Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

34 Thurgood Marshall Law Review 287 (2009)


American colleges and universities have traditionally lumped all of their black students into a unified “Black/African/African American" category. However, there is growing evidence that American higher education is witnessing a historic change in the racial and ethnic ancestry of Blacks who are the beneficiaries of affirmative action. Recent studies have pointed out that disproportionately large percentages of Blacks benefiting from affirmative action are foreign-born Black immigrants, their sons and/or daughters, and multiracials. In addition, the number and percentage of blacks approaching college age from these groups will increase substantially in the next five to ten years.

In light of this historic change in the racial and ethnic make-up of Blacks admitted to selective higher education programs, this comment seeks urges admissions programs of selective higher education programs to start collecting relevant data about the racial and ethnic ancestry of its Black students. Now is an appropriate time to urge educational officials of selective higher education programs to begin to document the racial and ethnic ancestry of their Black students. The Department of Education (DOE) has issued new guidelines for the reporting of data on race and ethnicity (the Guidance) that all educational institutions must follow, which go into effect for the fall of 2010. The purpose of the Guidance is to “obtain more accurate information about the increasing number of students who identify with more than one race.” The Guidance will require education institutions to classify self-identified Black Hispanics and self-identified Black Multiracials as either Hispanic/Latino or “Two or More Races,” respectively, not as Black/African American. While educational institutions must use the categories required by the Guidance in their reporting to the DOE, they may collect additional information regarding sub-categories for their own purposes within these categories.

Since complying with the reporting requirements of the Guidance will require all educational institutions, including selective higher education programs, to gather information about the racial make up of its Black students, this comment urges them also to gather information about the ethnic make-up of its Black students. Gathering such information is vital in order to determine the exact racial and ethnic ancestry of its Black students. Such a process could reveal that Black Immigrants, Black Hispanics and Black Multiracials constitute a much larger percentage of their Black students than these educational officials realize. This information may reveal a need for a given selective higher education program to consider additional changes to its admissions process in order to increase the number and percentage of blacks whose predominate ancestry is traceable to the historical oppression of blacks in the United States.