Growing up in America as an Ethiopian American
My name is Naomi Alemu I was born and raised in the US. I currently live in America and I’m very fortunate to be living in a place that assures me freedom. My parents immigrated from Ethiopia in the 1990s and I am very thankful they did that because if they haven’t, I probably wouldn’t have been born a citizen of the US or been given all of these opportunities I have today. Continue reading this article to unveil my story, if you would like to find out how I managed to live in a completely white community as an Ethiopian-American. From the benefits to the doubts, I will thoroughly explain my experiences in detail on a level even you may or may not relate.
In my elementary school up to the 4th grade, I didn’t always quite fit in the ideal beauty standards blonde straight hair, fair white skin, blue eyes, small forehead. All of the above I have the complete opposite of with my long brown curly hair, dark skin(black), dark brown eyes, and a 5 forehead. The society I live in, glorifies people with Eurocentric features which is really hard for me to fit in as a young girl. So, for the most part, I just disliked almost everything about me except for my name (Naomi). I tried to disconnect myself from the culture because of my fear…the fear of being different.
I slowly but surely did learn that being different was a gift, I decided to become more persistent with going to the local Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. I learned to love my heritage and thank my family for pushing me into my culture, thereby, preventing an identity crisis in the near future. Although I learned a bunch of new things about myself and my background, I still felt different. As much as I embraced my culture. My parents were always gonna be that one strict pair of parents on the block that wouldn’t let their children go on sleepovers, hangouts twice in a row (sometimes even once). I couldn’t even wear some clothes I wanted to because they were revealing. If I didn’t get good grades that would be another round of sleep deprivation for all those below average grades (aka A´s) I got. I mean even now those would be the regular expectations living in an Ethiopian household. Oh… and did I forget DON’T EVER DROP THE JEBENA!! I mean yes, to another kid it may seem mean and to some even cruel but all I can say is that over time you kind of just keep a tiny charter in your mind just in case you ever tremble to think about breaking one Ethiopian Jebena.
Sometimes I do struggle with keeping myself involved in some of the outside activities involving my culture. So as happily ever after as it sounds, it doesn’t work that way. As much as I wanted to blame all of my struggle in this society and on my parents, I really can’t. They grew up as humans with feeling like mine, desires, wishes, hopes…the list goes on but in a different part of the world. They only learned how to raise us from tradition passed down from generations, and their own life experiences. Besides, having a culture outside of the Americanized one is pretty cool. You get to learn another language and speak it with your parents in secret when you don’t want others to listen to your conversation. It lets you see the bright colors of living in both realities, in other words, you get the best of both worlds.
From their childhood life, to immigrating to America, that is what they followed and that is what they think is best for us. America, this country of freedom, self-expression, liberty, and pursuit of happiness was definitely not what they had back in their homeland. I, on the other hand, have a different experience growing up in the US. Little did I know that all my parents wanted for me was the best. For me to love who I am, and not who I am faking to be. Being fake was the worst thing I could’ve done because of its impact on the way I view things. And if it wasn’t for the loving, dedicated, hard-working parents that raised me the way they did, I probably wouldn’t have ever been the person I am today.
Ed.’s Note: Naomi Alemu is an Ethiopian-American Middle School Student (7Th Grade Student) at Wredling Middle School, in Saint Charles, IL, US.
Contributed by Naomi Alemu
Note: released first on Reporter English