How black Americans have been distanced from other black people

by Miho Tanaka

From two articles, “Not black, but Habasha: Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants in American society” by Habecker and “Ethnic and racial identities of second-generation black immigrants in New York City” by Waters, I found how black Americans were distanced from each other because of tension with other ethnic groups. Though second generation immigrants sometimes fit into black American culture if they interact with black American friends, many black immigrants de-emphasize their ascribed black racial identification and try not to be categorized as black Americans in the US (Habecker, 2011, p.1206). However many other ethnic groups cannot distinguish them from black Americans since their appearance is very similar to black Americans; therefore they tend to be treated just like black Americans even if they have strong identity of not being like them. In addition it is impossible for black immigrants to reform the “apparently immobile structures of America’s racial hierarchy” even though they make efforts on maintaining social distance from black American (ibid, p.1215).

I suppose how much they experience discrimination, and how much less opportunity they have are deeply connected to the darkness of their skin of color. In the Black community, the tradition of lighter skin and straighter hair are often considered to be in ‘better’ status (Williams, 2013). In this sense I can see colorism pretty much prevails in US society and the world, and their social or economic levels are often determined by how dark they are. I feel Japan is not an exception. For example Okinawan or Ainu people in Japan have been discriminated from the dominant group. Okinawan have darker skin compared with Japanese living in Honshu island and I saw Ainu people when I was in a junior high school and went to school trip, they had darker skin, too. Okinawan people are often suffering from noisy airplane of U.S. military and sometimes Okinawan girls or women are raped, and Ainu people had been segregated and now they are disappearing. I can see that Japanese society also adopts colorism.

On a large scale, we should notice how colorism forms the structure or hierarchy of this world. I feel the darker skin people have, the more poor area they live in. When we think of black immigrants who rarely assimilate into the other culture which white or lighter skin colored-people control we should think about how colorism effects on their lives and their opportunity and how it is sustained in the world.


Habecker, S. (2011). “Not black, but Habasha : Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants in American society” (pp.1200-1219). In Ethnic and racial studies. London : Routledge.

Waters, C. M. (1994). “Ethnic and racial identities of second-generation black immigrants in New York city” in International Migration Review. Vol.28, No.4, pp.795-820

Williams, C. (2013). Colorism : The war at home. Retrieved on June 13th 2013 from

Invisible Immigrants

by Ayano Tsukada

New York City is a city of minorities and immigrants. Unlike other cities like Los Angeles or Miami where one ethnic group makes up majority of the immigrant population, New York receives immigrants from all over the world. Their identities vary among the ethnic groups as well as within the groups. Here I would like to focus on second-generation Black Immigrants in New York City because they become invisible in two ways:

  1. The government does not track the second-generation of immigrants (They become Americans officially);
  2. The second-generation immigrants lack their parents’ distinctive accents and they look very similar to native-born Black American.

If they don’t tell their ethnicity, they can easily be seen as native-born Black Americans or act like native-born Black Americans.

But they don’t react to this situation in a same way. They adopt different types of racial and ethnic identities. Mary Waters, in her survey in New York City, found that there are three types of racial and ethnic identities adopted by Black immigrants: Black American identity; Ethnic or hyphenated national origin identity; and Immigrant identity. These identities are related to different perceptions and understandings of race relations and of opportunities in the United States. Second-generation immigrants with Black American Identity tend to see more racial discrimination and limits to opportunities for Blacks in the United States and disagree with parental judgements that there are strong differences between Black Americans and Immigrant Blacks. Those with Ethnic Identity tend to see more opportunities and rewards for individual effort and initiative and agree with their parents’ idea that Immigrant Blacks are better than Black Americans. Those with Immigrant Identity take a more neutral stance, but they are more like visible immigrants since they are likely to have immigrated recently and have distinctive accents and styles of clothing.

The interesting fact revealed by Water’s study is that these second-generation immigrants are aware of the generalized negative view of Blacks in the United States and yet some choose to be part of them while others try hard to differentiate themselves from Black Americans. What we can see from the fact is that they are helping to maintain the structure of racism in the United States. Second-generation immigrants with Black American identity are doing so by accepting the stereotypes of Blacks and those with ethnic identity do so by differentiating themselves from Black Americans.

So they are not challenging the current system.

They are making racism and colourism in the United States craftier and more invisible.


Waters, Mary C. 1994. “Ethnic and Racial Identities of Second-generation Black Immigrants in New York City.” International Migration Review 28(4):795-820.