Thursday, January 10, 2008


African? American? African American? Habesha?

We are a nation, a culture, a society of labels. Sometimes the desire to label has a positive origin - to acknowledge and celebrate our differences. Sometimes labels come from very negative places. Sometimes labels are used to be "politically correct" in form, but not so much in substance...

However, labels are tricky, often much too over or under inclusive. We've already had some interesting conversations with various people on this subject. For example, one woman asked me (very politely) something along the lines of "oh, they are from Ethiopia, does that mean they are African American?" I think she was genuinely trying to politely ask if my children are black. And I certainly didn't sense any negativity in the question.

But it was interesting - because my children are in fact black.

But they are not African American.

Right now, they are simply African! Or more specifically Ethiopian (or Habesha, the Amharic word for Ethiopian). Hopefully, they will also soon be legally ours and when we get through the mountains of red tape, they will eventually also be American citizens.

I am aware that our society will view them as "African Americans", but it isn't fair to say that my kids will necessarily identify with African-American culture. They have their own, which we will try our best to preserve and offer to them however we can. I think it is important that they learn about African-American history, MLK, Rosa Parks, celebrate Black History Month, etc because that is something as AMERICANS we should all be doing. That is party of MY history, and a part of the U.S.'s history that has heavily influenced or society today.

This article was published in Adoptive Families and is about an adoptive mom that works at the agency we are using. I thought she summed up her thoughts on the subject very thoughtfully and respectfully.

This is a very hot button topic for many and I'm certainly not wishing to offend any one. And I think that all of this will be a learn-as-we-go process. But I certainly think twice now any time I attempt to use any sort of a label...


chou-chou said...

OK - how weird is it that we both wrote on the same topic on the same day???

That article must have gotten us both thinking...

Great post, btw.

Cat & Mark said...

That is strange! What is your blog address? Didn't see it in your profile.

Lisa W. said...

Exactly how I feel! I could've written that. I'm still figuring things out and by the time my girls come home, I will have it sorted out how to address this. The fact is, they have more in common with white people than they will an AFrican American person. The only 2 things they do have in common is Africa and dark skin. I just found your blog and love reading about just before we will travel in a couple months. Thanks for sharing.