Sub-Saharan African immigrants have historically faced distinct hurdles in the United States. From the effort to establish their footing in a new nation to the ongoing fight against ethnic and cultural prejudices, these people have had to overcome many challenges to succeed. Chimamanda Adichie and Beverly Tatum’s accounts of their experiences as African immigrants demonstrate the complexities of identity and the dangers of a single narrative, highlighting the specific hardships of African immigrants in the United States. In this paper, I will look at the difficulties that Sub-Saharan African immigrants face in the United States, such as questions of identity and economic instability. By exploring Adichie and Tatum’s tales, I will argue that the obstacles that Sub-Saharan African immigrants encounter in the United States are both structural and individual and must be addressed to establish a fair and equitable society.
Africans from sub-Saharan Africa in the United States face the challenge of discrimination, and they are treated as less human in all aspects of life, including business, education, and social life. Adichie argues in “The Danger of a Single Story” that depending on a single story of a group of people limits our knowledge and appreciation of the whole richness of their experience. She describes how she could only comprehend the complete tale of her own African identity after being exposed to various stories and views. This similar concept may be used to comprehend the African immigrant experience; depending on a single tale limits our comprehension and appreciation of the many experiences of African immigrants (Adichie 4). Sub-Saharan Africa is seen negatively by most Americans as a region of negativity, diversity, and gloom. Many Americans see Sub-Saharan Africans as “people who, in the words of the great poet Rudyard Kipling, are “half devil, half kid.” While racism against African Americans affects all people of color in the United States, it may be especially devastating to African immigrants, particularly those from Sub-Saharan Africa (Porter 3). Most Americans, even those educated on the differences between individuals of other ethnicities across the globe, have certain prejudices about Africa and, as a result, the people who come from there.
Tatum’s “The Complexity of Identification: Who Am I?” expands on this point by delving into the difficulties of identity and how they might be exacerbated for African immigrants. Tatum describes how African immigrants often experience “double consciousness,” in which they must traverse two cultures, two languages, and two sets of identities (Lorenzi and Batalova, para. 1). This is particularly challenging for African immigrants, who are sometimes stuck between two civilizations and unable to identify with either completely. Many African immigrants believe they do not entirely fit in either culture, which may lead to feelings of alienation, bewilderment, and loneliness.
These stories highlight that Africans living in the United States face challenges ranging from language obstacles, difficulty obtaining jobs and housing, and feelings of isolation from African and American cultures are examples of these issues. These difficulties may be evident in the tales, as Adichie describes feeling out of place in Nigeria and the United States. Similarly, Tatum notes how African immigrants often find themselves trapped between two identities, unable to identify with either completely. Besides the language challenge, Africans in the United States are not treated with the dignity they deserve.
Africans in the United States need help to fit into the social environment of the United States. Social scientists have long understood that most individuals see themselves through how others see them. Their sense of self is heavily impacted by their social environment and how they compare themselves to others. This is particularly true for immigrants and persons who do not fit into the mainstream culture where they reside, which is heterosexual, White, Christian, and male in the United States. This may be a tough adjustment for Sub-Saharan immigrants who spent their life before arriving in this nation mostly with people like themselves (Adichie 3). It is unreasonable to expect them to make it (Adichie 3). People who wrongly evaluate individuals before ever getting to know them should instead be compelled to adopt or amend their views. While it is regrettable that prejudice and discrimination still exist in today’s society, many individuals are treated differently (usually worse) depending on their culture, skin color, or nationality (Tatum 11). This may be particularly tough for African immigrants to the United States since most Americans have a very restricted and one-dimensional image of the continent and its people. However, the authors indicate that it may be difficult for Sub-Saharan immigrants who started building their identity before arriving in America to evaluate themselves by new and different criteria suddenly, and they should not be expected to. Every civilization is founded on what social scientists call a “mythical norm,” which is the dominating individual or group in that society (Porter 10). As previously stated, the predominant kind of individual in the United States is White, male, heterosexual, and Christian. Immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa often lack at least one of these characteristics and are not White.
Some solutions to the challenges facing Africans in the United States include Africans understanding the current stereotypes about them and encouraging Americans to stop discrimination against Africans. The first step in solving this issue is acknowledging and comprehending the complexities of the African immigrant experience. We can better grasp the whole complexity of African immigrants’ experiences if we understand their diverse tales and views. Furthermore, fostering an atmosphere where African immigrants feel accepted and welcomed is critical. This might involve offering resources and assistance, establishing support networks, and building a knowledge of the particular experiences of African immigrants. Americans must improve their media to be more inclusive and stop broadcasting divisive news on their channels. Americans must stop the stereotypes they have for Africans to enhance the extraordinary life of Africans in the United States. Most Americans believe that immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa have little education, are uneducated, and are unprepared to work in a developed country (Tatum 11). The fact that none of these things is true does not relieve this group of prejudice based on these preconceptions. Immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa will continue to face discrimination in our country unless Americans become less egotistical and ethnocentric and try to learn more about people from other parts of the globe. Because they will not be selected for acceptable, higher-paying employment, they will earn less than they are qualified to earn. They are more likely to be poor or reside in high-crime regions. Education, empathy, and understanding are essential for altering unfavorable perceptions of all immigrants, particularly those from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Finally, African immigrants encounter several problems in their new homeland. Language problems and feelings of isolation from African and American cultures are examples of these difficulties. We can address these issues and make the adjustment to the United States simpler for African immigrants by recognizing the complexities of the African immigrant experience and providing an atmosphere where African immigrants may feel welcomed and supported. The experiences of Adichie and Tatum give insight into the problems and difficulties that many African immigrants encounter, as well as possible answers and strategies to overcome them.
Adichie, Chimamanda. “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED, 2009. Retrieved from: https://www.hohschools.org/cms/lib/NY01913703/Centricity/Domain/817/English%2 012%20Summer%20Reading%20-%202018.pdf. Accessed 30 Jan 2023.
Lorenzi, Jane, and Jeanne Batalova. “Sub-Saharan African Immigrants in the United States.” Spotlight, 2022, N.P.
Porter, Jesse. “Sub-Saharan African immigrants in the United States: A narrative inquiry of their assimilation experiences into mainstream American society.” The University of Texas at Dallas ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2011, pp. 1–24.
Tatum, Beverly D. “The Complexity of Identity: “Who Am I?” In Adams, M., Blumenfeld, W. J., Hackman, H. W., Zuniga, X., Peters, M. L. (Eds.). Readings for Diversity and Social justice: An Anthology on Racism, Sexism,Anti-Semitism, Heterosexism, Classism, and Ableism. New York: Routledge, 1999, pp. 9–14.