In Mary C. Waters’ research, she simplifies the self-identities of 83 second generation West Indians into three broad categories: an American black identity, an ethnic identity, and an immigrant identity.
Forty-two percent of the sample identify as black Americans, most of which were born in the United States. These West Indians typically do not value their ethnic identity as essential to their self-image, and do not believe in the cultural superiority of West Indians (Waters 196).
Generally, poor second generation immigrants are inclined to identify as black American. Working class students are more likely to attend schools that are not effectively integrated. They are surrounded by native African Americans; while the second generation adopt native black culture, there are even reports of “‘Caribbeanized’ native blacks” (Waters 203). This advances the participation of Caribbean blacks in American black culture.
On the other hand, about thirty-one percent identify as Ethnic American, thirty-eight percent of which were born in the United States. While these second generation teens uphold a stronger Caribbean identity, this identity was formed from an American basis of Caribbean identity, which associates with Caribbean culture as a whole rather than with specific island cultures (Waters 200). This general Caribbean identity helps the ethnic-identified to emphasize their difference from black Americans. Additionally, they are more likely adopt their parents’ ideals concerning West Indian superiority, further highlighting them as separate from native blacks (Waters 196).
The majority of ethnic-identified Americans are middle-class citizens. Their parents have the capital to send them to schools of greater academic quality. These schools are generally well integrated with other ethnic, middle-class students. Due to the distinct cultural boundaries, it is easier to preserve a West Indian identity (Waters 203).
The last twenty-seven percent of the sampled second generation teens identify as immigrants. Many of these second generation West Indians are either recent immigrants (part of the 1.5 generation, which I am grouping within the second generation in this report) or maintain transnational identities through travel to the Caribbean, whether it be for schooling, child rearing, etc. Reasonably, only fourteen percent are native born. Many of the immigrant-identified are not concerned with how they are perceived by Americans (Waters 196, 203-204).