Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nigerians in America

Not only is Nigerian news the most popular online news in America (for any nationality), but Nigerians are the most educated group in the US. Here. The comments are interesting - I wonder if they are representative of (non-Nigerian) American perceptions of Nigerian immigrants?

27 comments:

Moni 8:43 p.m.  

Almost every time I mention my nationality to an American, someone mentions 419. Some have the audacity to ask if my family is involved in that.

Naapali 8:44 p.m.  

The research the article is based on is likely flawed especially as sweeping conclusions are based on such small sample sizes (45 households in an almost ten year time frame in one case). Having said that the US does have an over-representation of highly educated Nigerians in the population probably more so than from any other recent immigrant group. No where is the brain drain on Nigeria commented on in this article.

The comments are not surprising. True many Nigerian scams are out there and many Americans have been scammed but as the mugu song points out, it takes two to scam. The American blogosphere (as in people who comment on news articles) is full of a very rabid and vicious group that embraces its misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and drapes itself in the stars and stripes as the voice of the true patriots. I tell myself this is a fringe but vocal minority with internet access that can vent from their basements in ways they cannot in public.

You should read what is said about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and even the republican standard bearer, John McCain.

In a few more minutes I will be heading to the hospital I work and will resist the Nigerian urge to steal the linen and drapery (as implied by one of the comments).

Moni 8:52 p.m.  

I looked at the first few pages of the comments. A large portion of these talk about negative experiences with Nigerians, scams and the like.

This is unfortunate.

In my recent experiences in the US (last 10 or so years) when I bring up my nationality, the only thing they know about the country is 419. Some have the audacity to ask if my family is involved! These are people who can't name a single city in the place mind you.

Sandrine 8:53 p.m.  

Jeremy,
I think the numbers are great.However I see a discrepancy in the way they are presented.The groups compared are not equivalent.Why compare a group of first generation immigrants with the rest of the population.I would think it is biased because if someone from Nigeria would migrate all the way to the US, the person would be likely to be either very driven or have probably more money than the majority living in this country.Populations migrating to another country (especially far away) are usually groups that have already been naturally selected (either richer,stronger or more driven) and for this reason can not be compared to the local group (sorry about the language,my major was in biology).To be fair, you would have to compare second generations among each other.
Just my two cents, I am not trying to put down the good news!
Sandrine

Anonymous,  10:52 p.m.  

LOL!

Anonymous,  12:13 a.m.  

The comments are typical of the non Nigerian especially the African Americans. This particular race believes that the African Immigrants have come to take from their bottoms line.
The statistics don't lie. Assuming immigration was never possible, this group would still be an embittered bunch. There the ones who still cry wolf and complain about being victims of society rather than getting up and fighting back.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste is the motto of the United Negro College fund but most of their so called Negroes don't seem to understand the concept.

Nigerians are a resilient people. We have been through civil wars and economic injustice of the highest order, yet we still dare to dream and hope.

I would beckon any of these embittered souls to Google Emeka Emeagwali. I wonder if this so called World Wide Web would have been of use to anyone if it weren't for this Nigerian.

On the issue of scams, I beg to differ on some of the comments. I'll agree is some respects that many innocent victims have been scammed. But with that being said, many Americans themselves are just as guilty as the scam artist.
How on earth would I accept a proposal for someone to deposit money into my account without having to have any dealings with them? How on earth would I agree to be liaison to a crime by harboring some dead general's so called millions in my account? Money you haven't worked for isn't yours. The scam artists are smart because they play upon greed --an ever present element in the American society.

When it comes to education, we strive to be the best. While many of the Americans are so focused on hip hop, drugs and all the other vices their society offers, the average Nigerian kid is focused on the big picture. The average Nigerian kid has been schooled on the importance of being independent and not a liability. They also have an advantage of having being to boarding schools in order to prepare them for independent living in college. I could go and on about this, we all know the truth about most American especially African American families.
Just because the parents didn't attend college doesn't mean a child should follow suit. Many of us have uneducated parents but it didn't stop us from being productive ad learned citizens of the world.

