Many young Ethiopian-Americans will not forget November 8th, 2016. In fact, for all Ethiopian-American diaspora – 2016 has been a year where both their countries have taken headlines by the storm. Let’s start by dispelling the rumors that a group of people, say Ethiopian Americans, all voted for 1 presidential candidate. There were Ethiopians that voted for Hillary Clinton and Ethiopians that voted for Donald Trump. In fact, Trump won 8% of the black vote (Hillary winning 88% – the rest independents). Yes, some Ethiopians voted for our new president-elect, Donald Trump, and yes we are black. We’ll get to both those points below.
So, what does this mean for the next 4-years for our community. First, if anyone truly knew the answer to this question they would be a Nebiy (ነብይ)/Ragaa. There are of course policy implications. Immigration may be more difficult, especially for Ethiopian Muslims looking to come to the U.S and/or looking to bring their family. Additionally, diaspora who have not completed the citizenship process may see changes in the process, timelines and overall culture of immigration. Trump has proposed some strict and swift changes in the first 100 days of his presidency. We will get a new Supreme Court Justice which will potentially lead to some major policy changes. Let us note here that Trump has stated post- election, same-sex marriage is “settled,” however, he is willing to challenge the 1973 Roe v. Wade (the rule affirming abortion rights). Some will agree with this choice, and some will not. However, 56% of people that voted for Trump said the Supreme Court appointment was the most important factor in their decision.
Then there are also the social implications. The FBI and Southern Poverty Law Center both cite an overall spike in hate crimes nationwide in the last year. Specifically, post-election there has been a spike in hate crimes and hate-crime related incidents. In fact, on December 3rd a classified hate group, the KKK, is planning a post-election celebration in North Carolina. There have also been protests nationwide against the president-elect, and an immense increase in donations to Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP, International Refugee Assistance Project and other social organizations that are against Trumps priorities.
So, now what? Many people I know are asking the same question. Practically speaking, two points.
First, say something. Many Ethiopian-American millennial diaspora identify as black-Americans especially in comparison to the older generation of parents that raised them. There are still conversations in our households explaining to our family members that we have complex identities and can (and do) identify with being multiple things such as, Ethiopian, American, African and black. These conversations need to be filled with more knowledge, now, more than ever before. Instead of laughing off our family’s causal prejudice comments (you know what I’m talking about), we are in a space where we need to talk about race, sex, class, power, and the intersection in the US. This is crucial to the development of our diaspora community. Stop avoiding tough conversations at church, community centers, soccer games, (or Starbucks) etc., and challenge yourself to have these conversations. We were not taught how to talk about politics – productively. We were not taught how to question a system and collaborate – productively. Now, we have no choice. We need to have these conversations in our circles or we’ll all fall even more behind.
Second, do something. After the election I sent an email to a group of young Ethiopian-Americans to let them know that if anything – this election should kick our community into gear. We need to challenge ourselves to understand American policy and how it affects us daily, mobilize strategically, and harness the power of education to support ourselves. If you voted for Hillary, I’m sorry for your loss, but it’s not the end of the world (I think). Now, do something. Stop only posting on social media and figure out what you care about, and work with that. If you voted for Trump, congratulations. You may be feeling defensive at the backlash of your decision. However, stop. Stop only commenting on posts and do something. Support the community that may suffer because of this decision. Hate crimes do not separate Republicans from Democrats, policy does not separate Christian immigrants from non-Christian immigrants – changes in America will affect us all.
No one knows what the next 4-years will bring. The one thing we can agree on is this may be a challenge, but this is also an opportunity. Say something. Do something.
After the election a, wise old Ethiopian man sent me a text which was a quote from his favorite book – it said, “let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Let this be our call-to-action. Let us not grow weary, for the betterment of our community.