Alex Love is a born and raised New Yorker. She’s lived in that city for the past 34 years she’s been on this earth. But unlike many Americans, she doesn’t like McDonald’s, favors a chicken patty over takeout, and says “good morning” to strangers she passes on the street.
“I grew up knowing that I was American, but not a ‘regular American,'” the consultant told Insider.
Both Love’s parents are from Barbados. So how she shows up in American society and views her Blackness was first shaped by that Black immigrant experience.
“If you have a parent born in another country, even though you’re born here, your upbringing is still predominantly led and shaped by where your parents came from and their own culture,” said Haitian-American journalist, Edvige Jean-François who speaks extensively on the Black immigrant experience.
Straddling the line of an African American and Black immigrant identity can even make it difficult to feel connected to historical milestones and celebrations unique to the US, including recent Juneteenth commemorations.
“I think that it’s great that people are celebrating, but I don’t feel connected to it,” she said. “For me, I can trace my history within Barbados so that’s where I feel rooted.”
Black, second-generation immigrants spoke with Insider about that intersectionality, and how they internalize American Blackness through a different lens than their African American counterparts whose existence dates back to US slavery.
Children of Black immigrants are growing part of the population
Second-generation immigrants — people born in the US with at least one immigrant parent — make up 12% of the American population, according to a 2017 Pew report.
But the term can also be applied to those born abroad and raised in the US.
Black immigrants with parents from the Caribbean, Northern and sub-Saharan Africa, and a smaller group from Canada and Europe are included in that makeup.
“Unfortunately, people do look at [all] Black people here as being black when it comes to these things and don’t recognize our individual cultures and ethnicities,” Jean-François said.