Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities

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9780674007246: Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities
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The story of West Indian immigrants to the United States is considered a great success. Many of these adoptive citizens have prospered, including General Colin Powell. But Mary Waters tells a very different story about immigrants from the West Indies, especially their children.

She finds that when the immigrants first arrive, their knowledge of English, their skills and contacts, their self-respect, and their optimistic assessment of American race relations facilitate their integration into the American economic structure. Over time, however, the realities of American race relations begin to swamp their positive cultural values. Persistent, blatant racial discrimination soon undermines the openness to whites the immigrants have when they first arrive. Discrimination in housing channels them into neighborhoods with inadequate city services and high crime rates. Inferior public schools undermine their hopes for their children's future. Low wages and poor working conditions are no longer attractive for their children, who use American and not Caribbean standards to measure success.

Ultimately, the values that gained these first-generation immigrants initial success--a willingness to work hard, a lack of attention to racism, a desire for education, an incentive to save--are undermined by the realities of life in the United States. In many families, the hard-won relative success of the parents is followed by the downward slide of their children. Contrary to long-held beliefs, Waters finds, those who resist Americanization are most likely to succeed economically, especially in the second generation.

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New York City, the melting pot of the United States, contains the nation's largest West Indian immigrant population. Since the immigration explosion of 1965, the Afro-Caribbean influx has impacted the social dynamic of the United States and its native-born African Americans, often with volatile results. Black Identities, an important sociological work by Mary C. Waters, explores the question, "How similar or different is it to be a black immigrant or descendent of immigrants in Brooklyn in the late twentieth century from what it was like to be an Irish, Italian, or Jewish immigrant in the earlier part of the century?" Waters interviews blacks from Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, and other islands and deconstructs the mutual myths, truths, allegiances, and distrusts between these communities and whites (as well as African Americans with deeper family roots in the U.S.). Among the stereotypes Waters addresses, the most dangerous one is the perceived superiority of Afro-Caribbeans to African Americans. She deflates this and other myths with a combination of sharp scholarship and dead-on analysis. --Eugene Holley Jr.

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West Indian immigration to the United States is considered a success story. Many of these adoptive citizens have prospered, most notably General Colin Powell. But in this book Mary Waters tells a very different story about immigrants from the West Indies, especially their children. She finds that when the immigrants first arrive, their knowledge of English, their skills and contacts, their self-respect, and their optimistic assessment of American race relations smooth their integration into the American economic structure. Over time, however, the realities of American race relations begin to swamp their positive cultural values. Persistent, blatant racial discrimination soon undermines their openness to whites. Discrimination in housing channels them into neighborhoods with inadequate city services and high crime rates. Inferior public schools frustrate their hopes for their children's future. Low wages and poor working conditions are not attractive to their children, who apply American and not Caribbean standards to measure success. Ultimately, the values that gained these first-generation immigrants their initial success -- willingness to work hard and to ignore racism, a desire for education, an incentive to save -- are undermined by their experience in the United States. In many families, the hard-won relative success of the parents is followed by the downward slide of their children. Contrary to long-held beliefs, Waters finds, those who resist Americanization are more likely to succeed economically, especially in the second generation.

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9780674000674: Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities

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