I would like to get some feedback from you (my readers) about what it means to be Ethiopian American. I will give my answer here, and then as you all post and engage in the conversation you can be featured on this page as well.
I will start with my answer:
To me, being an Ethiopian American means that I teeter the line between two cultures. I adjust automatically between two different worlds. Sometimes I speak in Amharic without realizing I am speaking in Amharic. Other times I express myself best in English. Depending on the situation I quickly adjust to the environment and the appropriate cultural norms. You would think that so much back and forth between to cultures and the wearing of different masks would cause me to have an internal conflict. However, it has not. In fact, I feel more confident than one may think. I feel comfortable in any environment among anyone. I feel adequate in my ability to express myself in either the Ethiopian language (Amharic) or English. I feel well adjusted to my ever changing environment. I don’t feel awkward in various cultural groups. Additionally, I have learned that asking when you don’t understand a cultural norm or terminology is actually ok to do. I ask for translations for phrases in both English and in Amharic. Because I grew up in a home of Amharic speakers I am actually unfamiliar with certain American sayings. Also, because I grew up in America certain sayings in Amharic are also unfamiliar to me. Therefore, I find myself asking “what does that mean?” much more frequently than one may think.
Being Ethiopian American is not just about speaking the language and eating the food. I feel like it is a badge of honor that I wear for the world to see. From my physical features that identify me as clearly Ethiopian to the strong history of being Ethiopian. I am also just as proud to be an American. The strong history of the struggles for equality, freedom and tolerance are things I embrace. I recognize that without the struggles of the civil rights movement I would not enjoy the freedoms I have today. And for that I am proud to be an American.
I feel a strong connection to both American and Ethiopian culture. I know some Ethiopian Americans feel differently. Some feel more connected to American culture while others more connected to Ethiopian and even others feel no connection to either. I am curious to find out what different people feel, what it means to them, and maybe through discussion we can find out why it is that we feel the connections and cultural ties that we do. I have a hypothesis that it is related to the way we are raised, the towns we grow up in, and the values our families instill in us. However, even those born and raised in similar communities with similar families turn out completely different. Share your opinions here: What does it mean to be Ethiopian American to you?
2 thoughts on “What does it mean to be an Ethiopian American to you?”
This is a question that I’ve actually spent much time thinking about and I think I agree that language plays a very critical part. There are so many things that were transfered to me through Amharic, history, emotion, and most of all identity and belonging. But I am unsure If I am Ethiopian or American as you say, I am probably identify best as Ethiopian-American. But I think its more than language, more than culture, there are many who don’t speak an Ethiopian language but identify as Ethiopian. I think it is a way of being, I sense of communal history that transcends any country borders or linguistic categories. Pretty much, I think being Ethiopian is something untangible. I appreciate that you brought this topic up, provokes thoughts.
Interesting topic Hilena. One way to post the question is do you see yourself as an American of Ethiopian Descent (born in Ethiopia or 2nd generation) or as an Ethiopian who is living/contributing in America. Or can you be both?