A Somali boy’s escape from Somalia’s harrowing genocide leads him to his dream paradise—and the brutality of American racism.

Hosted by

Boyah Farah. Photo courtesy of Boyah J. Farah

On this week’s Scheer Intelligence, Boyah Farah, a young refugee from Somalia’s hellish civil war describes his family’s narrow escape from death and their arrival in the placid suburbs of Boston. But life was more a nightmare than the dream he had imagined.

Boyah J. Farah seemed most struck by the beautiful green lawns that greeted him, his mother, and six young siblings who arrived in Boston’s suburbs after escaping Somalia’s brutal civil war. He tells Scheer Intelligence host Robert Scheer and this week’s guest co-host Narda Zacchino how his family had run from killers with AK-47s, faced starvation, and lived for too long in squalid refugee camps of 10,000 tents and where people were dying in huge numbers from malaria, which Boyah contracted, and Dengue fever. One of his “jobs” there was burying those who died, including friends. An international humanitarian group found them a home in the Boston area, where Farah attended high school and college. Such a life should provide an upbeat memoir of enlightened human liberation. But instead, as described in his just-published book, “America Made me a Black Man: A Memoir,” Farah discovered in the country of his dreams an alternative version of oppression: being Black in America.

With war, Farah says, “you can actually point a finger and say, ‘Hey, that is where the war was at.’ But in racism…you do not know where the enemy is. I am a nomad, which means I value freedom and I value equality…the idea of America where everyone is equal, that is what I held dear. But the reality is, America really shows me that I am less of a human being and that itself is a very debilitating, excruciating pain. And I say that racism is not just the cousin of death, but it's the cousin of excruciating and slow death, which is much…worse than an actual war: the death of an actual war is immediate, you die right away.”

Farah talks about his experiences being confronted by police officers who said he robbed a bank, was selling drugs, did not stop for a pedestrian or broke other traffic laws, the kind of shocking accusations that have sent innocent Black men to prison. Yet, despite the ugliness of racism and those who propagate it in America, Farah said he has love for America and its people and its beauty. That is what he expected to find when he arrived here. Farah notes, however: “What really works me up is this new little experience of racism. What racism really does for the body: it enters your heart, it enters your liver, it occupies your whole emotion and therefore you cannot run away from it.”



Joshua Scheer