The first two Ethiopian girls I ever knew—both students at the elementary school I attended from grades 1 to 3—were, on a surface level at least, my cultural doppelgängers. They both had brown complexions and, like me, their curls hung down their backs one day, and tight braids the next day. But that was the extent of our similarities. Their otherness didn’t waft off of them like the scent of exhaust fumes the way it did for me, the only black Muslim Somali girl at school. Their obvious Christian faith like all of the white kids, the multi-colored beads they wore in their hair like all the black female celebrities I idolized, and the fact that their moms dressed way less conservatively than my mom were dead giveaways that they were Western, and thus nothing like me despite our shared geography, and phenotype.

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