Negotiating the Boundaries of American Blackness: The Experiences of African Students in the United States

Negotiating the Boundaries of American Blackness: The Experiences of African Students in the United States

Angellar Manguvo (University of Missouri-Kansas City, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9749-2.ch005
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African students in the United States are assigned a racial identity ‘Black' in accordance with racial stratifications of the U.S. society. This designation makes it necessary for them to negotiate the structural constructions of American Blackness. Guided by social constructivism, the author explored African students' negotiation of Black racial solidarity. African students' racial solidarity was embedded within shared perspectives of common fate, which provided a reference for collective Black identity but; however, did not culminate into strong racial in-group loyalty. African students' racial solidarity was mitigated by the desire to exonerate themselves from inherent Black stereotypes. This was exacerbated by their non-prototypic cultural characteristics, which, according to native-born counterparts, rendered them ‘illegitimate' in-group members. The increasing presence of foreign-born Black students unveils both commonalities and heterogeneity among Black student populations, which scholars of Black Studies must reflect upon to explore ideological standpoints of Blackness.
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Available records show that an estimated 68 Africans had sojourned to United States for studying purposes by the beginning of the 20th century (Laosebikan, 2012). A drastic change, however, occurred in the 1970s, which saw an estimated 7,000 Africans studying in the United States, constituting about 5.6% of the total international student population (Laosebikan, 2012). According to Arthur (2001), early groups of African students provided the nucleus for African immigrant communities due to repressive immigration laws at the time. The number of African students at U.S. universities continued to steadily increase between 1990 and 2000 but has remained static in the last decade. According to the Institute of International Education (2014), more than 30,000 sub-Saharan African students were studying in the United States in 2013.

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