Clash of identities in South Florida: An examination of the complexity of racial and national identity and their impact on ethnic solidarity between black Americans and Jamaicans

Bennie L Osborne, Florida International University

Abstract

Immigrants from the West Indies and other nations challenge the simple United States dichotomy of blacks versus whites. Many apparently black Caribbean immigrants proclaim that they did not know they were “black” until they arrived in the U.S. They seek to maintain their national identity and resist identity and solidarity with Black Americans. In response, many Black Americans respond that the immigrants are simply being naive, that U.S. society demands simple racial identity. Regardless of one's self-identity and personal history, in the U.S., if you look black, you are black, was their thinking. ^ This study examines the contemporary struggle of identity and solidarity among and between Black Americans and Jamaicans living in South Florida (Broward and Miami-Dade counties). Even though the primary focus of this study is to examine the relationship between Black Americans and Jamaicans, other West Indian nationals will be addressed more generally. The primary research problem of this study is to determine why the existence of common ancestry and physical traits are insufficient for an assumption of ethnic solidarity between Black Americans and Jamaicans. ^ In examining this problem, I felt that depth rather than breadth would provide insight into the current state of polarization between Black Americans and Jamaicans. To this end, a qualitative study was designed. A non-random snowball sample consisting of forty-seven informants was selected for this study. Realizing that such a technique presents problems with generalizations beyond the sample, this approach was, nonetheless, the most suitable for the current research problem. One of the initial challenges of this research was the use of the label “black” in discussing Caribbean immigrants. Unlike America, where distinctions based on skin color were at the bedrock of America's formation, this was not the case in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean skin color was an important marker as an indicator of class, rather than of race. Therefore, I refrained from using the label, “black Jamaicans,” but rather used Jamaicans throughout. ^

Subject Area

Black Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Bennie L Osborne, "Clash of identities in South Florida: An examination of the complexity of racial and national identity and their impact on ethnic solidarity between black Americans and Jamaicans" (January 1, 2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3004859.
http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3004859

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