In a blog post entitled "Africans Still Trumping American Blacks," Keith Josef Adkins observes:
In 2004 Dr. Henry Louis Gates insisted that African and Caribbean immigrants as well as bi-racial students were trumping American Blacks in numbers at top-ranked universities. In 2008 I blogged extensively about my experience within the Afropolitan culture, the social/intellectual circle where Africans [from abroad and second-generation] mingle and organic global consciousness is commonplace. My 2008 assessment? Africans and Caribbeans were trumping American blacks on the corporate climb as well as the artistic.
I couldn't decide whether I should address this or not. I think this was written with the intent of garnering more heat than light--or without regard to either. I can't know a man's heart, but I suspect that when you use a phrase like "trumping American blacks" you aren't exactly interested in reflection or conversation. I think anyone with any serious knowledge of how immigration works, understands the problem with comparing self-selecting group to a native mass. Indeed, if you follow through to the original article you'll note that immigrant blacks aren't just doing better in these areas than native-born blacks, they're doing better than whites also:
The data showed that 75 percent of first- or second-generation immigrant blacks enrolled in college after high school. For whites, the figure was 72 percent. For blacks whose families had been in this country for more than two generations, only 60 percent of high school graduates went on to college.
Slightly more than 9 percent of immigrant black high school graduates enrolled at the nation's most selective colleges. Only 2.4 percent of native-born blacks and 7 percent of whites enrolled at these schools.
I'm not really surprised by any of this, and I'm not sure why anyone else with a cursory knowledge of immigration history would be. And yet we keep hearing this whisper. In the context which Gates raised the issue--around Affirmative Action, not who's trumping who--I think it does, indeed, point of the problem with race-based AA. But beyond that, I don't know what else to say.
And now allow me to digress to a broader, more existential dilemma. Every time I read something like "Africans Still Trumping American Blacks" I'm struck by the fundamental limitations of argument and dialouge and consequently the limits of blogging. One of my great qualms about this whole enterprise is that settled debates are rehashed, not because of new evidence, but because of the nature of punditry, because of a profession (??) that boils down to a kind of vulgar exhibitionism.
Punditry is often disparaged as a sport or theater--but this is demeaning to sports and actual theater. It's more like wrestling--it cloaks itself in the veneer of truth-seeking, but beneath the surface is all the bombast and overstatement that can be mustered. Except wrestling bills itself as entertainment and punditry is self-regarding. Thus even this comparison may be demeaning to wrestling.
I don't mean to come down on Adkins--anyone who's watched Sunday talk shows knows this is the form argument has taken. Nor do I mean to absolve myself. I have, in my time, allowed outrage to get the best of me. But it's something to turn that outrage into a mode of argument, into a business model.