Education technician Bakhita Saabino of Portland has four children ages 15, 16, 22 and 24. She likens institutional racism to a disease, and says the U.S. should prioritize finding a cure. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Bakhita Saabino of Portland is an education technician at Riverton Elementary School in Portland. Originally from South Sudan, she immigrated to the United States in 2000. She has two sons and two daughters, who range in age from 15 to 24. 

As a mom, as an African or black woman, watching what’s happening and hearing what’s going on across the country is really quite scary. How do I protect my kids?

Safety is my number one concern for me and my family. If black people don’t feel safe with reaching out to police in times of emergencies, then who will protect us? Today, it almost seems as though calling the police or getting the police called on you is a death sentence. I would like to see the police department building a relationship with the community to change policies and enforce reforms.

Coming from a struggling country to the United States and seeking a better life and thinking this is the end of the struggle and a better place to raise our kids safely, I feel like it’s not what I thought. Right now it’s a struggle to raise my kids here. They are coming to a point where they are having kids, and they are going to be black.

One thing I say to them is to educate themselves, to do the right things and to raise their voice to be heard. Yes, you’re black. Yes, there is racism in this country. You have rights here, too. You belong.

When things happen like (a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd until he can’t breathe), they think about what’s going to happen to their kids. My son, he’s pretty quiet, but he went out to protest the first day in Portland. He came and told me and I was shocked. But he needs to stand up for George’s death, too. I think he’s doing the right thing to go over there and raise his voice and not be violent.

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I understand people are angry. People are protesting outside. People are protesting inside. But when it gets violent, it’s just creating more problems. It’s not solving the problem.

Racism is like a disease that we really want to find a treatment for. When we get hit with a (viral) disease, the whole country works to find a cure. Why not find a solution, or education, for that issue (of racism)? Because if it was fixed a long time ago, it would not have hit us the way this hit us.

I am not saying that black lives matter over other lives, but that black lives matter just as equal as any other life.

– Staff Writer Glenn Jordan