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Ethiopian Americans and The Challenges They Face

Updated on February 10, 2017

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Ethiopian Americans

It seems that almost every family in Ethiopia has at least one member living in America. Since the time of the repressive socialist regime which ruled the country for 17 years, many Ethiopians have fled to different parts of the developed world and most of all to a dreamland, America.

Even as i am writing this article it is a great achievement for most Ethiopians to migrate to America. Many Ethiopian Americans live and try to prosper through different challenges and that is what my article is aimed at.

I don't remember the year when the famous DV lottery started but it remained to be a "God sent miracle" to many, as they were able to migrate to a land of dreams, America, just as a matter of luck. It is a great sensation and wonder to see an Ethiopian man or woman who happen to get the DV lottery.

Age is no barrier here, i have witnessed elderly people just stuffing their luggage to go to America. So now there are many Ethiopian-Americans in the united states, but their roots still in motherland.

Colour of the skin

Black Ethiopian Americans?

The color of our skin shouldn't be a standard for what we can accomplish. It is a paradoxical thing anyway. Black is usually misrepresented. Some of us still believe that the devil is black. The color of a person's skin is still an issue among some native white citizens in America.

People with this mentality never accept other " Colored" people as equals. You can see and feel it when you find yourself in a situation where someone is discriminating you be cause of your skin color. Ethiopians in America are not immune to this. They face discrimination and racial abuses from people who believe they are inferior.

I would like to say that Ethiopians are of different breed. They haven't experienced colonization as many African countries do and they don't think they are Black. You can comment on this, but this seems to be the reality among many diaspora Ethiopians.

Most African Americans are mentioned as "black Americans", hence color is an issue. Why would all media outlets still say "Obama is the first "Black American" or "African American" President? Shouldn't it just be "Obama the 44th president of the United states"?

Racism issues

Language Barrier

English language is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome when you go to English-speaking countries like America. But wait a minute, haven't we all been educated in English since high school?

Yeah, but if you think that is good enough to enable you to communicate effectively in a highly developed country as America, forget it.

It is just unthinkable. I would like to refer you to Meskerem Bekele's comedy about this issue. You probably have seen it, and he has made such a great point in exposing the dark-secret of the life of Ethiopian Americans. If you can't speak any language effectively, you already are discriminated.

No body may have discriminated you, but you are not confident to go and have friends, get together with them and do lots of things we normally do in a society. What if we try to study and improve our English language skills? Possible, but takes time and money too.

It is my understanding that whatever we try to improve our English speaking skill, it wouldn't come close to the natural speakers. You may have your own opinion though.

Meskerem Bekele on Ethiopian American English challenge


We all grow up in a specific culture and once we mature in it, it is very hard to change. This remains to be true to all Ethiopian Americans or any immigrant who migrated to another country as a matured person.

There are so many cultural issues that immigrants face like social living, religion, politics, way of interacting with others, celebrations, and food. You think we should abandon our culture and be a complete American? That will only happen to children who are born to Ethiopian American immigrants. But the children have also difficult time adjusting and choosing which culture to follow.

One way they see that they are Ethiopians, and the other way they know that they are not. One of the significant cultural trait of Ethiopian Americans is the famous flat bread "Injera".

Injera is well and alive in America, there are reports that Teff is being in high demand for a glutte-free diet variety.

Money issues

What do you expect from a family who thinks one of their own has gone to a wonderland and is soon to send a stream of cash flow so that they may start to live a relaxed life? No wonder many expect a regular help.

An person who is struggling to meet ends met in his new home country has to pace the ground on how to satisfy the need back home. So some prefer to just vanish, i mean no phone calls, no letters, no money transfers, no nothing. This seems to be the best way to hndle the stress that is associated with money.

There are few who just try to keep up but most of them have been converted to the western style of life, social isolation.

Don't be surprised if you don't get more calls and money from your close relatives who live in America, or else where in the developed world. They are probably in a huge financial struggle.

Ethiopian Americans Documentary


I know politics is a very difficult topic in Ethiopia. The country has been living under so many changes and political struggles for the last many decades. The way of democratizing political processes is a long way to be built yet.

People who live in a developed and highly democratized nations like America will clearly see how things are very different in their own home country. Democratized nations have eliminated the "Gun" from their political processes. Presidents come and go without anyone thrown in prison or killed.

Not so in many third world countries where the leaders think they are leading their own state. It is very difficult to change leaders through democratic and peaceful ways because the leaders think they can't lose their power to another one without a blood-shed.

Why do you think there is no blood-shed when the Americans elect their leaders every 4 years? Shouldn't there be someone killed or many thrown in prisons?

This way of politics is forgotten in democratic nations. They do their fights through the media, through their "Pens" and reports. That is all they do. If any social group want to continue fighting for their rights, they can only do it through peaceful ways.

Once the election is counted and the winner is declared, everything settles to normal, all other position parties start to support the winner and they lead the country without the "GUN POWER".

Now many Ethiopian who live in America are in a strange political movements that is not fully democratic. They still want to use the power of the gun to remove leaders from power. What a paradox. Why do anyone want to lead us back to killing each other again? The country will be better off with many fighting for change through democratic and peaceful ways.

This "Peaceful" way of fighting for change may take many decades, but sure will work. We have to forget the power of the gun to do politics in this developing nation.

Martin Luther King is a good model to lead a peaceful and democratic fight to bring change in America. Former president Obama was elected through this prolonged change that black Americans fight for. Race is still an issue in America, but they fight it through democratic means.


These are just few of the challenges Ethiopian Americans face. It would apply to other diaspora Ethiopian who live in many other developed nations. Not wrong to say that some of the challenges are shared by all immigrants living in first world countries.

If you are planing to go to a developed nation, be aware that life will never be easy there. Lots of struggles await you.

Hope this article informed and entertained you as well. Your likes, comments and shares are highly appreciated. So long!


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    • profile image

      Gelana seid 6 years ago

      U wrote down what always come to my mind. Thank you!

    • awle profile image

      Al Aber 6 years ago

      Thanks for the honest response alex. I appreciate your comment. Life in the west is good actually but it will be hard when you migrate after you are a grown up, and have to start life from scratch again...i wish all will understand this.

    • profile image

      alex 6 years ago

      well in ethiopia to migrate to the developed world is taken as a pride, even immigrant(diaspora's) have lots of pride as they think they have better opertunities as immigirnats and talk a lot about there flasshy life abroad with out metntioning the hard parts this with the economic situation in the country is making create a generation which ultimately think migration is the only soloution to success!!!!!!!!!!