Nearly half of the blacks attending colleges and universities considered top of the line are either immigrants, the children of immigrants or biracial. “Scholars who have examined the Black presence in elite colleges and universities have reported that 41 percent of Black freshmen at 28 selective schools identified themselves as immigrants, children of immigrants or mixed race,” Ronald Roach writes in Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
At some schools the proportions are even higher. “Harvard professors Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Lani Guinier pointed out during a Black alumni gathering in 2003 that the children of African and Carribbean immigrants and children of biracial couples together comprised two-thirds of Harvard’s Black undergraduate population,” Roach writes.
“Many colleges rely on private networks that disproportionately benefit the children of African and West Indian immigrants who come from majority Black countries and who arrived in the United States after 1965,” Guinier wrote in a Boston Globe column. “Like their wealthier White counterparts, many first- and second-generation immigrants of color test well because they retain a national identity free of America’s racial caste system and enjoy material and cultural advantages, including professional or well-educated parents.”
What these trends show us about the success of that cherished policy of the Ivory Tower—affirmative action—has also not escaped the notice of at least some academics. “This is a victory of diversity over justice,” sociologist Philip Kasinitz says. “The traditional mission of affirmative action seems to be eclipsed.” Dr. Kasinitz serves at the City University of New York and Hunter College.
Other black scholars have drawn different conclusions than those of Guinier and Kasinitz. “I think the African-American middle class is not doing what [it]should to enhance [its] children’s intellectual development,” Dr. Edmund T. Gordon says. Dr. Gordon is the founder and director of Columbia’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education.
Nat Irvin II, an assistant dean at the Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest thinks that American blacks can learn from people of color from other nations. He calls them “thrivals.”
“Thrivals establish and strengthen their economic base and watch it grow by leaps and bounds,” Dr. Irvin writes. “They continue to be aware of the importance of education and its place in the transition from mere survival to true thrivalism.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.