First, I realize that it is disingenuous of me to refer to her as “Ethiopian Girl.” Given the content of the poem and the fact that I have also experienced (though to a lesser degree) some of what she talked about, it’s admittedly very contradictory. Yes, I am cognizant of the fact that her name is only 5 letters and 2 syllables long. However, I also do not know how to spell it, given the fact that I know nothing about her culture. To me, it would be equally disheartening to publicly misspell her name. Hence, I’ve opted for the blatantly more feeble attempt at paying her the respect she deserves by not attempt to add myself to the list of people who butcher her name.
My grandfather used to tell me that “Nothing is important until it is called by its rightful name.” It’s something I’ve taken to heart in a lot of what I do, especially because I’ve had my name butchered by people of my own ethnic group. People who though well-meaning, seem to condescend and patronize me with the assumption that I cannot speak or understand my own language because of my American accent. In my opinion, to butcher a person’s name is to belittle that person. I would rather that you never attempt to pronounce or spell my name, than for you to butcher it.
Dear Ethiopian Girl whose name I can pronounce but cannot spell,
Thank you for having the courage express yourself in a way that resonates with people like me. I apologize for my ineptitude and for the disrespect that I have shown to your name and honor, but I am grateful for your strength.