Starting a new life in America is already a challenge for many immigrants as they struggle to make ends and to culturally adjust to a foreign culture. And now something else is making the lives of Somalis in Minnesota more stressful—gang violence that has taken hold of youth as one death is avenged for another, and then more.
In less than a year six young men have been killed, three of them have lost their lives in one week – all young men between the ages of seventeen and thirty. Worst still neither the Somali community nor the authorities are doing enough to stop further senseless killings.
Sadly, there seems to be a dichotomy in the glorification of violence in everyday life and the reality of the consequences that arise from constant exposure to violence. In the US, and many western countries, violence is glorified. It is present everywhere you look— on television, movies, computer games and even cartoons.
It is no wonder then that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports astonishing numbers on crimes of violence among American youth. CDC reports that in 2003, 5,570 young people ages 10 to 24 were murdered, averaging 15 deaths each day. These statistics also show that in 2004, more than 750,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 were treated for injuries sustained due to violence. Yet with these staggering facts, the U.S. continues to treat youth violence as normal crime and not as an epidemic.
Finding a solution to deter youth violence is certainly no small feat. For immigrants past experiences in their countries of origin coupled with a lack of knowledge or understanding of the US legal system compound curbing violence in the immigrant community. All the same, it is vital that new American communities, neighborhoods, law enforcement agencies and cities and states work together to address social ills and save our children. Together, they must gain understanding and expose the problem.
It matters little what neighborhood one lives in; no one is immune or protected from crimes, petty or not, what happens in one area impacts the whole community.
The Dalai Lama, wisely said, “If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.”
It is essential that we start to discuss approaches to prevent violence: increase public awareness on conflicts, strengthen government programs and bring together community leaders, law enforcement and legislators to fight against youth violence. No –it’s not only Somalis problem!
Somalis are part of this greater community; they are part of the extended Minnesota family. Somalis are as concerned as the larger Twin Cities community about the violence that is plaguing our youth.
It is imperative that we all understand that it takes time for an infant to crawl. While Somalis learn and start to assimilate into mainstream America, other stakeholders must step up their efforts and find ways to reach out to the community and prevent further mayhem in our city and communities. We must stand together in solidarity and as one community steadfastly address this dilemma.
As citizens and tax payers, Somalis deserve similar attention afforded to their needs. The police must find a way to penetrate and gain the trust of this community. Social programs that educate and engage the Somali community must be strengthened. Criminals must be persecuted to the full extent of the law. Ignorance should not be a defense to a crime. We must also prosecute family member who facilitate/support a crime or obstruct justice.
Finally, let us heighten our efforts to give this issue the elevation it deserves. There are media campaigns against public health concerns such as obesity, however, there is very little on violence and drugs.
Continuing to ignore this epidemic will truly risk the safety of our communities. When we address violence and drugs as public health concerns then we are bound to address the issues appropriately that will result in peace.
Law enforcement agencies must establish themselves in the community so that the community can trust them enough to give information on perpetrators of crime. Dorothy Thompson was quoted to have said “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict.” Let us be creative and tenacious to bring these criminals to justice and off of our streets.
Our children, who are our future, are vanishing right in our eyes. The prosperity of any community’s depends on not only how well they integrate into the mainstream but also how well their children do in life.
The Somali community must take responsibility of its youth. We waste precious time keeping a united front instead of fighting this social ill. We need to organize small and while doing so continue to do all we can to prevent further killing or hurt in our community. Start by saying ‘far too many, these mindless killings must end.’
We must find peace in our street and neighborhoods. We must work hard to see our children and their children’s children grow into responsible adults.
As Croesus argued “In peace the sons bury their fathers, but in war the fathers bury their sons”.
Opinions expressed by Mohamed Hassan are his own and do not reflect the opinions of Mshale.