Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are Ethiopians really racists?

Type in ‘Ethiopia’ and ‘racism’ in your favourite search engine and the results will show Ethiopians as perpetrators rather than victims of the crime. This accusation is very popular around the world and especially amongst our fellow Africans.

The remark most often heard is that we deny we are ‘blacks’ or hate being called ‘Africans’. Then there is the one that goes about how we ‘look down’ at other Africans and African-Americans. Also some mention how Ethiopian girls or women refuse to date non-Ethiopian men.

Now, if one were to put these accusations to any Ethiopian, the answer would be a big denial or that they didn’t know what one was talking about. Because that’s just it, it’s not true. Let’s see why

It all starts at home, from birth. Ethiopians are a very traditional people. Children are still smacked if they make mistakes, parents are respected; and in some parts they are worshipped. It is unthinkable to go against the wish of a parent, especially the father. This tight family structure shapes individuals who draw a line between family and the rest of society. It holds us back at times because we grow up with the thought that our wants or needs come secondary to those of our parents. When this life structure is taken out of the home, the parents are replaced by other parents or the elders of the society around or far from us. It is called ‘yilugnta,’ Amharic for self-consciousness. It can be said that an Ethiopian would rather die than be caught doing something that the society frowns on. This creates an introvert and when the time comes to fly the nest that person has a rather cool, reserved, sometimes shy outlook towards other people and life in general.


This makes Ethiopians are a very gentle, reserved and polite people. Most of the things that appear to be normal in other cultures are ‘n’ewr’ or shameful to us. Talking loudly, starting conversations with strangers (unless it’s the opposite sex which of course is a totally different matter – [and even then a woman would never take the first step]); simple things like eating or spitting in public are considered vulgar and rude.


Anyone can imagine the culture shock an Ethiopian must face when thrown right in the middle of one of these cultures. This shock in turn makes an Ethiopian want to seek and find the norms he or she was used to. That is why many major cities, especially in the United States, have large communities of Ethiopians. They are mostly for support and the members of the communities draw strength, courage and to some extent find an anchor where they feel like home. This image, just the thought of it, could make an outsider think that it’s an exclusive, or in other words “racist”, when the outsiders feel the invisible yet impassable barrier.


The images of African Americans that most Ethiopians have are those of gangstas and/or rappers from video clips and movies. While the youth here copy the low-slung jeans, straight brimmed caps and cool dance steps in the clubs around Addis, they feel uncomfortable with actually being in a gang and identifying with African Americans and their ideologies of sex and violence when they actually come to America. This is the opposite of what was mentioned above. An Ethiopian would feel ill at ease in the African American community because of the images he or she has of them as gangstas.


Finally, African Americans, for the most part, do not know which part of Africa, let alone the exact country they came from. While it can be safely assumed that their ancestors came from the West, Central and South Western parts of Africa, no exact country can be named or known. When asked their roots their answer would be that they are “African”. But any recent migrant from Africa would say he is from Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa or Morocco first and then if needed add that he was from Africa second. But since Ethiopians have this intense passionate love for our country, 100% of the time they will say they are from “Ethiopia.” Only an Ethiopian knows the love he or she has for Ethiopia. Our not saying “Africa” unless asked where Ethiopia is, since we assume that everyone knows Ethiopia is in Africa, can sometimes be taken as denial by omission. This is compounds the problem, but if any Ethiopian is asked he or she could not deny the fact that we are Africans. After all, Pan-Africanism came to life in Ethiopia.


One point that can be added is the ‘reverse-racism’ that whites experience when they come to Ethiopia. Ethiopia has the proud history of not being colonized. Before that Ethiopia existed for thousands of years with barely any contact with the outside world. These two, among many other reasons, added together have made Ethiopians indifferent to foreigners of any colour. There is no white-reverence in Ethiopia, and when foreigners especially whites come here, it shocks them that they are treated almost like any other Ethiopian. The shock is double if they have been to other African countries.