I'd tell anyone who has any problem with the education achievements of Nigerians and any other immigrant for that matter, GET OVER IT!

As long as there's opportunity, we wont stop striving for the best.

bukky,  12:44 a.m.  

The finding of the research are nothing surprising but the hatee in the comments were shocking!!! I mean the views were so surprisingly xenophobic, but then again its america, where you embrace your ignorance and wrap it around in the stars and stipes. I am curently 20 n already pursuing a masters in the u.k so I can relate to nigerians( especially yoruba pple) collecting degrees! But this kind of attitude is exactly why I cannot wait to go back home, before I get caught stealing linen in hospitals!!

Anonymous,  2:50 a.m.  

to anon 12:13am, if the so called lazy black americans hadn't fought hard for the america that exists today, these nigerians wouldn't be half as successful as they appear to be today. a great debt is owed to the black americans, from just about every ethnic group in america

Anonymous,  11:09 a.m.  

brilliant. so the best people nigeria produces live abroad. well done us.

Patrice,  4:19 p.m.  

The research may be flimsly and the comparison (between nationality and race) not valid, but the finding is still interesting. Actually, I suspect that the percentage of university graduates in America from countries/cultures that put a premium on education (Chinese, Indian, Jew, Nigerian etc.) is much higher, at least for people of my generation and later, than the 37% found by the study for just Nigerians. About 95% of my high school graduating class went on to get university degrees. This figure was (and is still) typical for high schools with a similar cultural makeup of student body. Okay, so I live in Canada . . .

The comments to the article are mostly disgusting (but not surprising) and reflect the larger attitude (hopefully just a vocal minority of) Americans have towards immigrants. Replace "Nigerian" with "Chinese", "Latino", "Mexican" or some other minority group, immigrant or not, and the comments would be similar. Americans tend to overlook the immigrant foundation of their nation and the contributions, large and small, immigrants continue to make. The 2006 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine are a good example. Two of the three are "Americans" who were born, raised and educated in Europe (Italy and the UK). Listen to the accents of many prominent "Americans" and you will hear the voice of an immigrant.

Sandrine 4:51 p.m.  

to Moni:
I have been living in the US for a while now and even though I am confronted to discrimination every so often,it does not make me angry like it used to.Let me rephrase that, it does not make me angry each time and as strongly as it used to.I want to let you know why and why you need to make peace with it.I am not saying "don't fight it" because I will always fight it but I am saying "do not let this hurt you" as a mother would tell you and as I tell my children.
1)if you already have a degree higher than high school, you are more educated than probably 98% of the planet.
2)if you have been in another country for more than a week,not even mentioning another continent,you are probably more traveled than most people on this planet.
What this mean is that people relate to what they know.If you are traveled or educated or both,you will have encountered more differences or know of them or extrapolate. In Europe,a lot of people travel easily because it is cheap and in several hours driving,you are out of your country.I leave in Miami and after several hours driving,you are still in Florida.Also in Europe,since the countries are smaller,you are also more likely to encounter people from other countries.
In every country,people that live in the "middle" of the country and that do not have access or have limited access to others that are different from them,are more likely to be narrow minded.
Remember the size of the middle in the US!
Also in the US, a lot of people do not travel for economic reasons (and with the gas prices it will become worse) and time reasons.If one only has 10 days of vacation every year, one will probably spend them with their out-of-state family.
So where do people find their cues on foreign people:TV (the worst place for stereotypes and very limited for expanding knowledge unless you have cable or satellite) and personal experience.
When I meet a new person here, I sometimes get "I was there during world war two" or "people from your city are so rude",guess were I'm from.I also get jokes about how people from my country are promiscuous and don't wash!
Also geography of other countries is not very big here.Just learning about their own country is a lot of work.Now to be fair, when I went to Thailand, a little girl asked me if there was a princess in my country and it didn't bother me. Even though Nigeria is a huge country, you can not expect people here to name a city.They probably don't even know where it is.They may not even know that Africa is a continent!And this is also due to TV because they usually don't mention countries and always say "from Africa" when speaking about somebody in the news.
The best way to destroy stereotype is to educate.Look at it this way.You belong to an elite, a small percentage of people who have access to a knowledge most people don't have access to. You are privileged. I am not saying you should not get outraged when somebody mentions about 419.It is extremely rude and obnoxious.However you may want to speak to people around you about your country and they may spread the word.
Also clumping all Americans in a group of bigots is not fair either.I usually try to stay away from generalities as much as I can because they only bring stereotypes.
Moni, I hope it will bring you more understanding.Unfortunately, prejudice has been around and will likely be around for a while.It is definitely not the US monopoly.
Take care.
Sandrine

Anonymous,  7:25 p.m.  

