If each culture that exists is a planet in a solar system, I exist in the vastness that lies between two, born on one and traveling close enough to observe the other without really being one of the natives inhabiting it. In the fifth grade we were learing how to fill out applications for jobs. This was my first encounter with the dreaded question: What is your race?

Utter confusion. "Well," I thought to myself, "I'm Black and I'm African but I'm not American." After a barrage of questions to my teacher that stumped even her, she became agitated, convinced me of my insolence (for which I was quite ashamed), and told me I was African American. Just like that she fit me, a round peg, into a square hole. Boxes! Categories! Labels! It seems societies cannot function without these crutches that detract from our identities. Perhaps accepting every thing and every one for what and who they are is a task much too cumbersome for the fragile human mind.

Ironically, if I had to categorize myself I would, in fact, consider myself African American. I am an African raised in America. When did Black Americans become African Americans? And why did this phenomenon not extend to the rest of European Americans and Asian Americans and South American Americans? This system of categorization defies logic. Quite frankly I find it disrespectful to deny Black America the same group-name as other Americans when it practically built this nation with its hands. And it is quite presumptuous to label Black America as African when they are actually as African as George Bush is Irish.

Growing up in America, I have seen my fellow Ethiopians come here optimistic and crushed within months when they realize their new inferior status among their brothers and sisters in this new land. They talk funny, look gay, smell weird, and dress strange. And here I am in the middle of these two vastly different worlds trying to translate. Sometimes I am proud of one and claim it as my identity. Other times I am ashamed of one and claim the other. In reality, I am neither. But from my place in the black northingness between two worlds, I see the whole picture. Both worlds were once one, before a meteor struck with such velocity it tore the moon from its side. Now separated, each struggles to fill that empty place with substance.

About the Author

I have no formal training in writing, but I write because my journal is the only place my thoughts make sense. I write because I have to. I'm Ethiopian/European/American and just as complicated as that sounds. I graduated from UGA in '05 (Psychology/Sociology) and now work for the Honors Program.