Colorism is a sickness and black immigrants aren’t immune

Kereece McLean

W.E.B Du Bois coined the term double consciousness to characterize African Americans’ conflicting experiences as being both black and being American. Black immigrants have a triple consciousness that describes three conflicting identities: That of an American, an immigrant and a black person.

Being conscious as an immigrant entails understanding that our status inherently alienates us socially. The immigrant community experiences colorism, but it often goes unnoticed because black immigrants are the minority. Dr. Kevin Cokley, African and African diaspora studies professor, defines colorism as “the allocation of privilege and disadvantaged based on skin color.” The concept relates to each identity and it is imperative to understand that it’s an issue in almost all aspects of a black immigrant’s life.

Colorism is a topic that is often disregarded within a community of immigrants because being an immigrant is viewed as the largest issue. Issues, such as the social distress that comes with the shade of our skin tone, are problematic, yet they are never discussed. The media most often portrays Latino immigrant issues, thus disregarding a minority group that statistically struggles the most in the hands of immigration.

A black man and a brown man will not share the same experiences in America because socially, the lighter skin tone is held at a higher standard.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients typically feel American because it’s the only place most have ever called home. According to Black Alliance for Just Immigration, black immigrants are less likely to have their DACA applications approved than non-black immigrants. And although we are such a small percentage, black immigrants are detained and deported at five times the rate of any other group. The treatment of black immigrants mirrors that of  black Americans born in the United States. They are disproportionately stopped and  imprisoned more compared to any other racial group. Immigrants are not immune to America’s systematic oppression or the perpetuated stereotypes experienced by native-born blacks. Black immigrants  are in this unique position where they face the dark side of the black experience, but are not in a position to be vocal about these issues out of fear of deportation.

To be a black immigrant is to live in the intersection of black, American and immigrant experiences. Colorism compounds the judgment and prejudice experienced by no other group in this country, and we must acknowledge this.

McLean is an English junior from Houston.