Sandrine, you are so right on the point that some people don't know that Africa is a continent!

omidanbellafricaine 7:53 p.m.  

Educated Nigerians do have a superior attitude. Those in their 30's to 50's are the worst. Below is a list of things they are better at.

1. They are more committed to their marriages
2. They raise their children better
3. They have better work ethics
4. They make better wives/mothers or husbands/fathers
5. They have better moral standards or serve God better
6. They respect their elders more and take care of them too.
7. They speak better english
8. They have richer cultures
9. They are classier

Some of these attitudes overlap with the attitudes of Educated Black People, yet they are particularly full of disdain for African Americans. When they run out of comparisons they move to comparisons between ethnic groups (Yoruba people are especially suspect to that) That I don't understand but oh well. In short everyone hates the other person period. Oh by the way is there a word for immigrants who despise citizens of their host nations

lancet,  10:58 p.m.  

... very bad statistics and study design! why does the media iinsult us with bad and shoddy statistics?

anonymaus,  3:45 a.m.  

One possible thought (by Americans), is that with all this brain power why is the country so backward?

There is even more brain power within Nigeria and yet for all this academic achievement, the country ranks 158 out of 177 according to the UN (United nations) under the category of "Low Human Development" (here is the link: http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/), in the same class as countries like Niger, Burundi and Chad.

Maybe education is not the be all and end all, but it certainly is important. No doubt Nigerians have many good qualities, but they don't hold a monopoly on such virtues (as some comments under this section would have you believe). This is the kind of thing my Dad used to go on about and "filled" our heads with so much propaganda, before we actually visited the place and became wise to his "tall tales" of the country.

TaureanMinx 10:48 a.m.  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous,  12:26 p.m.  

It seems to me that some of us get higher degrees so we can have 'Dr.' and 'Egr.' as our title, it's materialism on a different level

nneoma 6:18 a.m.  

@moni - heck anytime I mention my nationality to anyone, someone mentions 419....but i digress

flawed or not, there has been other studies, both nationally representative and those that oversample US black populations, that show that black immigrants are more educated to than their American peers, particularly in comparison with US blacks. Some document higher educational attainment than whites or similar or slightly less. I think this has to do more with selective migration more than anything else for most immigrant groups - as others have stated. I try to shy away from making sweeping generalisations that one race/ethnic group is inherently smarter or more hard-working than another.

Having said that, I am not surprised at the comments I saw in the paper - after all its a Texan paper, and Texans have been having their own issues with immigrant populations that is somehow distinct from other parts of the US. I hope that these opinions are part of a small, yet annoyingly vocal, minority.

and in regards to those complaining about the quality of the study design, I mean c'mon, its a daily newspaper for average use written by someone who probably majored in journalism, not maths. if you're looking for the statistical heavyweights go to a library or something...sheesh...

pyoo wata
the nollywood critique

Anonymous,  12:12 a.m.  

The study over represents educated Yoruba people. Igbos in the US are educated, Yorubas in the US are generally toilet sweepers.

The fact that we (Ndigbo!) are the best educated and wealthiest Nigerian people is reflected all around the world: educated Nigerians, whether Achebe or Adichie, are Igbos, and poorer Nigerians are Yoruba, edo, Ijo, etc.

tps360 8:57 a.m.  

I read the article online somewhere that showed clearly that nigerians are the most educated immigrants in the united states.I must confess that for the first time in my immigrant life in america am proud to say "am proud to be a nigerian".....

Anonymous,  2:56 p.m.  

rolling my eyes at anonymous 12:12am.

