Dis/enabling Children of Sub-Saharan African Immigrants: Challenging Structural and Institutional Barriers to Social Mobility at the Grassroots Level

Title: Dis/enabling Children of Sub-Saharan African Immigrants: Challenging Structural and Institutional Barriers to Social Mobility at the Grassroots Level
Authors: Hujaleh, Filsan
Date: 2018
Abstract: The literature on non-European immigrant offspring has established that some children of non-European immigrants are achieving social mobility by way of attaining a post-secondary education, and others are faring worse than their working-class immigrant parents. One such group that has had difficulty incorporating into mainstream institutions and society are racialized black immigrant offspring. Notwithstanding the importance and usefulness of highlighting differences between non-European immigrant offspring, a lack of focus on within group differences in the literature perpetuates stereotypes about racialized non-white groups. To assist in addressing this imbalance in the literature, this study aims to further enrich limited extant research that examines how racialized black immigrant offspring 'successfully adapt' to living in a racially stratified and unequal society. More precisely, this research strives to capture the diverse experiences of racialized black children of immigrants—a group labelled ‘at-risk' to underachieve and prone to experience downward socioeconomic mobility. Twenty-three children of Sub-Saharan African immigrants and ten African immigrant parents and key informants were interviewed for this qualitative narrative study. Participants’ narratives revealed that racialized black immigrant offspring, who were able to successfully navigate the compulsory school system, shared some similarities. A commonality that the participants shared was that they adopted or were receptive to or in tune with their parents’ culture, advice, guidance, high educational expectations, and optimistic worldviews as adolescents. However, participants differed with respect to their identity formations and educational journeys. Participants who were independent learners, studious and/or identified as intelligent (e.g. enrolled in an enrichment program) were able to progress through the education system with little support. Other participants, on the other hand, relied—to varying degrees—on their family’s assistance and community-based supports to overcome structural, institutional and spatial barriers. Without these supports, some of these participants would have had greater difficulty achieving their goals. Furthermore, the narratives suggest that racialized black youth from low socioeconomic backgrounds who rely heavily on family and community support to complete high school are vulnerable to experience difficulties (including dropping out) at the post-secondary level, especially when their support system diminishes. With respect to identity formation, participants formed a diverse ray of identities.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/37296
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