Bale Kader - Finding My Place: Social Justice Student at Hamline University

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My name is Bale Kader. I am a student at Hamline University studying Social Justice and I was a refugee from Ethiopia and this is my story. 

My name is Bale Kader. I am a student at Hamline University studying Social Justice and I came to the United States when I was three. We came because there was conflict in my country and Oromo people were being persecuted. My parents didn’t want our family to go through that, so we fled Ethiopia for Kenya and stayed in a refugee camp for a couple months. Most people had to stay for around three years, but a good friend of my dad’s found out where we were staying and figured out a way to get us out so we could come to Minnesota. If you have family that’s already living in the United States, they can sponsor you. My dad’s sister sponsored us, so we went to stay with her.

Though I was too young to remember, my dad frequently talks about our arrival in the United States. Before he came, America seemed like the land of dreams, the best place to grow up and be successful. He realized once he got here that it was completely different than his expectations. Everybody hears stories about racism in the United States, but you can’t understand the extent of it until you’re here. After he arrived, he liked it much less. He decided he was going to stay for a while and go back as soon as he could, but that was easier said than done. When your kids grow up in another country, that becomes their home and it is much harder to leave.

The biggest obstacle for me as an immigrant has been fitting in and overcoming stereotypes. Growing up, I didn’t feel like I fit in with the kids who were black. I’m African and that always made me feel like I wasn’t black enough. Society portrays refugees as if we are all the same. It’s interesting considering that my friends and I don’t come from the same place and our countries’ languages are different. We just grew up under the same circumstances, being stereotyped and put into boxes. That experience is what makes us the same.

When I was growing up, I didn’t realize that this desire to fit in was something that so many other people experienced. I never directly confronted these misconceptions until recently. People from all cultures and backgrounds go through obstacles and, in order to empower refugee youth in a country full of political tension, we need to find a way for everybody to connect so that they know they aren’t going through this alone. Being able to be confident in myself regardless of what’s going on in the world is a major accomplishment. Though I can’t say that I’m 100% confident all of the time, I am not pressured to do whatever everybody else is doing and that’s a big deal for me. After all of these obstacles, going to college has been another huge achievement. I think it was a bigger deal for my parents to know that their son is a student at Hamline University, despite the adversity they have faced. This is a common narrative that fuels our community with hope and pride.

I am also very motivated by stories. They give me the drive to be successful and create change. I often hear stories about people who have suffered through years of trials and tribulations. They come out with scars, but they become much stronger people because of it. That’s why I love studying social justice; no matter what’s going on, people continue to have resilience and strength so they can fight back. When I hear about these struggles, I want to help. How so? I honestly don’t know yet. Maybe that’s part of my success story. Once I find out how to really help people, then I’ll know. I like to think that whatever I do, God has my back. So, whatever happens is his plan. In the meantime, resilience is powerful. You have to accept that life is full of tough situations. The important thing is how you will go forward when it’s all said and done.

To all of the other refugees growing up in a new country: Don’t give up. Keep looking and you’ll find your place. You just have to give it time. Everybody experiences hardships, regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality. Whatever you’re going through, have the confidence to believe in yourself and know that you’re going to get through it. Afterwards, you’ll look back and realize, “Yeah it was hard, but now I’m here. So what’s next?”

Writer: Felicia Philibert

Felicia Philibert