SUCCESS: Who has it easier…the Immigrant or the American born Ethiopian?

I have heard this question posed before.  I heard someone say that the Ethiopian Immigrant has it easier , or an easier path to success than the American born Ethiopian.  In other words the statement was made to imply that the Ethiopian born Immigrant tends to be more successful than the American Born Ethiopian.  The conversation revolved around the issue of success and what it takes to be successful.  I strongly disagree with that statement, in fact I don’t think one group has it easier than the other.  I think both groups face various challenges along the way to success.

First I want to answer the question of what success is.  Success is when opportunity meets preparation.  This means that you have to always work hard and prepare for the ultimate goal that you want to achieve. That way when the opportunity presents itself you can leap toward it.  Work ethic is what brings about success.

There are various types of Ethiopian Immigrants.  There are those that immigrate specifically for school with student visa.  Others have the famous DV, and others were invited by other family members through the green card invitation process.  They all have one thing in common, they have something to lose if they don’t work hard.  The Ethiopian Immigrant is forced to work harder than most because they have obstacles to overcome.  The student visa holder may lose his or her visa if he/she fails out of school.  He / She doesn’t have a family support group in the U.S. and is forced to adapt and navigate on his/her own.  The student visa holder not only holds the weight of family expectations on his/her shoulder but also serves as a representative of Ethiopia in his / her institute.  (Those are some pretty heavy burdens for your average 18-22 year old to have).   The Ethiopian Immigrant has to overcome cultural boundaries and language barriers.  The Ethiopian Immigrant has to work twice as hard just to keep up.  I will agree that not all Ethiopian Immigrants are successful.  Some go down a slippery slope of trouble that they can’t turn back from because they’ve gotten caught up in the wrong crowd.  (i.e. the recent bank robber that escaped from jail in VA, my ‘brozer’ did you really think you weren’t gonna get caught….welcome to America bruh).  Taking those characters out of the picture, for the most part the Ethiopian Immigrant is constantly working hard, meaning they are always PREPARING. That way, whenever opportunity comes knocking the Ethiopian Immigrant is ready to meet it .  The Result: SUCCESS.

On the  other hand there is an argument to be made that the American born Ethiopian has it easier and is therefore more likely to succeed.   The American born has all of the opportunities in the world.  The American born Ethiopian has parents who are Immigrants and who already worked hard and in most cases became successful.  These parents do everything they can to afford their child with opportunities that they did not have.  The American born Ethiopian doesn’t have to work as hard to get certain opportunities because a lot of times the heavy lifting was already done by the Ethiopian Immigrant parent.   Language is easy, understanding the environment is easy, and therefore success should be achieved more easily.  Yes this true but necessarily always true.  See as an American born Ethiopian, we still face challenges.  Sometimes we get lost in this dual culture and have a difficult time figuring out where we fit in.  We make mistakes.  Sometimes because life wasn’t as challenging, we make silly mistakes that we pay heavily for.  See, while yes the American born Ethiopian may have a lot of opportunity, sometimes we just aren’t prepared to meet it.  (I say WE because I am an American born Ethiopian ‘ethiopianamericangirl’, and I do consider myself to have had a lot of opportunities at the hands of the hard work that my Immigrant parents did in the past, however I won’t lie, sometimes in life I just wasn’t fully prepared and some opportunities passed me by.  On the other hand, once I started really working hard, every opportunity I had I was able to jump on.  Law School, two state bars, and more is yet to come).   Those American born Ethiopians that are most successful are the ones that constantly work hard, have a driving force inside of them to reach for their goals and are extremely ambitious.  What does this mean, although opportunity is everywhere, if the Ethiopian born American doesn’t work hard and constantly prepare he/she doesn’t succeed.

The moral of the story:   Always work hard. Always be prepared, When opportunity comes knocking LEAP.


2 thoughts on “SUCCESS: Who has it easier…the Immigrant or the American born Ethiopian?

  1. I agree with your assessment. We all have diffetent challenges. I maybe biased but i think ethiopian immigrants tend to do well in america compared to thier american born counterpart. Full disclosure; I migrated from ethiopia. Ethiopian americans may encounter many hindrances that can get in the way of becoming successful ( if by success we mean higer level of education attainment and respectable job). These can be economical and cultural issues unique to growing up here in the states . For instance if you are born here chances are your immediate family do not relie on you to the same extent as an ethiopian migrant who is most likely to be financially responsible for extended family member. Because you are responsible only to yourself as american born ethiopian , you can get-by working a low skill level job thus dont have the insentive to pursue greater educational achievement. On the other hand a migrant due to greater financial burden would have to secure a well paying job to support family and jobs that pay well usually requires you to be educated. Then there are harmful cultural influences of america such as drug use and involvment with gang that can affect american born ethiopians . These vices are almost nonexistent in ethiopia ( at least when I was there) . Also ameicans of ethiopian descent grow up accustom to a lifestyle of instant gratification and materialism thus dont value the importance of working hard for what they need. They are also inundated from an early age with pop culture that puts less emphasis academic achievement more on hedonistic lifestyle. Most previous ethiopian migrants came with a strong educational ( math and science) background therefore they tend to do well in college and higher education. In contrast most first generation ethiopian americans grow up in urban setting and american intercity where education quality is subpar compared to other parts of america. This tends to produce ill prepared students for the rigor of education beyond high school. But going forward I believe success rate would become less distinguishsble between these two groups due to the demographic change in ethiopian migrants . I think in the past most visas were issued to students seeking to get into american universities whereas now thanks to the dv program those ethiopian with less educational inclination have simmilar opportunity to come to america. Unfortunately some of these economic migrants are aversed to education and pursue low skilled jobs such as working as a parking attendant or driving taxi. Inaddition to becoming a social burden ( by becoming dependant on various safety nets) these groups eventually will dilute the success rate of previous migrants resulting less successful ethiopian migrant overall. How about issuing DV only to those most likely to pursue education?

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