So, are Ethiopians really racist? … No! We are just a misunderstood, cultural and traditional people.





http://www.projects-abroad.nl/ervaringsverhalen/?content=teaching/ethiopia/david-ruff/
http://www.geocities.com/mel_zeri/proud.html

22 comments:

  1. ...maybe thats your opinion, but for the opinion of my friend and co-worker here in australia its different, she said ethiopians are special people and they abhor mixed marriage and called other black africans as slaves...

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    1. You're right! That's the traditional mentality from the North including Eritrea towards the non-habesha ethnic groups and other African countries. The term habesha can now be seen used by Eritreans and Ethiopians to generalize both countries, but technically it only refers to the semitic speaking, and of semite lineage few ethnic groups of both countries. Thus the reason for Oromo-Nationalists refusing to refer to themselves as Habesha. The Habeshas owned slaves. Personally speaking, my family is no exception. To this day they try to be purists.

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    2. wow wow, i think there is nothing wrong when Ethiopians say we are not slaves and it is not a denial that we are Africans. One thing, it is historical truth that Ethiopians were not enslaved or slaves, Ethiopians fought and won against colonial rule, etc but by no means this historical fact tell that Ethiopians are not Africans.

      how is it that i am not slave, sound as i am not African?

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  2. @ Anonymous - I've known many Ethiopians. Many of them have the same stance as Deep Ethiopian does. I think it's your friend and co-worker that are the rare ones.

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  3. @Anonymous: How do you explain the fact that Ethiopia is one of the very few countries in the world where Christians and Muslims inter-marry and it's a non-issue?

    Your friend is just pulling your leg. And we do NOT call the 'black' Africans slaves.

    I am really sorry that even after this explanation you just don't get it. Like I said, you'll have to be an Ethiopian to understand it.

    Maybe I'll write a follow-up to this article.

    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    @Leyla: Thank you for visiting my blog. And yes, I think the friend is the 'weakest link'.


    Deep Ethiopian

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  4. I'm Ethiopian and little Eritrian and I'v been living in America since I was one and I'm 12 now. I barely remember what it's like in Ethiopia but I visited recently and so many of them are nice. I don't think they're racist but there will always be that one person that judges people anywhere so you can't assume that all of these people from a certain ethnic background/group are "good" or "bad" I don't need to offend anybody just my opinion. :) Please excuse my spelling.

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  5. Well said, this article makes sense.

    When an Ethiopian comes to America, he or she immediately judges the other people around them; the perception they have on African American behavior is the stereotypical "Gangsta" notion. Ethiopians in my opinion are simply too confound with their own culture and alien to other peoples less positive more negative culture (African Americas). Truth be told, Ethiopians are very culturally prideful than they are less open minded to other peoples behavior in the west. I don't mean to hold up on Ethiopians alone, this is evident in other countries and cultures as well. People in general are simply too judging and too prideful. The stereotypical perception they have of other people automatically impact the way they judge them.

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  6. I been to Ethiopia 5 times these articles written about them are wrong and not right. My wife is from this country.We need to stay positive and stop hating on each other and stereotypicaling other races,so what if you are black or white,the fact of the matter is this we need to take care of our families,and show respect to other cultures.Have faith GOD Bless you all. Kevin

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  7. Want everyone to know since some people do like to judge others some blacks men are good and can buy a house in Ethiopia but in their wive name, which cost $2,500,000 birr. The reason I stated this is because some of us think only others can provide this for their spouse, so don"t judge,be lucky you have a job, we all know times are hard and I have been working overseas in the middle east bottom line is this learn how to live together.Because I have seen women from Ethiopia work hard and are sending money back to their country to provide for their mothers and fathers and are putting up with situations and drama in their lives which some of us have heard of but they do not have a choice in the matter, and we here are hating on one another last time I check we are all GODs children. Kevin T

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  8. hello all I'm in the middle of this I've been dating a eritrian woman for two years I have not meet her family yet she is terrified that they will disown herand that the habesha community will talk about her badly and that it will bring shame in her familt.She alsotells me I will not be accepted by her family. But her brothers can date whom they want. can you help me with this?

