Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Pride and Prejudice March 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Different cultures, all the faces of today's Faribault, mingled during the Fall Festival.

Different cultures mingled during the 2011 Fall Festival in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

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?

These young Somali women represent the changing face of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

These young Somali women represent the changing face of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

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.

Vendors, like Riyaam, peddled their wares at the 2011 festival.

A Somali woman peddles her wares at the 2011 International Festival in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

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.


Banadir, a Somali restaurant, is located in historic downtown Faribault.

Banadir, a Somali restaurant, is located in historic downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

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


22 Responses to “Pride and Prejudice”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I tend to think that the people that harbor these beliefs are uneducated and uninformed on the vastness of the world in which we live and the worth of every human being. The recent incidents involving people of Somali heritage in close proximity have done nothing to help endear them in your town I am afraid. It is as if all are judged by the actions of a few, right? Prejudice and hate occur when others do not take the time to understand and educate. There will always be “bad” people in the world but they come in all shapes and sizes and ethnicities.. Respect is key, I agree.

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    I concur with Beth Ann; well said.

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    Years ago when I lived in Chaska, I got up early and left for my Sunday morning 18 mile run. The temperature was a frosty 10F. I didn’t think much of it – it just what I did every Sunday, rain, shine or cold.

    As I ran through the woods behind the highway and rounded a corner, there was a crowd of Guatemalan Pentecostals kneeling on the ice rink, holding their church services. Apparently, they didn’t think much of it either, it is just what they did every Sunday, rain, shine or cold.

    As I ran by, I though, I would be pleased to have folks like that as my neighbors – but then I had another thought. Working for the MPD, I had a familiarity with the insane level of violence common among Central American gangs.

    So what is new, some people live exemplary lives and some don’t.

    So now we are talking about Somalians. Well, some of them are fine people and some of them are not. Some of them are hard working and some of them are free-loaders.

    Some of them are a lot of things, good, bad and indifferent. Immigrant groups always struggle, some more than others – but every individual deserves respect until they prove that they don’t deserve it.

  4. Littlesundog Says:

    I completely agree with both Beth Ann and Almost Iowa’s comments – well said! I am still reeling in disgust about the OU fraternity racist chant video that we saw a couple of weeks back. I am still disgusted when I see a confederate flag boasted on a vehicle. With negative attitude and judgment about others, we become no different than how we see them. It is about respecting each other and trying to have understanding about their experience – what makes people who they are.

  5. Your last sentence says IT ALL – RESPECT!!! I learned at an early age not to judge – my mother worked with special needs adults and children. My mom was open and honest with us about judging people at first glance and that instead should get to know the person and be open to new experiences, especially people and cultures. I also grew up in diverse communities as well as went to high school in a very small town. I met some great people in my college degree programs too from throughout the U.S. and the World – Great Experience. Thanks for the reminder – I remember my mom saying “Intolerance is Ignorance”.

    Take Care

  6. cheryl schrader Says:

    This post has really stuck home for me. I have had the opportunity to work among the Somalia community the last two years and I can tell you that they are very hard working and would like to be working more and earning a living wage so they can support themselves. One of the problems is and I suppose this is common among all immigrants, is there can be such a language barrier and they do not all assimilate into the community at large. (Why would you with the treatment they are receiving).

    I have been in their homes, many of them, and they are the cleanest of any and I have been in a lot. Because they often pray in their homes, it is their Mosque” and must be kept clean.
    I can remember, and I bet you can too, being in small towns on the prairie, and people (mostly men from that area, standing and conversing on the street corner) I don’t remember anyone voicing fear from those people)
    The jobs that they have taken are jobs that “real” Americans won’t take at the wages they are getting paid.
    The bottom line here is that we all need to respect people of all colors and races and we will be strong as a community and a country. When the core values of respect and decency are gone, we probably will not be pleased with the results. Something to ponder and think about.

  7. Jackie Says:

    It’s so hard to see, and hear about this. I cant imagine having to live with people who would treat me this way. Ugh! It brings to mind the song we used to sing in Sunday School when I was little…… “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in HIS sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

  8. No name Says:

    I get what you are saying however it does work both ways. Respect by all is necessary in life regardless of race. It cannot be a one way street from all races I have witnessed instances of trying to leave the scene of fender benders far too many times with the excuse of a language issue along with many other instances and in the case of your article it is important to balance the out race issues as there are race issues for white people too. They just aren’t pointed out or published.

  9. Ann Vohs Says:

    Thank you Audrey for your big heart and your open mind. We are all in this together and our families have come to this country often fleeing hatred, prejudice, discrimination based on ethnicity, class and religious beliefs. How little we know of what our ancestors faced when they arrived here and how quickly we forget what it is like to not be accepted or understood. It is people like yourself who see and appreciate the beauty of our world and the people in it who make this a better place to live.
    You are an example of what it truly means to be a Christian. By living your faith and having God’s love shine through you.
    Ann Vohs

  10. Amin Says:

    This is very touching, I grew up in Faribault and I have seen it all. But deep down there are generous and very nice people that are based in Faribault. But I hope we stand together and we build our community for better and peace. “United We Stand Divided We Fall”.

  11. […] “If your skin is any color other than white, you are open to possible disdain and contempt,” she wrote in March. […]

  12. […] has highlighted the blog of Faribault resident Audrey Kletscher Helbling as another source of discontent about prejudice and a lack of community spirit in the city and has […]

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