Black Immigrants and the Rhetoric of Social Distancing



This article focuses on the empirical evidence of social distancing in the interdisciplinary literature on black immigrants. I argue that the conventions that have guided popular and scholarly representations of relations between foreign-born and native-born blacks have been shaped by seminal writings in sociology. Treating interviews with black immigrants as sites of various kinds of discursive practices, my aim is to illustrate a shift in the expression of social distance that maps onto contemporary ways of talking about race in the US. I argue that social distance rhetoric is an expression of what black immigrants learn about race and ethnicity in American society. This reading challenges the widely held interpretation that social distancing accurately reflects individual subjectivity and collective identity.