Just recently, the Pew Research Center released a report that said the number of Black immigrants has more than quadrupled since 1980. This finding was not surprising to me because I recently wrote a book titled “Black Ethnic: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” which outlines the growing Black diversity in the U.S. and in New York City more specifically.
Most people who live in major cities have likely noticed the myriad of cultural restaurants, shops and languages in a given neighborhood. The report stated the number of Black immigrants, who currently represent roughly 9 percent of the total Black population (which I think is a conservative estimate) could rise to almost 16 percent by 2060. The increase in Black ethnic diversity will hopefully spawn a more robust conversation about increasing our Black ethnic leadership on local and state levels.
In many communities across the country, and in New York City in particular, there are Black political families who served as political pioneers and have subsequently created a political class for their children and, in some cases, their children’s children. They have also created a base of loyal voters who are able to use last names as a short cut when going to the polls. In some ways, political dynasties have served as a beneficial and necessary way to incorporate Blacks into the larger political process. I would argue that it is also time to welcome in new faces as well. Because Black immigration is increasing, I would encourage Black immigrants to think about running for office and become more participatory in electoral politics.
While conducting my research, I found that several Black immigrants in the U.S., from the Caribbean and the continent of Africa, are still very much interested in their home country’s politics. I also found that Black immigrants are also very aware of some of the challenges facing people of African decent living in the U.S. Issues such as spending on education, social welfare, health care and the war are all potential areas where coalitions among Black ethnic groups can be forged.
Hopefully, these individuals will think about becoming more participatory in local U.S. politics as well and running for the many offices in local politics. There are real, substantive coalitions to be formed between all generations of Black ethnics. As we continue to link global issues to domestic needs and wants, we can begin to think of ways, large and small, when Black immigrants can contribute to policy discussions, urban planning, and political representation.
So if you are a Black immigrant and politically active, I would encourage you to register your fellow brothers and sisters. True democracy works when there is increased ideological diversity, healthy competition and competitive elections.