TheGrio Daily

Africa Amplified: Black Ethnics with Dr. Christina Greer

Episode 88

“You don’t reduce the totality of your ancestors to something white people did to us.” Michael Harriot brings on Dr. Christina Greer to talk about her book Black Ethnics and how being Black is a lot more diverse than people think. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified


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Michael Harriot [00:00:05] So we’re here today with Dr. Christina Greer, a previous guest on the podcast, and I’ve been a guest on her podcast. But, you know, we’re always lucky and thankful to have a guest who knows things on theGrio daily. Welcome to theGrio Daily, Dr. Christina Greer. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:27] And always so happy to talk to you, Michael. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:30] Right. I just want to make sure I am not going to have to answer any questions today, right? Because like, I didn’t bring my trivia brain with me when we started recording. So I just want to make sure that, like, I’m not going to feel the pop quiz or anything. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:45] No, you’re off the hook. No pop quizes. The semester hasn’t started yet. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:51] I know you have a book coming out and, you know, of course, you always drop science whenever you write or talk or teach. So tell me what your book, your upcoming book is about? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:04] So I have a book that I’m finishing on. Fannie Lou Hamer and Barbara Jordan and Stacey Abrams. And essentially that argument is the film Hamer and Barbara Jordan had a baby. 50 years later, it would be Stacey Abrams. And the book that I wrote that we’re going to talk about today as theGrio celebrates Africa in our diasporic consciousness, is my book, Black Ethnics, Race, Immigration and the Pursuit of the American Dream, where I investigate some shared attitudes of Black, Caribbean and African respondents, but also some areas of difference and distinction. And to answer the larger question, what are some of the substantive policy issues where we fundamentally agree? And then what are some other issues where we might not be on the same page so we can actually figure out how we can get on the same page so we can get more collectively as a larger group. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:59] Right. So let’s start at the beginning. And you know, there are people, Americans in the Caribbean, who consider themselves as I do, or a lot of people do as African. Some say that they are Black and some make a distinction between Black American and African and, for instance, Jamaican or. So I want you to kind of explain what of those similarities and the differences between those things. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:36] Right, Michael. And, you know, I always tell people identity is personal. So how you identify it might not always line up with how, you know, even someone in your own family identifies. It also depends on where you grew up. So in my book, I call descendants of U.S. chattel slavery Black Americans, because it’s easier for me to distinguish Black Americans from, say, African immigrants. So I don’t have to say African African-Americans and African-Americans. So I have Black Americans. I have Caribbean Americans and African-Americans and African-Americans are those who have migrated from the continent of Africa. The first one, two maybe even three generations, Caribbeans have migrated from the Caribbean and then Black Americans who are descendants of U.S. chattel slavery. Obviously, it’s not, you know, cut and dry. There are lots of people who, you know, have a grandparent from the Caribbean and another grandparent from Georgia, you know, so it’s like it really does depend on how you self-identify. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:34] In writing this book, I found out that my grandmother was Bahamian, but because she passed away before I was born and we didn’t really talk about ethnicity in my family, I always called myself a J.B., which is just Black. And so that descendent of us, chattel slavery, because in college where people would often ask, Oh, where are you from? And it’s like, Oh, you know, I’m from Philly, you know, from Atlanta, wherever it is. And it’s like, you know, then the final question is like, no, where are you from from? That “from from” question. I was like “Uh, Florida?” It was like, “No, no, where are you people from?” Like, you live in the tiny town that my grandparents lived in. And and so this idea that, like, we’re not from “anywhere specific”, I just started, you know, we called ourselves the JBs. It’s like, no, I’m just Black. Like, that’s it. But recognizing that that identity is really powerful as well. I mean, being a JB, Just Black, means that, you know, your ancestors helped build the foundation of this nation, literally. Literally planting the seeds in the soil for this country. And so it’s not as easy to define oneself. You know, if you grow up in a city where let’s just say your parents are immigrants from, say, Nigeria, if you grow up in D.C. and you’re surrounded by other Nigerians, you might keep that identity as Nigerian American. But if you grow up, let’s just say, and your parents were the only Nigerians in a town, you know, in Nebraska, and it’s a lot of, you know, Black Americans, not a lot. But, you know, there are more Black Americans as Black people than you might, as is second generation identify as Black, not necessarily ethnically, but more of a racial shared racial identity. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:15] And so I was just really trying to detangle some of that because when I was an undergrad, it was such a small group of us at a predominantly white institution. I call it an HWCU, you know, because it is a university set up for the production of white knowledge. So it was a small group of Black folks, but we sort of not only were we all part of this one shared BSA, we called it the Pan-African Alliance at the point at that point in time. But, you know, as most universities know it, as the Black Student Alliance, so we were all under this umbrella together. But during my tenure as an undergrad, the Caribbeans broke off and formed their own group, the Caribbean Student Association. The African students broke off and formed the African Students Association, but then they still had a shared membership with the Black Student Association. So it was a both and duality of recognizing your ethnicity, but also a shared racial identity. