Invisible Ethiopian

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 {www: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]

23 thoughts on “Invisible Ethiopian

  1. Anonymous on

    Your article reminds the kind that used to be on Seleda, the stylish online Ethiopian magazine. Well, there was a Ques recently who was saying that we don’t have inner peace because we have become Diqalas, whatever that meant one thing remains a fact: it is great to have truth and kindness, and also genuine presence, whatever your prefered ways, as the bible says. በደልና ግፍ done to Haile-Sellasie is actually why Ethiopia is what became of it today. Why should the opinions of Eritreans count when it comes to Ethiopia?

    Whoever returns evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.

    – Proverbs.

  2. I think, you are confused because you chose to be. Either you are less educated or immature. Just take a trip back home and try to know more about Ethiopia and its people. You reminded me of another ethiopian, who grew up in the middle east but could not speak arabi. What he knew is just broken english (amhariglish). At least, you are fluent in english and seem to be more american than ethiopian to me. Man, this is not a rocket science if you really try, you will get where you wanna be -i.e., being understood by both communities! The problem is that you mix things up and complain as to why you are misunderstood. You are trying to play Masinko while doing rap.

  3. Guest1 on

    I am touched…

    White Americans also talk about identity problem. You are not alone.

    This I hope will make sense to you as it does to me.

    An invisible Ethiopian is not real, breathing and walking.He does not exist. It is an idea imposed on you from outside. You are free not to be dominated by this concept. so forget it!

    Start from what is real. Where you live is your home. Where your home is your country. Your home is in America and therefore your country is America. You can call yourself an Ethiopian American or just an American.

    Get real and be and stay positive!

    • Me on

      touched in the head? Hey, a lot more touching stuff in the world we live in than this guy’s confusion. so if you are the kinda person you are, just put your touchy energy somewhere else – somewhere real.

      • Anonymous on

        me and gimel both of you are barking mad. Know yourself first.

        Advice to the Author

        You must start identifying who this me and gimel kind of people are. in short, they are not Ethiopians. Do not go down to their level. ignore them!! take and read only that which is positive.

  4. gimel on

    Mannn, what a cry-baby! Stop being so melo-dramatic and suck it up!smh, first-world problems…..

  5. Dehab on


    Your crisis is not as grave as you imagine it to be.

    Just stop halucinating and invite Jesus to your miserable self; then and only through identifying with The LORD shall you claim your true identity.

    Alpha and Omega is knocking on your door!

    Don’t feed the candels.


    • gimel on

      This man is an imposter! I denounce and refute the improper use of the “gimel” alias. I did not write the above comment. Anyone how has seen my other comments would know I would never suggest people go to meles for advice…. Thats just stupid!

  6. Teddy Fikre on

    Most of you that just commented above just prove yet again that you are in fact COLONIZED just like I said. None of you came at me and refuted the facts…you just attack me with ad hominem attacks (that means attacking the man for you less educated COLONIZED Habesha slaves) Anyway, keep on doing what you are doing…this is why MELES is in POWER…because DUMBASS HABESHA NIGGAS LIKE YOU! PEACE!

    Teddy Fikre
    CEO & Founder

    • Tazabi on


      I read your article and found it to be honest and refreshing. Do not go the route of responding to those who came out attacking your character. Your article’s message was clear. “Let us unite for the right purpose”.

      Please do not go to their level by replying them in kind. There are a lot of people who understand and share your thoughts.

      keep up the good work!

    • gimel on

      Sure, just call anyone that doesn’t see your point of view a colonized slave… wait aren’t you the one with the identity crisis, and your telling everyone else who they are?!

      • tazabi on

        you just can’t reason with this guy. He wrote all this before his hangover was gone.

  7. Anonymous on

    do you know that before Haile selase Italians do not alow the native Eritreans beyond 4th grade and it is during hayle selase that all these educated class including Isayas were able to go to school localy and later were sent to over sea for higher education payed by hayleselase so hayle selase help Eritreans more than any body else including ethiopian citizens so your facts are pure fiction history fabricated by dumb ass Shabia and you took it at face value do little research and reading befor you reach to the wrong conclussion

  8. Chicken on

    I am as eluded as can be because of the newly created Ethiopian Diaspora Politics[defamatio] ring since the late 90’s. But one thing, as eluded as I am, I know that “Mesg[j]e[i]d” originally is a hebrew word for synagogue.

  9. tazabi on

    Why are you feeling invisible? I do not understand. My guess is you are born in America from Ethiopian parents. What is invisible about that? Do you feel that you do not fit in neither cultures? Or Do you feel that you cannot identify your self neither as an Ethiopian nor as an American. If that is the case you need to work on your self . Start accepting your birth place as your homeland and embrace your heritage . Today in America, there are thousands of young men and women who’re born from Ethiopian parents. These young men and women are more American than Ethiopian. Nothing is wrong with that. To me they are not invisible. They are a product of their environment. Brother take your self as you are. I think you are blessed to have both culture and country to represent.

