Family, schooling and the identities of second-generation black Trinidadian women
Gibbs, Stacy Karen
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In the U.S. race relations are often seen dichotomously as a black and white issue, rarely highlighting intra-racial and ethnic dynamics within race. In the case of second-generation black West Indians, their identities—racial, ethnic, and cultural—are varied and complex. Although these individuals are born in the U.S., they oftentimes are socialized within their families as West Indian and within their schools as African-Americans. Although they undergo no physical migration, they are faced with the dilemmas of choosing among a racial, ethnic, and or national identity. Existing research analyzes the identities of first and second-generation West Indians; however, an overwhelming abundance of the data focuses primarily on individuals of African, Jamaican and Haitian descent (Henke, 2001; Palmer, 1995; Schiller, 1987; Waters, 1999). Therefore, this study will add to the existing body of work on the identities of West Indians, ultimately providing a deeper understanding of this group by focusing exclusively on the experiences of second-generation Trinidadians. The purpose of this study was to examine the factors that influence the racial and ethnic identity choices second-generation black Trinidadians. Furthermore, this study was particularly interested in both the interaction between their identities and the various contexts and institutions to which they belong and the extent to which these contexts and institutions influence their self-identification label choices. Data were collected through open-ended and semi-structured face-to-face interviews with eight second-generation black Trinidadian women. The results of this study indicate that although the participants discussed the influence of peers and schooling, they attributed the home as most influential in shaping their ethnic identities. Results also indicate that these women preferred an ethnic identity, in comparison to a broad racial identity. Recommendations for theoretical understandings of immigrant Black Trinidadian identity, future research, and educational implications are discussed. Educational implications specifically highlight the need for educational institutions to consider the unique experiences and identities of the black students they serve—particularly second-generation immigrants. Though born in the United States, these young people have been greatly shaped within their homes by the social and cultural framework their parents brought to the shores of the United States.