Becoming Black? Immigrant Visibility, Racial Identity Formation, and Political Integration amoung African Immigrants in the US
Integration into American society by non-black immigrants tends to increase with time and result in improved economic outcomes. In contrast, scholars note a form of "black exceptionalism": black immigrants integrate at the slowest rates among all immigrants and their socioloeconomic status and residential integration decline with each generation. This is because the segment of the host population into which they would most likely assimilate -- black Americans -- is itself a marginalized minority. As a result, previous research finds that, in contrast to other immigrant groups, resistance to assimilation among black immigrants yields better outcomes. Such resistance is a strategic response to racial discrimination in the US, and the risk that such discrimination poses to black immigrants who are perceived to be black American. Yet black immigrants in the United States are a diverse group, and not all are equally "mistaken" for black Americans. While some black immigrants' recents foreign heritage is highly visible, other black immigrants' differences from black Americans are "invisible." This research project focuses on this variation, and its implications for African immigrant integration in the US. We argue that immigrant visibility facilitates black identity formation by reducing the disincentives for assimilation that stem from racial commonality with black Americans. We evaluate the effect of immigrant visibility on "racial integration" and political attitudes through a series of studies, including in-depth interviews with first and second generation immigrants, a lab study with OSU students, and a planned large-scale survey of Somali immigrants in two US cities.