8:45 a.m. on Saturday:
A Somali man sweeps the sidewalk in the 300 block of Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault before shops open at 9 a.m.
Late Saturday afternoon:
A woman throws money at a Somali teen working as a check-out clerk at a downtown Faribault grocery store. Throws, not hands.
Why am I writing about these two events observed last Saturday in my southeastern Minnesota community of some 23,000 with a significant Somali population?
I am sharing this because an undercurrent, OK it’s not even an undercurrent, of prejudice exists in Faribault. If your skin is any color other than white, you are open to possible disdain and contempt.
I’ve heard it all:
They are taking our jobs, taking government hand-outs, hanging around where they don’t belong. They smell. They dress weird. They don’t know how to drive.
Two weeks ago a young man left his car running, unattended, while tending to business in a residential area of southwest Faribault. Afterward he commented that he shouldn’t have done that because of “the Somalis.” He’s from Northfield, a neighboring town.
For awhile, complaints ran rampant about Somali men hanging out on Central Avenue street corners. People said they were afraid to go downtown. These men live downtown above businesses, some of which are Somali-owned. Sidewalks are their front porches, their place to gather and converse. This is part of their culture, to meet and talk.
I wish those who continually criticize our newest immigrants could have seen the Somali man sweeping a downtown sidewalk. His efforts show respect for and pride in community.
A 60-something white woman throwing money at a Somali teen simply doing her job shows lack of respect.
No matter our ethnicity/skin color, we really need to just respect each other as human beings.
© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling