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?