TheGrio Daily

Black Ethnics part 2 – Conflicts throughout the diaspora

Episode 89

“The most excellent Black immigrants still don’t have access to the same stuff that the most mediocre white people do.” Michael Harriot continues amplifying Africa with his continued conversation with Dr. Christina Greer about the diversity of Blackness across the diaspora. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified


TGD_Black Ethnics Ep2 FINAL.mp4

[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black podcast network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Welcome back to theGrio Daily, and Episode 2: Conflicts Throughout the Diaspora. Our continued conversation with Dr. Christina Greer. 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] I’m always so happy to talk to you, Michael. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:30] So recently, you know, with the few movements that have begun in America or kind of a narrative that there’s been this narrative that, you know, African immigrants, Caribbean immigrants kind of have access to education, achievements that Black American descendants of American enslaved Americans don’t have. And there’s kind of been almost kind of a xenophobia that has white supremacist tendencies in that. And, you know, to kind of solidify that narrative, they point out how, you know, Nigerian Americans are more likely to get access to college. And even when you explain that, well, you know, we see that because in every country, first of all, you know, very seldom is it mentioned that Africans are the most educated group of immigrants in this country. And we see first and second generation people with education tend to achieve more because on one hand, they didn’t inherit that legacy of slavery. But what we also see is after two or three generations, those descendants eventually become to America, whether you look at the the statistics for incarceration. But what we will see is, like in two or three generations, those grandchildren, those great grandchildren, they eventually inherit the legacy of slavery. They eventually inherit the the the disparities, whether it is incarceration rates. But we never talk about that because that kind of what you talked about early, that zero sum philosophy of America has this much and if Black immigrants come, they’re taking it from Black Americans. And I want you to talk about that tension that has arisen lately. And it’s kind of been exhibited throughout history. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:02:43] So, you know, a few things, Michael. One, we know it’s not easy to get to the United States, so you have to have social, economic, sometimes political networks that actually allow you to come here. And so, yes, there’s some people come here save from refugee status. But people who are coming here, as you just said, you know, disproportionately highly educated, to be from a Black country you have to be better than right to even get here. You have to be sponsored and all these other things. And so I always remind people when they say, well, you know, Africans and Caribbeans are disproportionately represented in higher institutions in, say, the top 25 universities, there is a larger percentage of African and Caribbean to Black Americans. When you look at all universities across the United States, that’s not necessarily the case. Black Americans are definitely overrepresented. But we have to remember, when we look at African and Caribbean immigrants, we’re looking at a bushel, not the orchard. So I always try to remind people that for Black Americans, we got A through Z. We’ve got everyone here. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:45] When we’re looking at Black immigrants, we have a select sample size. So if you have a derelict cousin in Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Haiti, whatever, they’re not here, they’re not getting here, they’re not being sponsored. They don’t have the networks to be here. So those countries have plenty of folks that are, you know, shady characters, but they’re not necessarily represented fully, the way we have a full spectrum of Black American identities, occupations, personalities, you name it. Whereas with Caribbeans and African, it’s a smaller sample size and it’s a motivated sample size. You know, not everyone’s perfect Once they get here, no one’s perfect who comes here. But we’re not really comparing the same groups, if that makes sense. Right? We’re literally looking at the entirety of one group and just a sample size of another. And so that’s an important distinction to remember when there’s always this setup of, you know, why can’t Black Americans be more like Caribbeans? Why can’t they be, you know, hardworking like Africans? And when I ran the data and I interviewed people and had people fill out surveys. And what was so astonishing and heartbreaking simultaneously, Michael, is that when I asked Caribbeans who they thought were the hardest working, by and large, Caribbeans said Caribbeans are Africans, close, second and then distant third Black Americans. When I ask Africans, no surprise, Africans say they’re the hardest working Caribbeans close, second distant third Black Americans. When I ask Black Americans, one might assume Black Americans would say their first and another group is second. Black Americans say Caribbean and African top one and two and they themselves say they are a distant third. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:29] So it’s this internalized identity of lack of of work ethic, laziness, all these things that Black Americans say, well, I don’t see myself as lazy, but as a group we are. As a group we’re not hard working. As a group we’re not as motivated as other groups. And so this internalized racism that has occurred within Blacks sort of sets it up where they view Black immigrants as better than as well as Black immigrants viewing themselves. This is from the survey data that I conducted using a labor union because I wanted to have a control for people who all had the same occupation, working with individuals in New York City, because I didn’t want to have doctors and lawyers and nannies and housekeepers and hairdressers and teachers. I thought the diversity of the occupation might skew some of the data. So this is I interviewed Black ethnic folks across the board who all did the same job, and the differences in how they saw one another, even their own group, was really surprising. