Posted on January 12, 2022

‘Becoming Black’: Racial Formation of Eritrean Migrants in Israel

Amanuel Isak Tewolde, African Diaspora, December 2021

Little is known about racial identity claims of African migrants living in Israel who originate from countries where race is not a dominant identity marker. This article examines how Eritrean migrants, coming from a country where race-based social organisation is not prevalent, strategically adopted ‘Black’ as their identity marker in Israel. Online newspaper reports and conversational interviews with four Eritrean migrants were used as sources of data. During various anti-deportation protests, Eritrean migrants held signs with slogans referring to themselves as Black. Some of the slogans include: ‘Do Black lives matter in Israel?’, ‘Black or White I am human’, ‘Deported to death because I am Black’, and ‘Now I am White, will you deport me?’ I argue that for first generation Eritrean migrants in Israel, Black racial identity was adopted strategically as a political identity of social mobilisation and resistance in the face of a racialised and exclusionary migration policy.