(Re)Defining Blackness: Race, Ethnicity and the Children of African Immigrants

The Black population in the United States is undergoing a significant transformation. Over the last four decades, the African immigrant population has increased from 130,000 to 2 million, making them one of the fastest growing groups in the United States. Yet, notably absent from much of the discourse on how immigration is changing our society is a serious engagement with the dynamic changes happening within the country’s Black population. This project examines how these demographic realities are experienced in young people’s daily lives. I draw on ethnographic observations and interviews with 71 second-generation West African teenagers in three New York City public high schools to understand how processes of immigrant integration and racialization unfold generationally across racial and ethnic lines. I focus specifically on their racial and ethnic identity-work and acculturation in the context of families, local institutions, and transnational social fields. In shedding light on second-generation Black immigrant racialization processes, this project challenges assumptions about low-income Black youth and offers a dynamic, agentic and relational understanding of second generation immigrant integration. It also highlights how broader meanings of integration and Blackness in the United States are fundamentally changing.

Two articles based on this project have been published:
Sall, Dialika. 2019. “Selective Acculturation among Low-Income Second-Generation West Africans.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Sall, Dialika. 2019. “Convergent Identities; Divergent Meanings: The Racial and Ethnic Identities of Second-Generation West African Youth.” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal 12(2).

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