Invisible Ethiopian

Elias Kifle | April 30th, 2012

I am a man without a country. I feel like the protagonist in the novel “Invisible Man”, a character so invisible that he did not even have a name in the book. Invisible Man is a chronicle of a man who was born so light skinned that he was most often passed up as a white man during the era of Jim Crowe and segregation in America. So he was able to sway and slip between being black and being white, able to hang out at speakeasies during the night while walking properly during the day with white people—in the process fitting in neither place. He was a man without color and a man without existence; he lived on the precipice of nothingness and was not accepted by either side of his heritage.

Ironic isn’t it, this is one of my favorite books of all time. Little did I know when I used to read it copious times that the book was really a foreshadowing of the fate that awaited me. For I too sway and slip between two identities—except my two identities are Ethiopian (born and Ethiopian to the bone) and African-American (assimilated in America thus I speak slang with the best of them). I can hang out at Habesha restaurants and call women “Yene Big Foreheadiye” while speaking my tebtaba Amharic at night and then hang out with my fraternity brothers (Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, an African-American Fraternity) while trying to “set out a hop” even though I suck at it.

There, in those moments of speaking Amharic and “setting out a hop” — in the crevices of the chronometer we call life — I find myself to be Invisible Ethiopian. That is precisely why I am writing a novel called “Invisible Ethiopian” at this exact moment which will be published in 2013 — because I am neither accepted by Ethiopians nor African-Americans. I am lost in the ether between both communities; I am crushed by the massive indifference from Ethiopians and African-Americans. I am judged as being IBD when I beseech my fellow “Habeshas” to believe in Hebret and equally relegated as crazy by my fraternity brothers when I tell them that we as Ques have a massive responsibility to our community besides setting out hops.

Grant it, there are a lot of Ethiopians and Ques who do the work in the shadows and live up to the legacies of our forefathers. But for the most part it seems that Adwa is dead—Click…Clack…KAPOW trigger pulled by indifferent Ethiopians—and Just, Love, Cooper, and Coleman would roll over in their graves 80 times if they realized the state of our fraternity. For stating the obvious that Ethiopia is really colonized—I am vilified by my own community. For stating the obvious that Omega Psi Phi has morphed into something that I no longer recognize—I am talked about in the vine by my own fraternity brothers and I am sure there are some who would love to take me to the green for writing this article. … [read more]