Thursday, September 23, 2010

Interchangeable Ethiopian Boys

Mikias and Gibson 1st day of school '10
When Mikias joined our family, our neighbor Gibson was a few months shy of his third birthday.  We live in a small, mostly white, town and Mikias was Gibson's first black friend.  For that matter, Gibson was Mikias's first white friend.  Not long after Mikias was home, Gibson was at a playground and spotted a black boy.  The boy didn't really look like Mikias but Gibson was confused.  He walked over to the boy, peered into his eyes and said, "Mikias, is that you?"  His dad was close by and quickly explained to Gibson that this was not Mikias but another little boy.  That day Gibson understood that there were more children than just Mikias with brown skin and never experienced that confusion again.  It is too bad that adults can't learn that lesson with the same ease as Gibson.

About a year after our youngest son, Jemby came home another Ethiopian boy, Bude came home to his family.  Bude's family lives in the next town.  Jemby and Bude are the same age and quickly became friends.  The two boys attended the same preschool program and people have been confusing them ever since.

People in our community often call Bude Jemby and vice versa.  All the more astonishing since the boys are usually called the wrong name while out with their parents.  Bude's parents are taller, thinner and younger than us (yet, we still like them) and without our Ethiopian children in tow, no one would confuse us for each other.  One woman in particular would see Bude and never fail to call him Jemby in spite of multiple corrections from Bude and his parents.

Bude and Jemby at football practice
The most absurd Jemby/Bude confusion that I encountered was in a gift shop.  The young woman working there was talking to friends when Jemby and I walked in.

She took one look at Jemby and said to her friends, "Ohmygod, I know him!"

"You know Jemby?" I asked

"No, it's Bude."  she corrected me

"No, I know Bude but this is Jemby.  He and Bude are buddies."

Without acknowledging me, she continued talking with her friends, "When I worked at Qdoba, he came in all the time.  He is Ethiopian but he loves Mexican food!"

Pointing at Jemby she said to her friends, "Isn't he adorable?"

Jemby and I walked away to do our shopping.  This girl was beyond reason, she had a story to tell and she wasn't going to let the little detail of having the wrong Ethiopian boy ruin it.

I think I need to pay a visit to that gift shop soon.  I'll bring Gibson along, I have a feeling he'd be able to explain it to her better than I could.

5 comments:

  1. Spend some time in Maine and then see how confused people can be... I was up there w/Kai & Bae and my cousin (wonderful guy) said, "you can really tell they're brothers, they look so much alike". And I said, "you don't get out of Maine much, do you?" In fact, within the past 10 years Maine doubled it's non-white population -- it's now up 1/2 of 1 percent! Brenda B.

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  2. Actually, you should bring Bude, and Jemby along as well, so the three of you can watch her head explode, while Gibson attempts to explain the difference.

    :o) xoxo

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  3. Hahaha...great plan! I'll bring my camera :)

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  4. ug, people love to keep their blinkers on and you can't tell them different. i hate that our kids have to deal with this form of laziness and invalidation. thanks for sharing the story.

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