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:30] That’s an interesting concept and an interesting result. You know, one of the things that I find interesting about Black people, you know, again, being from the Geechee Gullah culture, sometimes I’ll hear a Caribbean accent and it’ll almost make me feel like home. Some of the commonalities in our social, what we call the social structure or the, you know, our traditions, tendencies, how we eat, how we think, how we move, how we dance. And what’s amazing is that, you know, across continents, across countries, across seas, you know, we share this common, you know, familiarity with each other, how we talk, how we form our language, how we move. And it’s hard. How do we explain that? Right? Because we on one hand, we don’t want to say, well, you know, that’s in our DNA. But, you know, when you look at the variety in the cultures, how do you explain those remarkable, familiar, you know, similarities? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:43] You know, Michael, I wish I could explain that, because even certain things, you know, not just food and dishes, but like how we relate to our elders is so similar. You know, when when my best friend whose family hails from Nigeria, you know, when when, you know, she’s been around my family or another good friend of mine is from Sierra Leone and she came down to the Deep South to visit my grandparents with me. And she was like, this is like being in Sierra Leone. Like, what’s the difference? You know, and I think there’s so many what I choose to focus on in the book and in my my writing, in my work, is that we have much more in common with one another than we do as far as divisions. And I think that there are some Black American groups that are really invested in exploiting the divisions and creating this hyper sense of, you know, these Black immigrants don’t belong. They absolutely do. First of all, we are, you know, nation of immigrants, voluntary and involuntary. And so how can we get more collectively is a better question then why is it that these new Blacks are taking stuff from the old Blacks? That’s that’s not a productive conversation. We’re only here now. So, like, what do we need to figure out to get more as far as a substantive policy conversation, as a collective? Because we know that we can get more if we all band together and we come up with a list of priorities. And it might not always be an easy conversation because we have distinct ethnicity, we have geographic diversity, we have got class diversity. And this is within all of our groups moving around simultaneously. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:21] So we know that, you know, how we sort of square up is going to look very distinct at different times and different iterations. But it’s worth the struggle. It’s worth the conversation because we know we’re in this country together and we’re in a country that is predicated on anti-Black racism. Black immigrants may not be caught up in the net right now, but as you said, generations or depending on where you live, we do have Black skin and we share a certain concern for our future collectively. And so this is that’s the conversation that I’m interested in having, not the who’s smarter. Why is it that they’re at universities and we’re not you know, why is it that they don’t live in our neighborhoods anymore? Because that to me doesn’t move us together in, you know, in the work that you do, the work that theGrio is trying to do to really have deeper conversations about who we are as Black people, not just in this country, but how we relate to Black people globally, sort of past and present. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:23] The thing that we have to point out, and I always think that it is important to point out, it’s even when you look at those self-selected groups of immigrants, you know, from the most excellent immigrants still don’t have access to the same stuff that the most mediocre white people do, right? So when we talk about the level of achievement, it’s still not even compared with the education and experience in the qualifications, it’s still not equal to what the regular, degular white people get in America. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:02] I would say in the book I have this concept that I call an “Elevated Minority” where Black immigrants might be seen by especially white, because there’s all these conversations happening in the shadow of white supremacy. But they may be seen by certain people as above Black Americans who are perceived as last place, but that doesn’t put them in a model minority place with Asian Americans. That doesn’t put them with regular, mediocre white people. So it’s like, yeah, you might be second to last place in the minds of a lot of people, but that doesn’t sort of move you out of a stratosphere. And to remember that when you think about not just residential segregation but our interactions with the carceral state or the police state or the welfare state, we can go down the line and it’s like Black immigrants actually have a life circumstance that looks a lot more like Black Americans. So it would behoove all of us to work together, recognize that as opposed to thinking like, oh, well, we’re elevated and we’re special. Not at the none at the end of the day. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:01] So the book is Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration and the Pursuit of the American Dream. So let me ask before they run us out of here, because I could talk to you about this all day. What in your research and in your opinion, is the American dream? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:21] For a lot of my respondents, it was equity in equity in being able to feel like you were an American without a prefix. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:35] Well, that’s a great answer. You know, my standard response is always to be free. You know, something that we take for granted unless you are a Black person in America. But I would like to thank Dr. Greer for spending a few minutes today with us on theGrio daily. And again, I could talk to her about this for hours and make sure you go check out the book. Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration and the Pursuit of the American Dream. And as always, we leave you with the Black saying. But today, of course, since we have a guest in the House, we have to allow them to bless us with their favorite Black saying so. Dr. Christina Greer, tell us, what is one of your favorite Black sayings? 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:25] Well, I’m going to keep with your freedom theme and quote Billie Holiday. If you can’t be free, be a mystery. 

Michael Harriot [00:13:34] That’s a great one. And thank you for joining us on theGrio Daily. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:13:39] Thanks, Michael. 

Michael Harriot [00:13:42] 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 theGrio dot com. 

[00:13:58] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black podcast.