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Together, Co-Existing

My suburban town in Ohio—one of America’s best places to live. My parents, being immigrants, came to America so their son could have an American education and receive what they didn’t. I am beyond grateful for this and this is something that can never be paid back. Though I love my town, our schools, our communities and most importantly—our people—I always felt… left out. Growing up in a white town as a black man can be hard, especially when many people have misconceptions about you to begin with. It’s even harder when many blacks don’t acknowledge my “blackness” because of where I’m from and how I act and when many whites don’t acknowledge me because of my skin color. This was so hard for me to understand, especially when blacks said these things to me.  The things that I got from both sides were hurtful at times to me, even if they didn’t know it. Words like, “You’re whiter than me,” “You’re not even black, you’re Ethiopian,” “Why don’t you go back to Ethiopia?” have been said to me. I tried to overcome this by ignoring, understanding, and even accepting their words. Those all didn’t work or didn’t settle with me. What did work was teaching people about where I’m from, the history of me, and that even though am black, I am and always will be more than a color. Teaching people about who am I has been one of the most enlightening things in my life. I get to see people ask questions or ask in awe about Ethiopian food, the people I come from and the rich culture that we Ethiopians have. What amazes many is that the word “Ethiopia” or “Ethiopic” translates to “country of the dark-skinned people.” When people learn it becomes a two-way process of acceptance and coexistence.  

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