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:10] Right. And that’s an important thing how, first of all, personal that identity is. And the other thing is how, you know, the shared commonalities is how really the world reacts to Blackness. And, you know, as someone I remember, someone from the, you know, the Geechee Gullah culture. I remember, you know, when people started saying, you know, there are descendants of enslaved people, which is not necessarily a recent thing. My grandmother said, well, you know, you don’t reduce the totality of your ancestors to something white people did to us. And I always remembered that, like, you know, your history starts way before white people showed up in Africa. And reducing it to that, you know, is kind of a disservice to some people, to their ancestors. But I want you to talk about some of the shared commonalities that these what you call Just Black people, Black Americans, Black people from the Caribbean and, you know, from the diaspora. Right. Because it can even be reduced to those people. We have talk about people, Black people from South America, Brazilians. We have Black people from, you know, Canada, the Black Nova Scotians. So it’s a worldwide diaspora of Black people. And talk about some of the shared commonalities that we all have. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:45] I mean, Michael, you just said I mean, we’re everywhere. And, you know, it really does hit home just how large and expansive the chattel slavery trade was across the globe. I mean, the fact that we do have, you know, distant diasporic cousins all across South America and the Caribbean, throughout the Caribbean. But, you know, the shared identity is so powerful to me because, you know, I have some vignettes in the book. And even when we’re at university and people who’ve gone to white schools know that, you know, oftentimes we’re kind of lumped together. So, you know, at university, when we were having parties where there was no alcohol being served, it’s like our parties were broken up, but not white parties. And so we were together in this shared discrimination. And during the time that I was in, you know, writing this book and in undergrad, you know, we had Rodney King and Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo, those were sort of the three big sort of police brutality cases. And in many ways, they represented Black American, Caribbean and African immigrants being brutalized by the police. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:08:53] And, you know, the police didn’t necessarily stop and ask, are you Black American? Are you, you know, from Guinea? Are you Haitian or are you, you know, Jamaican? Those distinctions don’t matter when when you’re being abused by anyone. But I think the reason why I was interested in trying to dissect some of these questions and really figure out where we had these shared policy positions is because of residential segregation and the fact that Black immigrants were oftentimes placed in Black communities or move into Black communities for a host of reasons, some racialized, some racist reasons why they settled with Black communities. And that’s where we see some of these tensions. We do see communities coming together, but there are a lot of Black immigrants who are just like, well, wait a minute. If I’m coming over here the same day as someone from Asia, Europe, why is it that I get this Black prefix? I can’t just be American like everybody else? It’s like, No, no, no, you’re lumped in with Black Americans. And that also means you’re going to the same schools. You’re living in the same neighborhoods, you’re having a similar circumstance depending on the country and in the context in which you migrate. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:56] But we know that race and racism travel and we know that, you know, there are real inequities that Black Americans still face. So when Black immigrants are in Black American neighborhoods, well, what am I getting subpar schools? Why am I getting subpar housing? Why am I getting, you know, environmental racism, all these things that Black Americans are far too used to and well-versed in dissecting. So that’s where some of the tension can come in, because we’re battling over this perception of scarce resources. And I always say perception of scarce resources, because this is America. There’s no such thing as scarce resources. You saw that we just found $150 billion in the couch cushions in 20 minutes for a foreign nation. So we got the money. It’s just how we allocate the money. And so this idea that Black immigrants can’t just become American without a mandatory Black prefix was something that I was really interested in, in really interrogating and seeing how Black immigrants felt about this idea that they’re kind of lumped in with people in a dichotomous relationship where Black Americans in many ways are on the bottom in the imagination of a lot of white policy and white people and a country that’s been founded on this idea of white supremacy and anti-Black racism. You know, and those are not the same thing. And everyone is always asking like, well, white supremacy is the same thing as anti-Black racism. And like, no, no, no. In this nation, it’s a very specific anti-Black racism where we can literally look at every single policy that has ever been created and it has a foundation in racism specifically targeted against Black people, other folks and other groups who caught up in the net. But it’s it’s against Black people. So it’s not just about being a white supremacist or having a nation that believes in white supremacy. It’s also both and having a nation that is predicated on subjugating Black people and Black immigrants kind of get caught up in that crossfire. 

Michael Harriot [00:11:55] Join us next time on theGrio Daily for episodes 2: Conflicts Throughout the Diaspora. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at the 

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