The Fight Against Identity Vs. Nationality
I can preach about my Ethiopiawinet, but somehow it boils your blood when I mention the word 'Oromo'?
This article was inspired by the not-so-subtle comments and strong opinions of people who feel some type of way when the word "Oromo" or anything in relation to that is mentioned on any type of social media platform.
There are so many complicated and uneasy matters in the world and politics is one of them.
Let me backtrack and explain the whole thing...
A few days ago, a photography team who showcases their work by posting photos of their clients along with quotes in relation to the photoshoot session posted a picture of me wearing Wayaa Adaa (traditional clothing). I was asked to talk about my culture—emphasis on the phrase, "MY CULTURE," so they can quote me on my response to that question and use it as a caption when posting the photo. This post consisted of a picture with one of my traditional Oromo attires on, along with a caption that explained a bit about my favorite things about my culture and what it means to me. The caption read as follows:
"Favorite things about my culture—most definitely the food and the traditional attires. I love that my name is a dead giveaway about who I am because it always seems to start up a conversation about my whereabouts and my cultural background. I love that my parents made sure that I never forgot my native tongue Afaan Oromo, a language I call my own. (Not to mention it looks great on resumes) Although being an Oromo hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies, I love that I was born into such a rich and restless culture—and therefore, will always be proud to be one!"
A few days later, I reposted that same thing on my own personal social media (IG & FB). Although it was followed by numerous kind comments and likes—there is always bound to be that one negative comment that dissects the whole post apart. There was this one preacher of the so-called "unity and equality" who felt the need to comment that my post did not do justice to the people of Ethiopia—that I should be captioning things about "Ethiopiawinet" and not my cultural background—that we would all better off if I addressed that I am a proud Ethiopian instead of a proud Oromo.
The thing that most people seem to be oblivious or maybe negligent to is the fact that to some folks out there, just hearing the word “Oromo” boils their blood, stirs up their high blood pressure. And it just so happens to be those same people who would be so quick to comment on posts like such, to preach about unity or “Ethiopiawinet.” Mind you, in this post, I was responding to a question I was asked, which was to talk about my culture—again key phrase here being "MY culture" so of course I'm going to talk about being Oromo. And yet, to some folks, this somehow meant that I should be talking about being Ethiopian—a nationality.
The funny thing is that if it was a post that had something to do with any other ethnic group, or a simple post with the typical traditional attire, such as an habesha kemis—posts like such would be praised upon instead of being scrutinized apart with negative comments.
Why is it that some people only get bothered when somebody mentions that he/she is Oromo and/or that he/she is proud to be who they are or freely discuss their culture, whether it be on a social media posts or an in-person encounter? When someone feels the need to preach the idea of embracing "Ethiopiawintet" down your throat at the expense of disregarding your own language, your own traditions, your own culture—well, that's where the line is drawn between identifying a plain hater as opposed to a genuine supporter of unity/equality.
So you would preach about equality—which is having the right to freely express your own beliefs, cultural background, and downright identity—and yet I cannot and should not mention that I am a proud Oromo by your standards?
See I never really had a problem with the word Ethiopian, because at the end of the day, my identity will forever and always be Oromo, while my nationality: Ethiopian.
Let's imagine another scenario that portrays the same issue...
Whatever your ethnicity is while reading this article, imagine how many times you have been at a community event of some sort—say a wedding, a graduation party, or a birthday, etc. How many times have you seen this happen? And again, think quiet and hard about this before you jump to conclusions. At events like these, several types of traditional music is played out and accordingly, people get on the dance floor and dance away the evening as the songs change up to different types of ethnic group music. The one thing I have always noticed is that people will stay out on the dance floor and would truly dance and have it up to any song that comes on; however, the second Oromo music comes on, those same people slowly either walk off the dance floor and return to their seats and/or there would only be a few people left on the dance floor to dance along to an Oromo music. I know that you know what I'm talking about.
Better days are coming...
Fortunately, this has changed drastically over the past few years. I used to notice these kinds of encounters quite a lot about three years ago and I used to always be baffled by it. However, nowadays, people seem to be dancing to all types of traditional music just as equally as they would to any other. They seem to be a bit more tolerant when they hear the word "Oromo." Times are changing and so are the people. There are a lot of things that the people of Ethiopia can argue on when it comes to politics, ethnic groups, and cultural divides. Nonetheless, after all the lives that have been lost in the fight to bring peace and equality to all the people living in the country, better days seem to be coming our way. Although there is still a long way to go, with the struggle and restless sacrifice of the queerroo and all protesting parties for justice in Ethiopia, along with the new PM who seems to be getting on the good side of the people, a much better future might just be ahead of us.