With all of this past week’s drama in our quiet little city we had much to talk about. For those of you not familiar with what has been happening in central MN you can read more about it HERE, but in a nutshell, some of our local Somali students, parents & community members stepped out to have a peaceful protest regarding how ongoing cultural/racist incidents had been handled by the school and a general discord between somali and non-somali students. Specifically, some somali students have been recipients of assault & harassment (one student had fruit thrown at her on stage during a cultural assembly, another student was spit upon her face, and finally a picture of a Somali student in a wheelchair was placed on Snapchat with an allegation that she was affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist organization).
What ensued from the original article was a hailstorm of hate and xenophobia. To be honest, I was flabbergasted. I know from working in the local healthcare industry that there is a general dislike of our Somali neighbors, but never in a million years would I have ever guessed that the people in my community were capable of the hate filled, apathetic reaction to such terrible crimes against children. Because essentially that is what we are talking about folks, our kids. As a parent, my heart instantly ached for those mothers unable to comfort their kids let alone fully protect them in a sea of ignorance & loathing. What would I do if my children faced these types of situations merely because of how they dressed or what we believed?
Second, I was amazed at how many people were willing to be that open and honest about their hatred in a public forum. These were people who were willing to voice their opinions in front of friends, neighbors, and employers without a second thought and maybe worse, believing that everyone would agree and back them up. Sadly, the majority did. One Somali woman even questioned why there is such hatred for her community- I have no answer and nothing I saw was able to really give her a good one. The census seemed to range from believing that the Somali population is just living off of our government money & taking all of our good jobs to being the perpetrators of a white & Christian genocide. Some believe the government is to blame, others the Lutheran Social Services, and one man went so far as to blame the Jews (don’t even ask me how he got there). There was a general feeling that the somali community wanted special treatment and handouts. Personally, I feel like respect and a safe learning environment is a pretty standard request. Others complained about the lack to assimilate and be more “American”. Never mind that our ancestors were some of the first to wage war on culture and create a genocide of the native american people, the first TRUE Americans (that was their version of “assimilation”). Never mind that I have yet to ever meet anyone that had their “good job” taken from them by an immigrant. I have yet to hear anyone bitch about not being able to get their dream job at Electrolux or a meat rendering plant because they were beaten to it by immigrants.
One woman even shared that a fellow churchgoer went so far as to say that even though she knows that Jesus preaches that we should love our neighbors, she just couldn’t, WOULDN’T do it and would deal with the consequences on judgement day. Yikes. Slowly, I began to wonder how many of these people would call themselves Christians? I dare to say that I think it would be a large number. How many of those that were supporting the Somali community with love and respect would call themselves Christians? I would assume far less. Odd isn’t it that those taught to love are the ones spewing hate?
Always amazing, Natalie stepped forward after the article was published and spent the entire day in the daunting task of peaceably and calmly trying to educate folks and bring them back to the issue at hand. Sadly, this is a wound that has gone a long time in our city without being truly addressed and now it’s infected. Damn near gangrenous. But despite being personally attacked (verbally) and called all sorts of names, she has continued on. Her husband even joined in on the fun with this photo that has now gone locally viral on Facebook. The St Cloud Times even ran her recent blog post. You can read it HERE.
I won’t kid myself. I don’t think there is anything I can do to change the minds of the majority of these hate mongers by writing this blog piece. However, I do hold out hope that maybe, just maybe together we can change just one. I know that sometimes life seems shitty and unfair and it’s easy to assume that the somali family down the street is getting some type of handout. I think we are guilty of making many assumptions everyday rather than educating ourselves. For instance, do you know why Somali’s are here in the U.S.? It’s sure not because they thought our cars were nicer and they wanted to get fat off of big Macs. It wasn’t because their dream in life was to work at a chicken rendering plant and have people shout hate filled messages at them from cars. Nope. Many are refugees:
- a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. “tens of thousands of refugees fled their homes”
Now it’s your turn.