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