The questions many Somalis ask themselves is, ‘what is wrong with Saint Cloud, Minnesota?’ Why is there an environment of hate towards people of color and minorities? Why are our children faced with daily hostility at school?
Among the complaints: an “I hate the Somalians at Tech High” Facebook page, bacon being shoved in the faces of Muslims as a provocation by students who know Islam forbids the eating on pork, and an inflammatory essay about Somali Muslims posted by a student on an English class blog.
The media isn’t helping matters. The headlines in recent weeks clearly illustrate a huge misconception about what is occurring with school-aged children, parents and the community in general. The arguments and counter-arguments are presented as cultural misunderstandings among children, but Somali children are rightly in serious disbelieve that their concerns have not been taken seriously by the school administration.
Many good things can be achieved if the three partners: parents, students, and community leaders play a pivotal role in making a safer environment for children in the school setting.
But so far, the three are not able to meet and work on the issue because a group of self-appointed gatekeepers are acting as representatives of the Somali community, but are not Somali. Furthermore, these individuals are not ready to see anything of substance happen.
Two meetings were held at Tech and Apollo schools in the last week between all the same players, working for the best interest of the Somalis but anticipating different results.
School administrators have to approach Somali parents and make them part of the solution. Secondly, they have to work with local Somali organizational leaders to work on these issues in the long-run. Although Somali community leaders are trying to solve some of the problems, it is something they cannot tackle in whole because it involves a wide range of racial discrimination. Thirdly, it is the school’s responsibility to adhere to strict rules in disciplining: investigating all cases in a prompt and transparent way, and sharing with parents and the community leaders the outcomes.
A lot of the frustration towards school administrators stems from questions over whether they are investigating. Being prompt in investigation will clear a lot anxiety and suspicion between all stakeholders.
Besides the school issues, Muslims have been targeted for harassment in other ways in Saint Cloud. In December, cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed in sexually explicit ways were posted on utility poles in St. Cloud. And earlier this week, James Scott Miller appeared in court on a felony charge of making terroristic threats. The 49-year-old Miller, of New Hope, posted his comments on Craigslist in response to an advertisement for a Somali cultural event to be held at St. Cloud State on March 2.
The underlying problem is rooted in racism targeting the Somalis who are black, Muslim and refugees. Their experiences, such as hearing racial slurs constantly, are being felt deeply both individually and by the community.