Nigerian-Americans are succeeding in America

Discussion in 'Immigrant Life, Color Blind' started by Sola, Aug 12, 2005.

  1. Sola

    Sola Administrator Staff Member

    Success: Intrinsic, genetic or environmental?
    By Obi Ihekweazu

    There's been a lot of fuss lately about Asian-Americans and their abilities to elude the strongholds of oppression and poverty. Some people attribute this group's success to genetics or intrinsic qualities - things minorities such as blacks and Latinos supposedly do not possess. This claim can be backed up by statistics that show Asian-Americans have been able to reach higher levels of education than blacks and Latinos and that their earnings are at a level comparable to whites - if not higher. Ironically then, because of their general success, Asian-Americans have cast a huge stigma on blacks and Latinos. Essentially, Asian-Americans have become the model minority. In return, this question begs to be asked: If Asian-Americans are able to succeed, why can't blacks and Latinos? A popular presumption seems to be that blacks and Latinos are lazy and genetically inferior. But this stereotype is untrue. By using Nigerian-Americans as an example, I think you'll find that success is not determined by race, but rather by the nature of one's personal environment and upbringing.

    Nigerian-Americans are similar to Asian-Americans in that despite being a minority, they have been able to succeed to a high level. Most Nigerian-Americans' parents arrived in the United States in the '70s and early '80s on student visas to pursue professional degrees in law, education, engineering and medicine. A large number of their offspring were born and raised in the states, and they are scattered across the country, with New York and Houston being the two largest Nigerian-American population centers. Nigerian-Americans are black, though. But still, they have had very different environmental influences than the typical black American.

    Unlike the typical black in the United States, most Nigerian-American families tend to have mid- to upper-middle class status; most households have stable marriages with both spouses having at least undergraduate degrees, and their children, many of which who are now college-aged, are successful in academics and extracurricular activities such as athletics. They tend to have academic records similar to their Asian-American counterparts.

    Do these people sound inferior to you? If Nigerian-Americans are succeeding at a level disproportionate to other blacks in the United States, this proves that success does not stem from race. It is derived from the environment. Most Nigerian-Americans have stable homes, educated parents, and financial stability to the point where they can actively promote education. And that is the key.

    Asian-Americans here have been lucky enough to find communities here that help foster education and financial success. They have also found the value of education, which is a valuable tool for combating oppression. However, their success, like the success of Nigerian-Americans, is an example of the power of environment, not of racial superiority. Nigerian-Americans are just one example of minorities who have managed to distance themselves from the constant cycle of poverty and intellectual suppression that minorities tend to face.

    It is imperative that we find a way to incorporate the same proactive, nuturing elements of "model minority" culture into the environmental structures of blacks and Latinos. After all, blacks and Latinos have had to deal with more rigid and overt forms of oppression - slavery, generations of poverty and poor education.

    If you plant a seed in the concrete, what are the chances that it will grow? Slim to none. But if that same seed is nurtured with all the proper ingredients, chances are that it will blossom into something special. Nobody debates the potential of a seed, so there's no need to use race to debate the potential of a human being.

    Ihekweazu is a sociology senior.
  2. militant

    militant Abami-Eda

    Great article. Always been my view when the media points to asians as "model citizens" or immigrants who work hard. Any recent 2004/2005 statistical data comparing different immigrant groups? Or would it be as shocking as the 2000 US census report which showed Nigerians topping the list of most educated nation in America? Never saw the census results ever since. Taken of cyberspace. The media rather prefers to print articles comparing us to native AAs to fuel more divisions.
  3. mistiblue88

    mistiblue88 Master Group

    Elements of a proactive, nurturing "model minority" culture will be hard to inject and accepted into a culture who is suspicious and distrustful of the other, in addition to both being saddled with mutual stereotypes of each other, and both finding it difficult to even socialize with each other.

    It will take the patience of Job...and then some.
  4. militant

    militant Abami-Eda

    Quite true...thats true. But not everyone is blind to this fact.

    Immigrants are minorities, too

    By Clarence Page

    Smiles turned to tightened jaws at the most recent reunion of Harvard University's black alumni.
    The mood shift, as reported in the New York Times, occurred when two very prominent black faculty members reported encouraging increases in Harvard's black enrollment, then raised questions as to where those new black students were coming from.

    Harvard law Professor Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of Harvard's Afro-American Studies Department, reported 8 percent, or about 530, of Harvard's undergraduates are black, but somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of them are "West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples."
    Not counting those who are classified as "foreign students," Miss Guinier and Mr. Gates said, only about a third of the students classified as "black" at the nation's most prestigious university were from families in which all four grandparents were born in this country.
    I was not surprised by those findings. Like many other African-Americans, I have been noticing for years how the children of black immigrant families tend to be much better represented among high school honor-roll achievers than their native-American black counterparts.
    Now that they are showing up in disproportionate numbers at selective colleges like Harvard, both advocates and opponents of affirmative action are raising a howl in their various ways.
    "Here's something I bet you never thought you'd hear a liberal say: Harvard is letting in too many Africans," razzed Tucker Carlson, conservative co-host of CNN's "Crossfire" when the Times story broke. Actually, the Harvard "liberals" were worried less about too many immigrants than too few blacks of American slavery descent.
    Now Harvard has to ask itself what its affirmative action plan is supposed to accomplish. If its goal is simply "diversity," it may not matter how American are the roots of its black and brown faces. But if its goal is to address historical racial inequalities in American life, Harvard may have to take black ethnicity into account in the way some institutions have argued over which nationalities should be counted as "Hispanic."
    A bigger question is: Why are black students whose families have been in America for generations being left behind by newcomers, including black newcomers from other countries?
    Mr. Gates plans to a study group on the question. I can offer one easy possibility at no charge: Immigrant kids work harder.
    They work harder, in part, because their parents work harder — and their parents work harder because of their relentless optimism: Where others might see a dead-end job, immigrants of all colors see an entry-level opportunity.
    Where others may see inequities, immigrants tend to see a ladder to be climbed. With hyperoptimism, they move ahead, upward and outward, undeterred by discrimination, short-term poverty, substandard housing, lack of capital or any other barriers that fate throws in the way of their hopes and dreams.
    And they pass this spirit of enterprise on to their children. A University of Chicago study in 1995, for example, found children from various minority groups whose mothers are immigrants outperform students from their same ethnic group whose mothers were born in the United States. "Family optimism" about the future played a crucially important role in determining school success, according to sociology Professor Marta Tienda, an author of the study.
    And the more recent the family's arrival, the better its children perform, according to a study of Asian and Hispanic families by Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University social scientist whose latest book is "The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting" (Simon & Schuster).
    That immigrant optimism is not unknown to black folks born right here in the U.S.A. Many of us saw it drive our parents or grandparents in their desperate migrations from the rural South to the urban industrial North during the last century. Unfortunately, much of the later wave, having run up against the lost jobs and de-industrialization of factory towns over the past half-century, were left stranded in poverty, even as others moved on to more prosperous jobs and neighborhoods.
    "We have had successful black students tell us they felt they had to make a choice between doing well in school and having friends," Mr. Steinberg told me in a telephone interview. "Almost any American kid, given that choice, would choose having friends, regardless of their race."
    Some forward-thinking high schools have responded by helping older black students mentor younger ones, encouraging them to regard academic stardom with something like the stature they normally award sports stars. That's a very lofty goal, but it's worth striving for. With the optimism of our elders, we can make affirmative action obsolete.

    Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist.
  5. timogose

    timogose Master Group

    True words...

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