West Indians vs. African Americans vs. Africans
I saw this article at BlackPlanet and I thought it was quite interesting. Well, I don't know if it's interesting or just... divisive.
The author, Dan Woog, obviously makes a point, but I think many times Black people are looking for reasons to divide themselves. Dr. Craig Polite makes an... ahem... interesting point about the relationship between West Indians and African Americans.
He said, "It's more like an undertone of conflict, particularly between those born in the Caribbean and those born in the US. It doesn't surface a lot, but people from the islands have the impression they're a little bit smarter, a little more superior. It doesn't get talked about, but it's there."
Mr. Polite is most likely African-American because while he readily points out the ills of everyone else, he doesn't say anything about the attitudes of African-Americans, 'cause if you're going to say one, you better say two. I'm sure that African-Americans have their own set of issues that unnerve West Indians and Africans, but Mr. Woog forgot to mention any of them -- subjective journalism at it best.
Yes, I'll agree that West Indians have a certain self-confidence. A lot of our parents taught us to believe in ourselves -- whether we were born on an island or in North America. But there is something to be said for the West Indian work ethic. Many times people from the Islands come to North America with absolutely nothing but the desire to do something for themselves and we're condemned?
Chupse. That's a load of ignorance.
Larri Mazon most ignorantly says, "(Islanders) don't know an employer may stab you in the back, whereas American-born blacks might see that willingness to work so hard as a 'yes, massa' attitude."
But wait *anger starts to build*.
We 'Islanders' are a pack of idiots? We don't have trouble at work back in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad or any other island in the Caribbean? Maybe back in the day we thought that the streets of North America were paved in gold, but we aren't fools. We know that we are the minority in North America. We know that we have to work twice or three times are hard as a white person to get as far. It's annoying that someone would make it seem like these little backwards, fresh off the boat Islanders don't know what the hell they're doing.
You see, these are the things that cause division in the Black community. Whether you are from St. Lucia, New York, Toronto or Ghana, the first thing that white people will see is your skin is Black. They could care less about our intracultural arguments. We are all the same -- we were just taken off the boat at different stops.
It's divide and conquer -- why is this article even necessary? It sounds like the African-Americans in this article are acting 'superior'.
Anyway, read for yourself. I'd love to read comments.
By Dan Woog, Monster Contributing Writer, 05/09/05
In the world of 21st-century demographic descriptors, "African American" seems straightforward: If your skin is black, you trace your ancestry back to Africa, and if you're in America, you are American.
But society has never viewed race in such simple terms. Today, recognition is growing for the historical and cultural differences among US-born African Americans, those who emigrated from the Caribbean and recent arrivals from Africa. As foreign-born blacks grow increasingly common in the workplace, intracultural conflicts may also increase.
The percentage of those with black skin who are foreign-born in the US rose from 4.9 percent to 6.7 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to Census Bureau data analyzed by Susan Weber of Queens College, as reported in the New York Times on August 29, 2004.
An Undercurrent of Tension
Dr. Craig Polite, a clinical and industrial psychologist, calls it "tension with a small 't.' It's more like an undertone of conflict, particularly between those born in the Caribbean and those born in the US. It doesn't surface a lot, but people from the islands have the impression they're a little bit smarter, a little more superior. It doesn't get talked about, but it's there."
Cynthia Swift, who teaches multicultural issues in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and is coordinator of the Academic Advantage program, agrees. "The legacy of colonialism impacts each group, along with how people are introduced to and have access to work," she says. "People born in Africa have a different perspective on opportunities and rights at work than those who were born here, who have their own perspective on this country's history of discrimination."
All three groups share "misinformation and a lack of understanding of each other," she adds.
The Historical Legacy
When African Americans living in the South moved north in the '30s and '40s to fill low-paying jobs, they fought for their rights, demanded access to better jobs and were often unwilling to continue ill-paying work under poor conditions.
When recent immigrants reached the US, some with good educations and willing to start at the bottom and work several jobs to achieve success, some employers viewed them as "better workers, with better attitudes" than African Americans, says Swift. It worsened in hard economic times when more people vied for fewer jobs. And the situation is exacerbated in communities where young American-born blacks think, "it's better to be cool than smart," she explains. Comedian Bill Cosby decried this phenomenon when speaking at a college graduation in spring of 2004.
Majority to Minority
"People from the islands grow up as part of the dominant culture," says Larri Mazon, director of Multicultural Relations at Fairfield University. "They come from a country run by people who look like them. They don't understand what it's like to be seen as not a valid contributor to society. When they get here, they may pick up on the stereotypical attitude toward blacks and think, 'I'm not born here. I'm not like them.'"
African-born immigrants also come from countries where people are physically homogenous. Because of visa requirements and immigration restrictions, they often arrive here with skills that immediately vault them into the upper echelons of business.
Mazon notes that he is talking primarily about African-born men. Their male-dominated culture can mean chauvinistic attitudes. "I've heard many complaints from black women about male African supervisors," he says.
Resentment also extends to immigration policies that allow Caribbean islanders to work what Mazon calls "16 jobs."
"Employers gravitate toward people who will do that," he explains. "(Islanders) don't know an employer may stab you in the back, whereas American-born blacks might see that willingness to work so hard as a 'yes, massa' attitude."
So can a black community exist in the workplace? Yes, says Polite, though it is "in the background, not up front."
"A lot of black folks get together in part for support, and perhaps as a reality check against what they think they see and feel (from non-blacks)," he adds. "We like being able to speak a common language and let our hair down. Our conversations have a slightly different slant. In the end, no matter where they're from, when black folks get together, we're all in the mix."