An act of hate was recently perpetrated by a resident in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. A packet of hateful, deragogatory depictions of Prophet Mohamed engaged in bestiality was posted to a telephone pole in front of a Somali store. This was a calculated move meant to cause embarrassment, and create an environment of hostility in this community of 68,000 – a third of whose population are black, Muslim, and Somali refugees
What was more frustrating was the decision by both county attorneys, Stearns and Benton, not to file criminal charges against the person responsible.
Actually this was not the first time the community has faced racism. In the conservative heartland of central Minnesota there is always the feeling by refugee communities that race plays into their daily interactions, but the hope is always that it will change for the better.
In 2001, when the largest group of refugees was moving into Saint Cloud, there was great resistant by property owners to rent to the refugee community because they believed that they would not be able to pay their rents. After some time the perception changed because of economic factors, and even organizations were for changing and renting their properties in large numbers to the refugees.
In 2002 a Somali center was vandalized and sprayed with swastikas and bullying of Somali children in the schools was quite prevalent. There were tensions between students and a feeling in the youth that affected their presence in the school system.
Human rights issues are universal. I believe it is time the community opens a human rights office, so that it can investigate hate crimes. The disgruntled who perpetrate these crimes could learn the reality around them. It is time we all defend the rights of community members, whether we are majorities or minorities, black, white or brown – we are all equal in the eyes of God.
There are many good people in the community, and I don’t want to undermine the work they do to make Saint Cloud a better place. It is my utmost hope to see the faith community play a bigger role making inroads by defending other faiths when they are demonized.