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I’m Not Exotic, I’m Ethiopian

May 5, 2015

There are many ways to view a girl who wears multiple colors of clothing, dyes her hair a few different hues, and sometimes even rocks a gold nose piercing in and out of her septum. There are many different ways to view me. There is only one way to help you understand my culture and therefore better understand my identity, and that is to explain the home that I come from. Ethiopians do not question their elders, say no to an offer of food, dye their hair, miss their curfew, fail a class, or pierce their noses. Ethiopians do, however, occasionally revel in wearing clothes made up of multiple colors. The suburbs raised me to be a chameleon. Any type of popular movement became my new obsession. The problem with following what’s trending is that it leads you farther and farther away from your authenticity and, in my case, farther from my culture.

American habits have always found a way to clash with my upbringing as an Ethiopian. It is not because our cultures are so converse, but more so our applications and predispositions. I do not think it is necessary that we continue in this dissonance any longer, so allow me to highlight the key attributes that we as first generation Ethiopians should revel in rather than remodel, and the American pastimes that our culture should embrace and not exclude.

Let’s discuss hair and the countless years that many Ethiopian girls dedicate to growing their manes, only to have Americans swear that there is a weave sewn into our scalps. A few denials are fine, but a cross on your heart and hand on the bible devoted to your hair’s illegitimacy is rather elaborate. We can also reference our lack of attendance at our friend’s sleepovers while we were children. It is not that we do not want to sit and braid our girlfriends’ hair or play 2K into the night with our bros. It is the fact that any type of shut-eye in a bed other than our own poses a legitimate threat of mortal danger, according to our parents.

When we grow up, a great number of first generation Ethiopians tend to date outside of our own race. Now, this is not because we do not find our brethren to be stimulating or enticing. It is because there is a great chance that our fellow first generation Ethiopians may, in fact, be our actual brethren. We are all raised in very close proximity and may not find out until we are adults that both our uncles share the same second cousin. Most of our parents hold on to the hope that our fiancés will turn out to be Ethiopian, but if you see a first generation Ethiopian hitting on you, take the bait.

Now for the American pastimes that I have come to perceive as beneficial to our culture’s abundance, allowing creative and sometimes unfamiliar expression to our youth is one epic benefit. In America, the avenues for opportunity have since expanded in this new world of technology and profitable artistic expression. Our inclination for a doctoral degree is one that is still pertinent, but nonetheless better suited for being attained by choice. The parents of a first generation Ethiopian child are the essence of positive intent, and enveloping the passions of our youth is the exact premise for our manifestation in America.

In many ways I am a seamless blend of my ethnicity and my origin. I am college educated and a lover of artistic tattoos. I will not leave my dormitory until my studies are completed, but I am willing to try any perilous or alarming experience at least once. There has never been a more unique experience than maturing as an Ethiopian in America, but engulfing each other in the essence of our untried cultures is sure to open an avenue of brilliance.


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