Raising An African Child In America

When it finally sunk in that Donald Trump was the President-Elect of the United States of America, my first reaction was shock and disbelief, as many other residents of this great country. However, my second and most visceral reaction was fear and worry for my children. As a mother of two very beautiful, smart, confident, loving and ambitious children, I immediately felt the responsibility to protect and shelter them from the silent majority that handed Donald Trump a resounding victory.

As a member of the Muslim faith, an immigrant and a black woman, its safe to say in a Donald Trump America, all the odds are stacked against me. However, more important than myself are my children, so I decided to focus my energy, time and love on them, more now than ever before. I quickly realized that the strength of the immigrant child depends on the parents guidance and that guidance should be based on two important premises; cultural and religious values.

The strength and confidence of the individual is premised on his or her values in life and those values are based on one’s culture and faith. Every person, poor or rich comes from somewhere and that somewhere is called home. It is a home, whether without electricity, good roads, clean drinking water and even schools, it is still called home. It is a community of people with hopes and believes centered around a cultural artifact or a religious structure or both. In their approach to life, the community is responsible for all its members. The goal of most societal celebrations and gatherings are for building individual strengths, communal unity, social and individual bonding. Ones value systems, dictated by the community with the parents and the family at the center stage, goes a very long way in determining the social structure of the individual. Remembering those parental and communal words of advice are key to not falling prey to pressure from peers, visual and print media, and now the internet.

How does one survive the pressures of being a migrant parent, a parent who values their culture and faith but struggles to convince the young migrant kids and those born in this new country that there are values and faith independent from what is taught in their schools. Since these young kids are real citizens of their new country, migrant parents walk on very thin ice in regards to selling their culture and faith to the young.

My take on this is as follows:

(a) At the very early stage in the child’s development, one has to apply the carrot and stick approach with more carrot than stick;

(b) Expose them to their culture as much as possible, either taking them on home holidays to experience your culture or making sure that they mix with kids of similar background;

(c) Take them to mosques and similar religious activities to see and meet with people of their age and faith; and

(d) Tell them stories about your country, your people, your childhood, the early days in your country eg. school, social and religious gatherings, etc.

Let them dream of home which makes them long to see those places, whether it is the beautiful streets and hills of Kigali, the vibrant streets of Banjul and Serrekunda, Dar es Salaam and even Conakry. Let them know the history of their people and be proud of who they really are. These are the building blocks for social and intellectual cohesion and relevance and once you know who you are and where you come from, you can easily face the challenges of being a migrant parent or the child of a migrant parent. You are then grounded, making it possible to brake all the barriers and burst through all the ceilings. In the absence of these strengths and attributes, you face the possibility of being just another social misfit working to survive and making ends meet.

To my fellow parents, always remember that the strength of your child is in his or her identity, teach them about their origin and they will be well grounded.

Author: Muhizi, OSOW Community Member

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