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Abstract

The purpose of this essay is to discuss ideas of race and achievement as they emanate from West Indian immigrants. I argue that these immigrants, part of the post-1965 upsurge in non-white immigrants, are helping to cement the significance of race in American life but making the racial picture more complex at the same time. This is occurring because their numbers are growing, their economic performance questions the traditional link that has been made between race and achievement, and their experiences in this country validate the complaints emanating from African-Americans about racial discrimination. In short, West Indians embody the contradictions that are often found among black immigrants and upwardly-mobile blacks in post-Civil Rights America; the reason being that they are operating under cross-pressures stemming from the conflict between their unique history/socialization/demographic reality and the existence of opposite realities in the United States. These cross-pressures cause West Indians to exhibit a marked ambivalence to life in America and to African Americans. Throughout the paper, I will illustrate these points with data taken from first-hand interviews with West Indians in the New York City area.

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