In 6th grade homeroom, I was introduced to my best-friend, Paula Mebrathu. We diverged on eminent matters like Jojo & lil Bowwow’s latest music video, and prodded each other on the identity of our crush.  Her last name a dead give away, Paula was Habesha and the first Eritrean American friend I independently made. By that I mean we were not introduced vis-a-vis community gatherings just pure happenstance. I cant pinpoint if our shared background was even a factor in our friendship- She was the Nebula to my Zinon! What I do recall is our implicit agreement to come out to [6th grade ] society as “Habeshas”.

Looking back, I choose convenience to describe myself. Everyone would take a glance at us and sheepishly ask if we were related. We loved it! playing along until even the teachers inquired. Herein lies out methodology for checking the Habesha box.

  • We needed a digestable and inoffensive explanation.

With those parameters in mind the Ethiopian-Eritrean war was discarded.  Simple, mention Ethiopia offhandedly and seal the deal with “we’re like all Habesha tho”.Who has time or attention span to explore the intricacies of nation-state building with all the pressing matters in the 6th grade. Habesha was inclusive and palatable to our American audience.

Our Ethiopian-Eritrean relationship is commonplace. In our resolve, we diluted our forefathers and mothers for comfort, not just for our comfort, but that of Americans. As an adult I have been making a conscience effort to move away from aligning myself to a cultural-lingustic group, rather stating explicitly and unapologetically, I am Ethiopian American.