From the New York Times:
Why a movement that claims to support the American descendants of slavery is being promoted by conservatives and attacked on the left.
By Farah Stockman
Nov. 8, 2019
In Hollywood, Harriet Tubman is played in a new movie by a black British woman, much to the annoyance of some black Americans. On the United States census, an ultrawealthy Nigerian immigrant and a struggling African-American woman from the South are expected to check the same box. When many American universities tout their diversity numbers, black students who were born in the Bronx and the Bahamas are counted as the same.
Strikingly, this article doesn’t mention the illustrative example I always bring up: Barack vs. Michelle Obama.
I get the impression that offering helpful examples of concepts is considered unprestigious writing.
Anyway, the emergence of Barack Obama at the Democratic convention in July 2004 may have put an end to the campaign of Harvard professors Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier that went public in June 2004 to raise awareness of how affirmative action at Harvard was less and less benefiting the descendants of American slaves (e.g., Michelle, not Barack).
A spirited debate is playing out in black communities across America over the degree to which identity ought to be defined by African heritage — or whether ancestral links to slavery are what should count most of all.
Tensions between black Americans who descended from slavery and black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are not new, but a group of online agitators is trying to turn those disagreements into a political movement.
“Online agitators” is the 2019 equivalent of “outside agitators” in a Sheriff Bull Connor press conference in 1965. While “online agitators” are presumptively Bad, “online activists” are of course Good.
They want colleges, employers and the federal government to prioritize black Americans whose ancestors toiled in bondage, and they argue that affirmative action policies originally designed to help the descendants of slavery in America have largely been used to benefit other groups, including immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean.
The American descendants of slavery, they say, should have their own racial category on census forms and college applications, and not be lumped in with others with similar skin color but vastly different lived experiences.
The group, which calls itself ADOS, for the American Descendants of Slavery, is small in number, with active supporters estimated to be in the thousands. But the discussion they are provoking is coursing through conversations far and wide.
Those who embrace its philosophy point to disparities between black people who immigrated to the United States voluntarily, and others whose ancestors were brought in chains.
Roughly 10 percent of the 40 million black people living in the United States were born abroad, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 3 percent in 1980. African immigrants are more likely to have college degrees than blacks and whites who were born in the United States.
A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Education found that 41 percent of black freshmen at Ivy League colleges were immigrants or the children of immigrants, even though those groups represent 13 percent of the black population in the United States.
In 2017, black students at Cornell University protested for the admission of more “underrepresented black students,” who they defined as black Americans with several generations in the United States. “There is a lack of investment in black students whose families were affected directly by the African Holocaust in America,” the students wrote to the president of the university.
University administrators say that black students from other countries contribute to increased diversity on campus, even if their admittance does not mitigate the injustices of American slavery. Many black immigrant groups are also descended from slavery in other countries.
Or slave traders in African countries.
… This year, responding to requests for “more detailed, disaggregated data for our diverse American experience,” the Census Bureau announced that African-Americans will be able to list their origins on census forms for the first time, instead of simply checking “Black.”
Critics consider the movement a Trojan horse meant to infiltrate the black community with a right-wing agenda, and question why the group would target Democrats, who have been far more open to discussions of reparations.
“You are willing to let Donald Trump win, who clearly says he doesn’t see reparations happening?” asked Talib Kweli Greene, a rapper and activist who has become a vocal opponent of the group. “Get out of here!”
Recently, Hollywood has become the source of much of the frustration around the dividing line between United States-born African-Americans and black immigrants. When the black British actress Cynthia Erivo was hired to play the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, the casting received immediate backlash. Similarly, the filmmaker Jordan Peele has been criticized for hiring Lupita Nyong’o, who is Kenyan, and Daniel Kaluuya, who is British, to play African-American characters in his movies. …
William Darity Jr., a professor at Duke University, has written a series of reports about wealth inequality cited by Mr. Moore and Ms. Carnell. In one report, Dr. Darity found that the median net worth of white households in Los Angeles was $355,000, compared with $4,000 for black Americans. African immigrants in the city had a median net worth of $72,000. Dr. Darity’s research also shows that not all immigrant groups are wealthy. …
Ms. Carnell has also been criticized for her past service on the board of Progressives for Immigration Reform, an anti-immigration group that has received funding from a foundation linked to John Tanton, who was referred to as “the puppeteer” of the nation’s nativist movement by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
After all, the SPLC is above suspicion.
This summer, ADOS ignited a flurry of criticism after Ms. Carnell complained that Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, was running for president as an African-American candidate but had failed to put forth an agenda for black people. She noted that Ms. Harris is the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father. Critics quickly accused Ms. Carnell of “birtherism” and xenophobia.
Has anybody asked Senator Harris’s father what his family in Jamaica told him his race was? I’ve met a beige guy from Jamaica who bemusedly observed that everybody calls in black in America and white in Jamaica. I presume Dr. Harris is, like say, Malcolm Gladwell’s mother, from Jamaica’s mulatto middle class.
And although Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore say ADOS is a nonpartisan movement, the hashtag has been used by conservatives who support Mr. Trump.
“I like #ADOS,” Ann Coulter, a white conservative commentator, wrote on Twitter. “But I think it should be #DOAS — Descendants of American slaves. Not Haitian slaves, not Moroccan slaves.”