  10. Anonymous on

    Teddy Fikre,
    It just happened that Obama’s favorite book was Invisible Man as well. Here is an exerpt and link to the full story:

    Mahmood remembered that “for a period of two or three months” Obama “carried and at every opportunity read and reread a fraying copy of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. It was a period during which Barack was struggling deeply within himself to attain his own racial identity, and Invisible Man became a prism for his self-reflection.” There was a riff in that book that Mahmood thought struck close to the bone with Obama. The narrator, an intelligent black man whose skills were invisible to white society, wrote: “America is woven of many strands; I would recognize them and let it so remain. It’s ‘winner take nothing’ that is the great truth of our country or of any country. Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.” His friend Barack, Mahmood thought, “was the most deliberate person I ever met in terms of constructing his own identity, and his achievement was really an achievement of identity in the modern world. [That] was an important period for him, first the shift from not international but American, number one, and then not white, but black.” Obama disciplined himself in two activities—writing and running. When he was on the Upper West Side, he would run in Riverside Park. When he was in Brooklyn, he would run in Prospect Park. He was what Genevieve called “a virtuous daily jogger,” and that was one of the differences between them. For weeks that summer, Genevieve challenged Barack to a footrace. Not long-distance but a sprint. If they sprinted, she insisted, she would beat him. Barack kept putting it off. “His response was merry disbelief,” Genevieve recalled. “By merry I don’t mean he laughed at me, though he was amused. He had this way … where he inhabits a mocking space—it’s sort of a loving mocking—as if to imply ‘Ah, the frailties and tendencies we all have to be delusional, self-deceiving, preposterous even, but you are cute, and I like you better for it.’ ” Finally, he relented. They picked a day, went to the park, and chose a walkway lined by lampposts for the dash. Her journal entry…

    • Teddy Fikre on

      Thank you…you just proved that not all Ethiopians are lazy and give me emnet that there is in fact HOPE for Ethiopia after all!

      Teddy Fikre

      • Me on

        You are like George Costanza of SEINFELD – Can’t Stand You! You have done absolutely nothing or you did not let us know if you did. You have been just one all-day partying somali-ethiopian, who now wants to stop drinking and try to be visible – because you copied that invisible man stuff from the president, who has every reason to feel that way. But you, huh… Now, the reason I’m writing this is, you misled me to read your garbage and I’m angry about that. Have a good day and dont take it personal – just writing to others.

  11. kachaw on

    Dear Teddy,

    Thanks for your stimulating article. Please keep writing moreover, please keep reading, reading and reading is what we need. Read about our history, culture, religion, sociology, anthropology and political economy and politics. If you have time and resources please read about classical Ethiopia. This will liberate you. I know some of the books and information’s are written in Ge’ez, hope someone can guide you to learn basic Ge’ez. Especially if you plan to write please read before you start. This will save you and us from another pain. If you write before you read you will reinforce and extend mental slavery.
    One of the profounding problem of our beloved country is her children have not developed the habit of reading especially reading about Ethiopian history. These who are born after the 2nd world war in particular miserably failed to learn or read the history Ethiopia. That’s why we become the victim of mental slavery. Of course exile has its part.
    My dear brother mental slavery and confused identity flourished in the absence of knowledge. Lot has been said and written about Ethiopia, Ethiopians and our leaders. The only way we can find out the truth is through reading, cross examining and referring diverse books, journals, articles, visual and sound media information. If you have time I advice you to pay attention to our elders to learn more about our history . They do have PhD’s Msc , but they are the moving libraries please talk to them. Don’t patronise them just listen. Listen Orthodox & Muslim elders. They will tell you what went wrong. Through self discovery and you will learn and develop understanding about the past and present generation and our country.
    Recently I was discussing with friends the role of the Aristocracy during the war against Fascism. I was astonished by the ignorance of my friends about the role of the Banda’s and collaborate. Similarly I found them ignorant about Ethiopian patriots in particular the role of Haile Selassie. They knowledge and understanding was based and what they lean from the Fascists, the Ethiopian student movement military government , TPLF, EPLF and OLF’spropaganda . I was shocked and saddened but not lost hope.
    If you reside around DC area you are one of the luckiest one. The Library of congress has lots books on Ethiopia. Actually one of the largest collections of books, journals, video, audio clips in the world. It is also possible to access online books and other information from libraries around the world such as UK, France, Italy and Germany national libraries. Google has lots of books online Google Books.
    One of the reasons I am asking to read before you write is your views on Haile Selassie war time experience are half-baked. Before you write about Haile Selassie , especially as leaders of Ethiopia during war and resistance against the Fascist , Europeans betrayal and Bandas please I advice you to read books about him from different sources . It seems you have already read some but please try to widen your sources.
    For examples for beginners try to read two books, Caesar in Abyssinia 1936, and Sealed and Delivered 1942 by G.L. Steer: Also Ethiopia at Bay: A Personal Account of the Haile Selassie Years is also a firsthand account You may say these books are partisan, but that is not my aim. My aim is to encourage you to read more from wider sources before you formulate your views.
    As I said I do not want you to become part of our problem. Have you read a book titled KESAR ENA ABIYOT. By Birhanu Dinke? Please read this one. It is in Amharic. Probably from your writing I can relate you with this book. It is The Crying of John the Baptist! You know my brother our ancestors aim was to save us from Babylon and above all from identity crisis and mental slavery. They give us a proud country and a proud people despite our internal socioeconomic problems. We squandered it. My brother in some ways we all are victims our own ignorance. Now exile, trauma and self imposed identity crisis killing all of us. The medicine for this is READ READ READ and LEAR LERN….about Ethiopia.
    if you need further info on how to educate our self Please let me know.
    Yours sincerely

    One Love

    • Me on

      Don’t get it! what kinda advice is that? Reading only doesn’t help, he needs some ass-whooping experience – He needs to stop drinking and at least spend a month in Addis.

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