Why don't you do something?
So why don’t you do something?
As Somali refugees, foreign, without a grasp of the language and economically challenged we were outsiders of the community and constantly exposed to systematic racial policies in all aspects of life in Germany. Due to the constant exposure of racially motivated crimes I became immune and almost numb to racism. While I struggled to find my own path in fighting the process of becoming the unwanted inferior black child in the perfectly homogenous catholic town, I began to see my Diaspora experience as singular and personal. In the small town Rheinbach (West Germany), I was seen first and foremost as the black girl, second as the Muslim girl, and then as the immigrant/refugee girl. With the multiple identities that were assigned to me by the dominant culture, Somali wasn’t one of them. I began to see myself as a representative of the black race, since all my flaws and imperfections when it came to schooling or etiquettes were assigned to my supposedly ‘inferior’ race. While I never lost my Somalian identity, it was my black identity that I felt I had to constantly protect from scrutiny and disgrace.
After my family and I moved to the U.S and decided to settle down in Minneapolis I found myself in a dual culture shock. Even though it was expected that I would find myself having to get used to the new cultural norms, habits, and values of the American life, it was the rich and large Somali community in Minneapolis that came to surprise me on multiple levels. I soon found myself to be identified as a Somali female rather than just simply black in the public world of school and outside activities. My Muslim identity was constantly questioned due to the fact that it was normalized that every Muslim girl decided to wear the hijab. My Somalian identity that used to be such a personal and private part of my life in Germany suddenly became the focus of my identity in many conversations.
Although I have been always an active member of the Somalian community due to family ties and the connection to Mosque and prayer times on Fridays, I have never seen myself as and activist for the bettering of my community. Maybe it is because I never wanted to limit myself and my responsibility to give back to society to one community. I don’t believe that as a Somalian I have a greater obligation to my own community than any other. However it is not until recently that I notice how discontent and truly frustrated I had been with my community.
The rise in gang violence, criminal activities, and school drop outs in the Somali youth culture have been alarming and frightening. The generation gap and cultural gap between many younger Somali immigrants has been frightening. The unwillingness to talk about the real issues at hand is an epidemic that seems to be ignored by everyone. Issues such as STD, teenage pregnancy, and sexual activities of any sort can’t be openly talked about since those have to remain a private matter that is closely connected to modesty. While nobody is willing to talk about HIV, the number of Somali men and women that contract and live with it is alarmingly high.
While I continuously talk about these issues, and try to get a sympathetic ear that is as concerned as I am, I remain to be unheard. For most of my life I decided that somebody else could deal with that problem because I was going to invest my time into something more productive. I have learned from this class how dangerous it can be to develop such a perspective.
The death of a close friend and family member has made me realize that the reason I was able to distance myself from the destructive nature of the Somali community was because I was never truly affected by the dysfunctional nature. After my friend was killed by Somali gang members that were trying to protect their space, I became even more reluctant to get involved in the community. My feelings of resentment disgust and anger prevented me from ever considering looking into the deeply rooted causes of the ongoing crime within the community. After I read the last chapter of Tracy Ores book that we were reading all semester, I became aware of how little I have been doing to prevent the problems of the Somali community to escalate. I have talked about it, laughed about it, cried abut it, and even criticized the people that tried to do something about it, but never have I personally done something to create change. Now that I have taken this class I have learned to complicate my own notions of what it means to be critical of your community. While I am still afraid to become involved, I feel more responsibility to become active than I have ever before.