You just had to go there didn't you?

anonymaus,  3:34 p.m.  

Sad, that someone had to start nit- picking, and boil everything down to an ethnic dimension. At the end of the day, if you are a foreigner in someone else's land and are not particularly wanted (ie black people). Then the host community doesn't really care how you label yourself be it Igbo, Yoruba or anything else for that matter, you are just another unwanted black face.

There are a plethora of peoples covering this planet, all with good traits and not so good traits (who can point to grandiose historical achievements, who don't feel the need to shout about it, they let the facts speak for themselves). Please remember Igbos didn't invent Western education, many other groups are silent achievers (but are modest about it), ie Indians, Jews and Taiwanese etc to name but a few...

Anengiyefa 3:40 p.m.  

One particular comment (out of the 291) summed it up for me...

"If the story said all Nigerians were thieves and liars everyone would believe that as fact. To say Nigerians are educated, people are offended. How amazing any negative story about non-whites, posters see it as plausible. However, when there are facts to de-bunk the stereotypes (Bell Curve)it's somehow a conspiracy or a falsehood. Racism is alive and well in America as this post clearly shows. Instead of a lot of congrats and keep up the good work, you get nasty comments."

Anonymous,  3:36 a.m.  

Speaking from a Black Americans point of view, some of the posts I read are noteworthy and full of enlightment.
However, others were distasteful, degrading and ignorant with unsubstantial remarks towards Black Americans.

I see Nigerians have a lot to leaern about the Black American community. We are the richest blacks in the world, many of us are college graduates, run fortune 500 companies and 2/3rds of the Back American population are in the middle class. Im also man enough to admit that we have our problems as well.

I know many African Americans knowldege about Africa is limited.
I hope you Nigerians remain optimistic and objectional when it comes to judging Black Americans. Trust me, we are not all the same. Some Black Americans could care less about Africa, while others are afrocentric and thirst for that knowledge of Africa. As black people, we need the mental capacity to realize that the media has always condoned negative and devisive propaganda to keep us divided, dont fall for it.

A question I have for Nigerians is, why do they think Black Americans are their enemy? where does this mentality come from? and why do Nigerians always compare themselves to us? Well, the Nigerians in America.

Black Americans rarely talk about Nigerians in their everyday conversations, if at all. With the influx of Asians, Mexicans and all these other non-black immigrants comming to America, we actually welcome the fact that Africans are comming here. Powers is in numbers. We may not always get along, but the survival of Black America will depend on Black immigraion from abroad

alakuku 10:25 p.m.  

if you are greedy, 419 gets u. if you think foreigners are dumb, 419 get you. if you have no respect for people of a different color./ culture, 419 got you. DO I FEEL SORRY FOR YOU HECK NO.
I DON'T ALWAYS GET EVERYTHING YOU SAY TO ME AS A FOREIGNER, BUT I LISTEN SO I CAN UNDERSTAND YOU., IF A DOG UNDERSTANDS A MAN BUT A MAN DOES NOT UNDERSTAND A DOG . WHO IS SMARTETR? UMMH. GO FIGURE./

hanim.song 3:07 a.m.  

Nigerians = FRAUD + scams

Sorry to say this, but it's true.

Chery,  11:11 p.m.  

As a Black American I have heard Nigerians speak very negatively about us as a people...in fact I had a very close Nigerian friend (who moved here with her 4 kids and had to live with my family) tell me they are told to associate with very few of us when they move to the states (10%)...mind you my mother was feeding her, buying gas and letting her and her kids stay in her apartment until they could get on their feet. She also that White Americans accepted them more and were better and easier to deal with....needless to say it took me awhile, but eventually I cut her loose as a friend, stopped wearing those loud printed Nigerian clothes that included wrapping your head, eating their food with names like moi moi and foo foo, and referring to myself as an African American. After dealing with her and her family I realized that African people have a deep seated resentment and jealousy of us Black Americans. I don't trust them and think it is a good plan that our government now start to investigate more before letting them into the country. It's sad that Black Americans are raised thinking that they belong to and are welcome in Afrca until they meet someone from there and find that it is the direct opposite.
Chery

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