Inside Higher Ed reports:

The election of Barack Obama — African American because of his African father, distinguishing him from how the phrase is commonly used — has brought unprecedented attention to the diversity of backgrounds of those covered by the term. Within higher education, one of the more sensitive issues in discussion of admissions and affirmative action in recent years has been the relative success of immigrant black Americans compared to black people who have been in the United States for generations.

A new study has found that among high school graduates, “immigrant blacks” — defined as those who immigrated to the United States or their children — are significantly more likely than other black Americans to attend selective colleges. In fact, immigrant black Americans are more likely than white students to attend such colleges.

In 2003, at a reunion of black alumni of Harvard University, Lani Guinier, a law professor, was quoted by The Boston Globe as raising the question of whether black students who are “voluntary immigrants” should be the beneficiaries of affirmative action.

“If you look around Harvard College today, how many young people will you find who grew up in urban environments and went to public high schools and public junior high schools?” she said. “I don’t think, in the name of affirmative action, we should be admitting people because they look like us, but then they don’t identify with us.”

Indeed. We discussed the Guinier argument a two years ago. Investigating the numbers at Williams would make for an interesting Record article. A similar argument applies to some Williams faculty. Back in the day, my friends in the BSU would not have been happy to see the College categorize someone as “African-American” if he were an immigrant with no familial connection to American slavery. Perhaps times have changed since then . . .

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