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  9. hello all I'm in the middle of this I've been dating a eritrian woman for two years I have not meet her family yet she is terrified that they will disown herand that the habesha community will talk about her badly and that it will bring shame in her familt.She alsotells me I will not be accepted by her family. But her brothers can date whom they want. can you help me with this?

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    1. Interesting how that sounds like the AA community. BM can date/marry who they want, but let a BW do the same and all hell breaks loose. Then again WM were the same with women in their group marrying out. This is nothing new. What group doesn't have the men do this?

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  10. All I can say is: if she's not willing to be with you, why are you wasting your time? Love knows no boundaries, no colour and no creed. If she wanted to be with you, she would be. We all know of Africans marrying foreigners, so as an African I think it is more than the eyes can see. If she chooses her family over you, for some reason, then maybe she should be with her family, don't you think?

    But this is my PERSONAL opinion. I'm no expert at romance and relations. I hope it works out fine for both of you.

    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    Regards,

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  11. I have experienced racism from ethiopians. Men and women alike. It is another thing to have respect for your culture but most of them are ethnocentric I think worse than white people in terms of looking down on other black africans. Why do they refer to a non ethiopians as the blacks? Sorry I had a negative experience. . Its okay for them to disown Africa. The differences between the so called east and west are just superficial. Just my humble opinion .

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    1. Dear Sir/Madam,

      I'm truly sorry that you have had to go through the experience you mentioned. But I would like to assure you that not all Ethiopians are like and there are some bad apples like in almost any society.

      Thank you for visiting my blog and your comment.

      Regards,

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  12. I am a Black American. I work in mental health and as a sideline I promote International parties. My Ethiopian friends are the most polite and friendly people amongst my guest. I have West Indians, Kenyans, Ghanians, Nigerians, Sudanese, Guyanans, South Americans, as well as Americans and other groups. I have also dated from many of these groups. The thing I have learned is each group is unique to there own culture and this includes tribes and ethnic groups within a country. To say everyone is the same is like saying American Texans and New Yorkers are the same and any Texan or New Yorker would be angry if you said so because those are prideful American sub-groups.. After a year of flirting and slow friend building an Ethiopian guy came to a party I was at after one of the girls told him I was there last week. I am attending an Ethiopian New Years party with him next week. I have found that he is painfully shy, as are most of them, and feel comfortable with those who understand them and their culture. Even the girls ask me have DJ's play a song because they are too reserved to approach them. I am sure if people in America look at themselves they will find they stick to what feels familiar to them as well, religious or otherwise. So start understanding by learning and stop judging.

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    1. Thank you! I have known people who were (I think racist is the wrong word) bigoted who are from different countries as well as those who are not. Why worry about the ones who are?

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  13. Well I am half African-American and Half- Ethiopian. Growing up, I felt very alienated from Ethiopian culture as my family was not only disappointed in my mother, but viewed me as sort of an outcast. But, I know that not all Ethiopians feel this way and many that I met here in America are very welcoming of me. Ethiopians including myself, are very proud of our culture and history and it makes up who we are. Nothing to be ashamed of.

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  14. very nice article and educative to those who do not know our culture. One thing struck my mind is, what happened to me in Texas. I am soft spoken, low voice. it was misunderstood that i was not talking the truth. It boils down cultural difference....now i speak as laud as thunder....but i hate it.

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    1. Thank you Mulubrhan Dagnew for your comments and views. I agree, there is a difference between pride in nationality and and wanting to stand out among your peers.

      Thank you for visiting.

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  15. I am an African American woman, who is soon to marry an Ethiopian man. We are so in love. I visited his country and everyone was nice to me. His family welcomed and cooked for me. They say I am their family. Before going to Ethiopia I thought Ethiopians were very prejudice against African Americans. That was until I visited. Unfortunately people have said nasty things like I hope he doesn't leave you after gaining his green card. Those comments have really angered me and planted a seed in my he'd that is now hard to shake.

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    1. Hey, Candace.

      I wish you all the best with regards to your future plans with your new husband. Follow your heart - ignore the comments. Everyone as opinions. Wish for the best - but in the rare chance it doesn't work out... it's not because he's Ethiopian, it's simply because he's a [insert insult here].

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