Extended Identities

Many Africans are unused to living in a society where race is a defining factor. In fact, many immigrants may never have thought of themselves as "Black" before arriving in the United States. This identity may sometimes lead to conflict with African Americans who expect Africans to identify with their group and participate in its struggle against discrimination.

At the same time, many Africans appreciate the fact that they can blend in racially in many Philadelphia neighborhoods. They would not have this experience in Europe, where an Africanmay be stopped on the street by authorities and asked for identity papers simply for looking like a foreigner.

Yet they are disturbed by the racial polarization found in the United States. Race is for many a new experience; at home, conflict and discrimination may be based on other factors, such as ethnicity or religion. The perceptions of African immigrants toward racism often depend upon their prior experiences, either at home or while living in other foreign countries.

For many African immigrants, the puzzle of where they fit into the racial landscape of the United States may not be solved until the second generation grows up and finds its place. If the African experience is anything like that of earlier Black Caribbean immigrants, immigrants from the continent will find their children identifying with African Americans, either by choice or, indeed, by lack of choice.