Aditi Balakrishna, in the Harvard Crimson, looks at the reasons why recent immigrants are overrepresented among black Harvard students:
“In practical terms, immigrants, no matter what color they are, are a highly selective group of people,” [said Camille Z Charles, who wrote the study on which the article is based].
“At some level, there will always be an immigrant-native difference because you only get the most motivated, best prepared, cream-of-the-crop set of immigrants,” since their families have had to leave their native countries and start anew in the United States, she said.
Greg Mankiw, however, picks up the story and puts a very different spin on it:
It has been widely noted that Senator Barack Obama, while black, is not a descendant of slaves. Instead, his father was a recent immigrant from Kenya. An article in today’s Harvard Crimson suggests Obama (Columbia undergrad, Harvard Law School) is representative of a common story.
It’s true that most African-Americans are descendants of slaves. But it’s not true that black immigrants are not descendants of slaves, as Mankiw implies. Many black immigrants come from the Caribbean, and Caribbean blacks are just as much descended from slaves as American blacks are. A good proportion of African immigrants are descended from slaves, too. Where else might black immigrants come from? If the UK, then they’re probably descended from slaves, since they’re likely of Caribbean heritage. You get the picture. It might well be the case that Obama is not a descendant of slaves — in fact, he’s a descendant of slave-owners. But you can’t extrapolate from his case to all the other black immigrants at Harvard.