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When the young Somali refugee becomes the Somali elder

Somali Bantu American boys in Florida
Photo courtesy of Melvin Baker

I am a Somali Bantu. This is my strongest identity.

But my next strongest identity is that I am a son. I am also a Somali refugee in the USA.

In Somalia, there are two main groups of Somali, and I am a Bantu. In Somali culture, we are very proud of our elders. But for the Somali refugee elder in America, it is very hard. Most Somali elders do not know the Somali language. So even now, they come to America and they do not know how to write Somali language or write in English, even after taking a class for seven, eight, nine years.

The problem with this is that when the Somali elder cannot learn English then they cannot know about the most important things in America.

In Somalia, the elders know the most important things.

They know about tending camels or cows. They know about the culture and the family. They might lead the council. But now they come to America and they cannot know about the things that are important for the family like about the bank or about the job or about the new school. And because they do not know the most important information, then they lose their place of respect.

Then for the young Somali refugee, they are now the Somali elder.

Now, they have to teach the elder Somali refugee about the USA. They have to teach them why you cannot eat with your hands. They have to teach them to take the bus or maybe they drive them to the appointment and then they fill in the information and tell them about the insurance.

So all of this happens and even still the Somali elder is happy to be safe in America but wishes they were still in Somalia but the young Somali is now happy for the new country. So this makes the many generational differences.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.