Dear those who dare to listen,
Just a year ago, around this time, enjoying the luxuries of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, my husband finally gave in and bought our son a pair of those huge earphones that all the kids are wearing. I pleaded with my husband not to buy them because my son would want to be cool and keep the earphones on while outside and put himself in danger when unable to hear someone trying to send him a message. Every morning before leaving for the bus stop at 6 am I would sing a familiar tune for my son, “Don’t wear those things while walking to the bus stop. Someone will be trying to tell you something and you won’t even know it because you can’t hear with those things.” Today I realized that I may have been singing to the wrong person.
“We, the adults in this community, have been the ones wearing those horrendous earphones. Our youth are giving us messages that there is a problem and we are not listening.”
We, the adults in this community, have been the ones wearing those horrendous earphones. Our youth are giving us messages that there is a problem and we are not listening. Are our earphones blocking the sound or have we chosen not to listen? On November 28th, 2016, a son of the Columbus, Ohio community sent us a message for the very last time. Abdul Razak is only one of thousands that have reached their ends wit with facing their challenges alone. Abdul Razak was brave enough to tell us that he felt uncomfortable at his school. Did anyone reach out? Who heard his cry? Now it has been shared that he had bad grades? Bad grades do not show up over night.
Is not graduating from Columbus State and making it to Ohio State University not conviction enough that this young man had dreams and was ready to invest in his future? This young man was angry and he had to scream before we could hear him. His actions are proof enough that he did not know the power of his words so he resorted to actions. I am ashamed of myself. I stand by what I preach to my children. If you are not a part of the solution, you are complicating the problem. I am ashamed that my neighbor’s son felt so desperate that he took a car, ran over fellow classmates and then tried to further harm others with a butcher knife. No gun, no sitting with the victims for an hour before killing them, no floor plans tucked away under the floor boards; just a painful last choice reaction to the things that were going on in his life. Why were we not there? Where was this community? Where was I?
“As a community, we have no idea about the challenges that resettled refugee families face. There are so many ninety day agencies, doing all that they can to get these families started but that is not hardly enough”
Now I am going to use my words because his have been silenced. Don’t you dare try to change this story and claim that I am taking the side of a terrorist. I am taking the side of my neighbor, my neighbor’s son, my neighbor’s classmate. He was not convinced that he was important and that his contribution to his community is valuable. We as a community have to fess up and admit that we all let the ball drop. We have to take responsibility for this tragedy. With tears in my eyes, I regret that I never got a chance to meet him and let him know that Allah wakes him up everyday for a mission far greater than he can understand now. I apologize to the people who were hurt by this action. I am sorry that we as community have not done better to protect all as they endeavor to dream bigger and do better. What is the state of education if it becomes the very subject of rash and extreme human behavior.
As soon as I heard the news finally identifying the suspect, I had to pull over. “Damn it” was my first reaction. My aggressive words had nothing to do with the fact this story would quickly follow the “muslim terrorist” path. That would have been selfish. A life was lost and the first thing people thought about was how they and their children will have to face backlash. Really! I instantly thought of his mom. I am a mom. I thought about how she might feel now that her American dream for her son has ended in an international nightmare, where the unenlightened from the other side of the globe are trying to get a piece of the pie.
This was a family of newcomers. Do you know how many years people wait in refugee camps to be resettled? Do you know how many people from war-torn countries never even make it to a refugee camp? Have you ever walked from one state to another in pursuit of safety, shelter and food for your children, not even for yourself ? I have not. I can only imagine finally letting out a sigh of relief and watching the walls crumble around me, yet again.
As a community, we have no idea about the challenges that resettled refugee families face. There are so many ninety day agencies, doing all that they can to get these families started but that is not hardly enough. There is no gap in the research confirming that refugee families’ hardest challenge after resettlement in the U.S. is finding balance between multiple identities and learning the English language. What resources are available to walk young people through the life-changing event of resettlement? Grassroots organizations need to become a meeting ground for others who are as ashamed as I am this happened. I have a teenage boy. I have had to talk sternly to him. I have had to let him see my tears to understand how I fear for his safety and pray exhaustively for his success. I know that this young man’s mother has done the same.
A fellow ESL teacher once reflected on a home visit with one of her Somali students whose parents were not proficient in the English language. The teacher shared that every parent wants the absolute best for their kids. Wanting the best for our kids has nothing to do with language, religion or color. Maybe this mom and her son just needed a little help navigating the pressures of their new community. Today I challenge all of you to be a part of a solution. We do not need anyone else to complicate the multitude of problems facing our young people today. What happened on OSU’s campus is not the problem of one particular religion. We do not need interfaith circles on this one. We need a bunch of humans to get together and commit to teaching our young humans how to deal rationally with their emotions, successes, failures and struggles.
How can we save the others?
With Motherly Love for one neighbor to another,
(Dorothy Hassan writes from Columbus, Ohio)