have developed this heuristic—or mental rule of thumb—and employ it when making political decisions...

  10. 6 Perspectives on Intraracial Coalition and Conflict
    (pp. 175-196)

    A theory of diasporic consciousness rests on a bed of tension. On one hand, we see that among African Americans and Black immigrants, shared discriminatory experiences not only help foster a shared grouped identity but also politicize this identity, and in turn, this politicized identity is mobilized into political action that is geared toward ameliorating racial disparities and improving the group’s status. On the other hand, ethnic diversity, like any other type of diversity, promotes a miscellany of ideas about how to accomplish goals. This is not much different from the ideological diversity that has existed among African Americans for...

  11. Conclusion: My President Is Black?
    (pp. 197-205)

    Barack Obama’s racial identity is debated among Americans not only because he is biracial but also because his father was a Black immigrant from Kenya. Most Americans subscribe to the “one-drop” rule, and Obama himself identifies as a Black—not mixed-race—man.¹ But his father’s ancestry along with the fact that President Obama has not lived the “average” African American’s life has led some to question the extent to which Obama is “really” Black.² Soon after Barack Obama was elected as America’s forty-fourth president in 2008, rapper Jay-Z wrote an ode to the first Black president of the United States:...

  12. APPENDIX A: Presentation of Survey Items and Variable Measures
    (pp. 206-209)
  13. APPENDIX B: Interview Respondent Characteristics
    (pp. 210-213)
  14. APPENDIX C: Semistructured Interview Guide
    (pp. 214-218)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 219-248)
    (pp. 249-266)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 267-276)
    (pp. 277-277)