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 African may be stopped on the street by authorities and asked for identity papers simply for looking like a foreigner.
The perceptions of African immigrants toward racism often depend upon their prior experiences, either at home or while living in other foreign countries.
"America is far better than any other place that I have lived. My color is not important, compared to what I felt in Sudan or Egypt."
- Southern Sudanese refugee
"In Eritrea we don't identify people by color. I would think of a white person as the same as me. That's how our culture is in Eritrea."
- Eritrean immigrant
“I wish race relations were farther along in the U.S. than they are. People perceive you as an African American person and treat you accordingly. Maybe if I had tried in the last 25 years I could have lost my Nigerian accent, but I don’t want to because that’s me. But then Americans treat you differently because either you look different or speak different. We are a little bit worried about my son. He is now driving and you hear about African American males and profiling.”
- a Nigerian on race relations in the U.S.
- Extended Lives: The African Immigrant Experience in Philadelphia