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Black immigrants lead themselves to success

THE BALTIMORE SUN

What is America's most highly educated ethnic group? Hint: It ain't Asians.

Stumped? I'll give you another hint: Think black.

As in black African immigrants. According to the May 11 issue of the magazine the Economist, " . . . America's roughly 200,000 black African immigrants, who account for 15 percent of the foreign-born black population, are the most highly educated ethnic group. . . . Three-quarters have some college experience; one in four has an advanced degree."

The median income for black African immigrants is $30,000. Black immigrants from Jamaica earn even more than the Africans. Blacks born in the United States -- oh, excuse me, I mean African-Americans -- have a median income of $21,548, according to the Economist. The African-American poverty rate is 31.6 percent, higher than those for blacks from Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Africa.

Why the difference, the magazine's editors queried? They offered a host of reasons: the likelihood that immigrant blacks will marry and thus bring in two incomes; the likelihood that black immigrant families will have both parents in the home; the willingness of black immigrants from both Africa and the Caribbean to form credit clubs (called susus, turns or ekoubs) to start businesses.

I have a theory of my own. Black immigrants come here looking to themselves as their own leaders. They haven't been inculcated with the doctrine of the black-liberal-Democrat leadership that the majority of native-born blacks follow. You know what the doctrine is. The one that says white racism is to blame for virtually every ill afflicting black America.

White racism causes black teen pregnancies. White racism causes the staggering homicide rate among young black men. White racism leads blacks to abuse drugs. White racism causes blacks to do poorly academically. White racism leads to blacks having a disproportionate amount of earwax than other ethnic groups. White racism, white racism, white racism.

When I was in Air Force basic training, my drill sergeant, a wise country boy from the mountains of Tennessee, chose me to be a squad leader. Whenever I -- or my squad -- screwed up, he chewed my butt for it. When I offered an excuse, he gave me the military definition of what an excuse was. An excuse, Staff Sgt. Wallace Tidwell assured me, was akin to a popular seven-letter synonym for a common body part. Everybody had one, and all of them stank to high heaven.

And along about now, May 22, 1996, the white racism excuse being used to explain away the more uncomfortable aspects of African-American life is taking on the disturbing stench of an excuse. And it's not because white racism doesn't exist. Plenty of it exists, yet immigrant blacks are able to overcome it while native-born blacks seem to blame it for nearly everything -- from failing to start businesses to being unable to tie our damned shoes. If white racism were the primary barrier to blacks being more successful, shouldn't it affect all blacks equally -- native and foreign born?

Those of us who have shed the "blame whitey" reflex will say yes and suggest, lovingly but forcefully, that maybe native-born black Americans simply need to get on the ball. We're being outperformed by nearly every immigrant group in the country: East Indians, Asians, Africans, eastern Europeans and Caribbean blacks. The time for excuses is over.

White racism can't account for the black homicide rate. As one of our sisters points out in the rap hit "Five O'Clock In The Morning," it's not a white man's finger on the trigger.

White racism can't account for the black teen pregnancy rate. When two black teens get together and decide to have sex, white folks are somewhere else minding their own business.

White racism is not to blame for the thinking among black youth that academic achievement is a "white thing." That daffy idea took hold among black youth sometime in the 1980s. It is they who gave birth to it, who suckled it, nurtured it and have nearly honed it to perfection.

What black America needs is fewer excuses about why white racism makes them fail. We need to awaken to the liberating, xTC even exhilarating, realization that we can succeed on our own and fail on our own without any help from white people whatsoever.

Gregory P. Kane's column appears Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Pub Date: 5/22/96

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