Complicating Blackness: Black Immigrants & Racial Positioning in U.S. Higher Education

  • Chrystal A. George Mwangi (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)


This paper critically analyzes the racial positioning of Black immigrant collegians and faculty within race-based policies, practices, and discourse in U.S. higher education; illustrates how traditional constructs of race are complicated by globalization, migration, and the growing population of Black immigrants in the United States; and extends discourse on Black heterogeneity in higher education. I utilize the dual purposes of affirmative action – 1) redressing past wrongs and 2) diversity and inclusion – as frameworks to analyze the racial positioning of Black immigrants in higher education. Using this framework I compare two positions: 1) Black immigrants wrongly benefit from higher education initiatives created to redress past wrongs against Blacks who are the descendants of U.S. slaves (Graham, 2002); and 2) Campus racial diversity and multiculturalism are enhanced by the presence of Black immigrant collegians (Wilcher, 2011). Detailed analysis of the literature illustrate that the race of Black immigrants is often positioned the same as that of African Americans in higher education due to lack of disaggregation of Black student/faculty data by ethnicity, nativity, and generational status and lack of acknowledgement of Black within-group diversity. Overall, the findings highlight the importance of recognizing the complexities around definitions and perceptions of Blackness that exists on today’s college campuses.

Keywords: Racial Positioning, Black Heterogeneity, Higher Education, Race, Ethnicity, Black immigrants

How to Cite:

George Mwangi, C. A., (2014) “Complicating Blackness: Black Immigrants & Racial Positioning in U.S. Higher Education”, Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis 3(2).

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Published on
01 Nov 2014
Peer Reviewed