New American’s perspective on teens’ deaths: ‘We are all interconnected’ (Guest Opinion by Hassina Adams)

Hassina Adams is of Rwandan-Ugandan background. She resettled to the United States from South Africa with her three siblings in 2015. She is a graduate of Onondaga Community College and Syracuse University. Adams is active in the New American community, serving in various capacities on boards serving refugees, immigrants and New Americans. She works in local government.

As a new American, I am deeply concerned about the recent incident in which Henninger students Lueth Mo, 15 and Dhal Apet, 17, tragically lost their lives. The incident has left our community shaken and heartbroken. Their premature and heartbreaking deaths have shattered two families, leaving them in a state of shock and sorrow as they bury their young children instead of planning for their return to school. A parent’s worst nightmare is having to say goodbye to their children before their own time. The boys had a long life ahead of them, a life now tragically cut short by the bullets that pierced their bodies and ended their dreams. This incident compels us to reflect on the values that should underpin our society, particularly the philosophy of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu, “I am because we are,” is a South African philosophical concept that sets forth the guidelines for how we should treat one another, emphasizing that our interconnectedness is the foundation for compassion, empathy and collective well-being in our shared human experience.

When refugees arrive in a new country, some do so with nothing but the clothes on their backs, driven by a dire need for safety and a chance at a better future. These individuals leave their home countries for various reasons, including political persecution, economic hardship, natural disasters, and the devastating impacts of conflict and war. Despite the immense challenges and risks they face during their perilous journeys, refugees carry with them the hope of finding a safe haven where they can rebuild their lives and provide their families with security, a stable life, and opportunities for upward mobility.

They seek Ubuntu in the midst of their integration because it signifies a chance to be recognized, accepted and valued as an integral part of the community, allowing them to rebuild their lives with dignity and hope. New Americans face numerous challenges, including integration, language barriers and preserving their cultural identities, all while striving to embrace the cultural norms and customs of their new communities.

In Syracuse, we have witnessed countless stories of resilience and success among new Americans who have chosen to call this beautiful city their home. Many have gone on to make remarkable contributions, starting businesses that stimulate our local economy; joining the police force to uphold the law and ensure our safety; serving in the armed forces to defend this great nation; becoming medical professionals who provide essential healthcare services; becoming teachers who inspire and educate the next generation; taking up roles in government to make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow citizens.

Parents, bridging cultural divides, strive to instill values and positive attitudes in their children, encouraging them to excel in their educational pursuits and become upright community members. However, the path is not always smooth, and some youth may find themselves ensnared by negative influences due to factors like poverty, identity crises, assimilation pressure and peer influence. The incident involving the teenagers serves as a stark reminder of how these complex factors can intersect and result in devastating decisions and outcomes.

Some youths tread a wrong path and require support to overcome the negative influences propelling them to engage in criminal activities. This doesn’t imply that they should be exempt from responsibility; they should indeed be held accountable for their actions. However, it is important to remember that they are in need of redemption and support services to prevent them from being involved with the wrong crowd. The choices we make in our youth do not necessarily reflect our moral and ethical character. As we grow, mature, and gain experience, we often outgrow earlier habits and develop into better individuals.

We must not lose sight of the potential within our youth and the role we can play in guiding them toward a better future. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a community, we need to step in to support families, particularly those integrating into a new country. By upholding the principles of Ubuntu, we can work together to create a more compassionate, understanding and inclusive society for our teens, to protect them from treading a dangerous path. Furthermore, the role of police officers in our communities brings to light the importance of both understanding and empathy, especially in situations involving our youth.

Police officers, through their dedication and commitment, exemplify the spirit of Ubuntu. While we acknowledge that law enforcement officers frequently respond to challenging situations, it is equally crucial to recognize that incidents involving alleged excessive force have resulted in tragic outcomes that can erode faith in the justice system.

Moreover, for many New American families, when they flee their home countries due to persecution, trauma exists from their past experiences with law enforcement from their respective countries, which they carry with them when they start a new life in America. This pre-existing trauma, along with the systemic abuse, lack of accountability, and cultural stigma associated with law enforcement in their home countries, can significantly impact their interactions with law enforcement in their host country. They may be more likely to approach any encounter with fear and mistrust, complicating efforts to build positive relationships between New American communities and local enforcement agencies.

Given this complex backdrop, it is imperative that law enforcement agencies focus on developing trust and positive relations with New American communities from a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive perspective. Policing with the goal of forming a genuine connection with the community fosters trust, cooperation and a sense of shared responsibility for safety and well-being. Many officers already are doing this.

No family ever wants to experience the loss of a loved one due to actions involving law enforcement. These incidents raise serious concerns about the use of force in situations that could potentially have been resolved differently. Encouraging transparency and accountability in cases where concerns arise helps ensure that public confidence in law enforcement remains strong. Law enforcement officers bear significant responsibilities, and their commitment to upholding these responsibilities is indispensable in maintaining the trust between the community and those they are sworn to serve.

As we await the outcome of the investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, we have many questions that we hope will be addressed, and we wish for the affected families to obtain the answers they seek regarding the circumstances leading to the death of their children.

Ubuntu reminds us that we are all interconnected, and our actions have a profound impact on one another. This tragic incident shows our youth need resources that can help them cope with and navigate the environmental, social and psychological challenges they face daily. Law enforcement must engage with the New American community from a trauma-informed perspective.


Hundreds attend double funeral for Syracuse teens killed by deputy

Protesters in Syracuse call for sheriff to resign after deputy shoots teens in stolen car

Sadness and caution in wake of deputy’s shooting of 2 teens: What do we need to talk about?

Video shows deputy shooting two Syracuse teens in stolen car

Video of deputy shooting teens leaves experts uncertain: ‘What was his purpose for firing?’

Sheriff damaged credibility by shading account of double-fatal shooting (Editorial Board Opinion)

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

This post was originally published on this site