Dr. Christina Greer speaks about ‘Race and Immigration’

On the evening of February 19th, the American Studies Conference featured keynote speaker Dr. Christina Greer, assistant professor of political science at Fordham University. Her talk, “Race and Immigration,” analyzed the issues surrounding assimilation, incorporation, and acceptance of Black American, Afro-Caribbean and African immigrant groups in the general context of American society and polity.

Greer cited her experiences in graduate school as motivating her to delve further into black identity in the U.S., as well as to explore more deeply the idea that “cities were dead.” Researching and collecting census data primarily from the New York boroughs of Manhattan and Queens, Greer’s goal was to change the terms of racial discourse.

“Much of our conversations about race have been stuck in the 20th century,” Greer said. “The color line is blurring, it’s no longer this black and white dynamic.”

Through her findings, Greer observed a never-before-seen phenomenon where black ethnics “chose to stay ‘immigrant.’”

Analyzing the root of this phenomenon, Greer pointed to the “mandatory black prefix,” that has come into play in what she calls the black versus non-black mentality now present in black ethnicities within the U.S. like African and Afro-Caribbean groups. Thus, analyzing the political, social and economic behavior of these groups, Greer concluded that someone of Afro-Caribbean descent and a black American would experience the same loss of social, political economic mobility and “never attain model minority status [simply] due to phenotype… there is something about this mandatory prefix of blackness that is preventing [their] incorporation,” ultimately creating this “post racial fallacy” of solely white and black racial tensions.

“Although there are varying black ethnic attitudes regarding modes of success and achievement efforts, there is a significant black racial identity present,” Greer said. Ultimately Greer concluded that, “as black people in America fall to a distant third group,” solidarity and coalition building is needed to move forward, both in uniting the black community and fighting the outdated terms of racial discourse.

“This country has always had a black middle-class, a history of class within the black community – but this country is such that you are never ever fully accepted into the American dream, because you are never ever fully accepted as American. Hence the mandatory prefix of blackness,” Greer said.

After the presentation and a Q&A session, Greer was available for individual talks and gave autographs.

Abaki Beck ’15 found the talk thought-provoking and interesting.

“There are hundreds of distinct cultural groups from New York to New Mexico, who all have different experiences and interactions with each other and with the federal government,” Beck said. “I did really appreciate her move to complicate what “black” means because it is a similar issue in many communities of color, that studies happen making generalizations about that racial group. I definitely think it’s important to recognize ethnic difference when talking about race, because “racial groups” were kind of formed arbitrarily based on phenotype and geographic location, not by cultural or political similarities.”

Jessie Lee-Bauder ’18 spoke on how the talk illuminated modern racial tensions and the interactions between communities of color.

“I found it really interesting and compelling that this motivation particularly affects African/Afro-Caribbean immigrants. The self-evaluation of Black Americans regarding their own work ethics was really powerful and I thought that portion of the presentation showed how internalized racism can play out in a very clear way,” Lee-Bauder said.

“Where she discussed the silent repression of slavery as an essential aspect of American history was really profound,” said Gabe Cornier-Bridgeforth ‘18. “I learned so much during the lecture, not only with regard to myself, but the system in which we function in and the internal issues that still ail our society today.”