On a yahoo group I'm a member of, the subject this week came up about appropriate attire for your embassy appointment in Addis Ababa. An American posted advice on how to dress, including this statement, "You don't need to go in your best shoes or dress as this would actually not compare to the local peoples best dress."
Anyone else cringe? Well, yes, a brave Ethiopian member of this group responded, politely asking for clarification about what this person meant. A few people came to the defense, saying this person meant no harm and why are we all so sensitive anyway? I so appreciated the Ethiopian woman's response:
"Although I have never claimed to be a "I-Know-Everything-About-Ethiopia-So-Come-Run-And-Ask-Me", I do know first hand
about my life experiences coming from the African Diaspora and how that can lend valuable insight to people who are adopting children who look like me. If my being protective of the culture to which I belong to is offensive to
anyone on this board desiring to parent a child of Africa, I then question
whether you are preparing yourself for the reality of being in a
Transracial/Transcultural/Transethnic relationship and what it will take to build and nurture positive self-concepts within your child(ren) from Africa as they take on life here in America.
For anyone who would "assume" the "locals" are all poor and without, NOPE. Talk (sic) a walk downtown while in Adis Abeba, visit the Malls, yes Malls, watch the business women crossing the streets in their heels with a soulful swagger as they strut with their briefcases in tote. Ask them about Gigi, the designer and they will gladly point you in the direction where you can buy Ethiopian Couture...no, not traditional clothing (there is a difference).
So to set one's mindset into thinking "Starving Ethiopia" that's displayed
over and over without seeing the totality of a nation, one would come to the
conclusion that the "locals" best don't compare to Americans best---but then
again, I don't know what the OP meant and would never put her/him on blast without knowing what was meant."
Today, I had another enlightening conversation with my Ethiopian friend Daniel about this subject. He mentioned something about how this person who made the remark about American dress vs. Ethiopian dress must be only "listening to one story." This afternoon, he sent me a link to this speech given by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie, and I'd love for you to watch it too.
We're still working out details on the time and place for our meeting of the Ethiopian immigrant community with Ethiopian-adoptive families, but one detail is for sure: we're here to reject the single story. Watching this video made me tear up in excitement about what this group could accomplish in terms of peace and understanding, for us and for our children.