What defines our Somali community, in part, is a yawning gap between the rhetoric of our families behind closed doors and the killings of our young men in the streets. The problem is that an honest debate on controlling these senseless killings — a prerequisite for becoming a meaningful and contributing part of society — is uncomfortable for us Somali-Minnesotans.
The consequences of this gap have shaken, once again, an unprepared mother. Less than a week after one of our own was killed and another seriously injured in downtown Minneapolis, we lost another on Thursday. Just when everyone in our community thinks we are in a state of quiescence, tragedy strikes.
This latest tragedy is emblematic of a bigger problem. Somali parental influence is declining, and instability rocks our community. From Al-Shabab’s recent recruiting in our community to our youths’ vulnerability to the streets, time after time we hear of a tragedy with no evidence of warning signs. Various ambitious youth organizations have faltered and failed. Even within conversations among some Somali parents, there is deep skepticism about just how much influence they have.
It is time our parents and elders stop acquiescing to tragedies. Each tragedy brings an opportunity for us to capitalize on. It allows us to realize the importance of dedicating time and engaging constantly with our children.
Parents should be forceful about knowing what their children do, where they go and with whom they affiliate. How is it that a child of ours can communicate with a terrorist operative for months in our community and travel back home to fight a propaganda war without any warning signs?
How is it that a child of ours can be so vulnerable to the streets that his peers know more about his weekend whereabouts than we do?
These indolent ways of managing our families have contributed to the noxious consequences in our community. A reactive decisionmaking process is not a way to manage a crisis. It is time for Somali parents to implement a broader strategy of constant engagement with their children.
Yassin Omar lives in Hopkins.