Abdullahi Ahmed, the co-principal of Deering High School in Portland, came to Maine as a Somali immigrant two decades ago. He has four children, ages 10, 13, 16 and 19.

It is very much listening to them … to what they are hearing and what they see on social media but then having them together and saying, “It will be fine.” Because the alternative is not good. Getting angry as an adult and showing that anger may not help. As an adult you will keep a lot to yourself and console them and say it will be fine without you even knowing specific ways or solutions. The last thing you want to tell your children is there is no hope, so you say we’re all here together.

The father of four came to the U.S. two decades ago as a Somali immigrant. Photo courtesy of Abdullali Ahmed

Depending on their age, I will talk to them about history and the challenges and I will talk to them about the future and their role and their leadership and how they approach this world. Sometimes, it is technical, like, there are things that can happen so don’t do that. Or it can be sharing strategies and ways they can navigate the world.

They all know that this is just the latest thing that has happened. The ills of America started from racism and that’s clear if you are a black person. It’s not hard to figure out, even at a young age. With that, they grow up and have things they internalize about their experiences with others.

Injustice is not hidden, it is out there. The people doing it are aware of it. … It is real and it is scary. As an adult, you have the additional responsibility. You don’t want to grieve, you don’t want to be upset because when you do that you cannot reassure your children. So you say, “It will be OK, I’m here for you.”

This was the latest event, but it’s a reminder that it’s not getting better. We need to come together for the sake of our kids, for a better America and acknowledge the injustices and abolish these practices of racism. We need to ask: How we can come together as a community and not just at the time things happen but before things happen and after and all the time in between.

When you hear black people in (the) state of Maine make up 1.6 percent of the population but 22 percent of COVID-19 cases, something is wrong with that. When you hear in school black kids suspended at a higher rate than the student body, something is wrong with that. When the jails are filled with African-American men, something is wrong with that. We need to be really looking in the mirror and saying something is wrong, let’s sit down and talk.

– Staff Writer Eric Russell