Barack Obama has broken racial barriers. But his stint at Columbia was not one of them.
Obama’s status as a son of an African immigrant puts him in a category and debate that largely remains behind Ivy League walls: black students from immigrant families are overrepresented in Ivy League schools.
“Immigrant blacks,” who come from families who have emigrated from the West Indies or Africa (mostly Ghana or Nigeria), make up 41 percent of the black population of Ivy League schools, according to a 2007 study by Princeton and University of Pennsylvania researchers. In contrast, black immigrants only make up 13 percent of the black population of 18-19 year olds in the United States.
The overrepresentation of immigrant blacks on Ivy League campuses is forcing students to redefine their own “blackness” and black culture, while raising questions about affirmative action and access to the best universities in America.