The Annoyingly Effective Ways African and Caribbean Parents Get Their Kids to Get A’s

Screenshot: "ItsMrLawson" YouTube Page

Screenshot: “ItsMrLawson” YouTube Page

As we bask in graduation season, watch these parody videos that show black immigrant parents’ obsession with perfect test scores. And get this: A few of these spoofs are great history lessons in disguise.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

Social media have been inundated with news reports about those brilliant high school students who gained admission to a boatload of Ivy League schools. That many of them are first-generation black Americans (children whose parents come from countries in Africa or the Caribbean) made headlines, too. Not to mention that “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua put out a list earlier this year singling out the Nigerian culture for its prowess at rearing high-achieving students.

It seems as though something special is happening in African and Caribbean households that is making their children excel. It makes you wonder: What, exactly, are their parents doing to raise such successful children?

A handful of hilarious YouTube videos demonstrate some of the antics used by black immigrant parents to get their kids to take their studies very, very seriously. Parents will also be happy to know that some of these spoofs can moonlight as great history lessons. So be prepared to laugh and learn.

1. Nigerian Dad

This Nigerian father is utterly appalled and disgusted that 1) He had to remind his son to bring his report card to him for review, and 2) his son’s average grade was a—wait for it—90. When his son tries to explain to him that he earned the highest grade in the class, his father immediately rejects that line of thought and encourages his son (in an aggressive but hilarious manner) not to compare himself to others. In many non-American black households, regardless of how well the student does in school, parents often encourage their kids to focus on the test questions they got wrong so that the next time around, their child will not get any questions wrong. Perfection is the goal.

As punishment, the Nigerian dad tells his son that he will be eating Ghanaian jollof rice for dinner—and this is where the history lesson comes in. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Nigeria was a hot spot in West Africa. The oil economy boomed and a lot of people from neighboring countries like Togo and Ghana came to Lagos to work and fraternize with Nigeria’s working class.

After a while, when Nigeria’s economy slowed down and jobs became few and far between, the country needed to get rid of its excess labor pool—and thus the “Ghana Must Go” movement was born. Ghanaian immigrants had to take whatever belongings they had, stuff them into medium-sized checkered grocery bags and return to their country.

That brief history (Nigerians were expelled from Ghana for similar reasons in the late 1960s) has always been at the heart of the harmless enmity between Nigerians and Ghanaians. That’s why the Nigerian dad teases his son by suggesting that he will eat Ghanaian jollof rice as punishment: He’s taking a dig at a longtime West African rival.

2. Jamaican Dad

It’s parent-teacher night, and this Jamaican father is not pleased with the feedback he’s hearing about his son’s behavior in math and music class.

At one point the father launches into the lecture that nearly every child has heard: the “back in my day” or “when I was your age” rant. But what’s unique about the African and Caribbean version is that it typically involves walking miles and miles to school—barefoot; not having enough resources to learn once you got there (45 kids to a classroom); getting swats across your wrists if you even think about challenging your teacher; and having to do your homework at home with little to no light (or electricity) available.

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The “Regular Black” and “Ethnic Black” Experiences in College

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Students at Duke University during the 2014 Duke Africa Fashion Show (YouTube)

Kids on the nation’s campuses know the lengths to which some students go to distinguish their brand of blackness.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on April 8, 2014.

I’ll never forget the expression on my friend’s face during one of our African-American-studies classes at Duke University, when she was asked to clarify her response—for what seemed like the umpteenth time—to the question, “Where are you from?” after having answered, “America.”

“Look, I’m just regular black,” she said, with an air of frustration plainly woven into her response.

Regular black. It’s become a sort of declaration used by some native black Americans to distinguish themselves from first-generation black Americans—those whose parents migrated to the United States from Africa or the Caribbean. A friend of a colleague said that the term “JB,” or “just black,” was regularly used at her alma mater, Yale.

And these terms have gained popularity as a convenient shorthand, particularly at top-tier universities and Ivy League schools, where a 2007 study found that approximately 40 percent of black students had at least one parent born in a foreign land—nearly half of the black-student population. Meanwhile, only 20 percent of black college students across the nation have at least one immigrant parent, which means that ethnic black students are overrepresented—and have a large market share—at the very best colleges in America

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