I am writing in response to the New York Times article on the backlash on Somalis in St. Cloud (“The backlash against Somali refugees in St. Cloud: ‘These people aren’t coming from Norway,’ ” StarTribune.com, June 20). I am a social work professor who lives in Minneapolis but has taught at St. Cloud State University for the last 11 years.
I don’t think the New York Times got anything wrong. I really don’t. However, despite what St. Cloud resident John Palmer says in the story, it is irrational to fear and dislike people whose main crime is living and looking different than you.
What I want to add to the conversation is that equal to the pockets of people who live in irrational fear are the many people who live in harmony with Somali-Americans in St. Cloud, and more than that, are advocates in small but meaningful ways. But I don’t want to spend too much time on that because these stories should never be about applauding whites for the decency of welcoming and embodying what a neighbor should be.
I think what’s missing in these stories are the narratives of Somali-Americans who have stood their ground and contributed to the economy, growth and richness of St. Cloud. Some of them have been my students, and, not only have I enjoyed having them in class, but they have been gracious teachers to me about the experiences of being refugees — part of a diaspora where “home” largely exists as an abstract idea.
Many of them choose to stay in St. Cloud. They are part of the future of this community, and I am grateful that they are there.
Sheila Moriarty, Minneapolis
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Does anyone really want to go to St. Cloud after reading that New York Times piece? The article explained the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in the St. Cloud area. However, there was one point that the New York Times failed to mention: the change in election results from 2016 to 2018.
St. Cloud and the nearby area are in legislative District 14. In both the conservative 14A (west St. Cloud, Waite Park) and the moderate 14B (east St. Cloud), the Republican candidates, including Trump, won in 2016.
Only Dan Wolmagott claimed a victory for Democrats in 14B, but he lost 14A in the state Senate race, so he was not elected.
Now, fast-forward to 2018. Amy Klobuchar won both the 14A and 14B side in her U.S. Senate bid. As for the B side, all the Democratic candidates won, and Dan Wolmagott was elected to the state house. As for the A side, Republicans did win but some won by small enough margins that some Democrats won the St. Cloud area as a whole. This includes Tina Smith for the U.S. Senate special election, Tim Walz for governor, Julie Blaha for auditor, and Steve Simon for secretary of state. But what it means is that maybe St. Cloud is not the Republican Trump bastion that the New York Times implies it is. According to the results, there seems to have been a Trump backlash just like there was in the Twin Cities suburbs, given that the St. Cloud area supported all those Democrats.
It also means that some people are tired of those pro-Trump, anti-immigrant zealots who try to force their will on the city area.
William Cory Labovitch, South St. Paul
• • •
For many years, the Center of the American Experiment has been a machine for transforming xenophobia, racism and a rapacious strain of capitalism into respectable content for the local media.
The group normally camouflages its ugly side behind a layer of academic dazzle paint. The disguise failed June 20 when the New York Times quoted Kim Crockett, vice president and general counsel of the CAE, about the immigration of Somalis and other East Africans into central Minnesota.
She said the group planned to challenge a state resettlement program in court. “I think of America, the great assimilator, as a rubber band, but with this — we’re at the breaking point,” Crockett said. “These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way. These people are very visible.”
Sometimes the truth comes out. No misleading claims about cost, crime or culture. The meaning was clear. Minnesotans with more melanin than a Nordic ideal are not welcome. Why? Because they are “very visible.”
The CAE is not a fringe group. On its board sit leaders in Minnesota law, finance and business. Wealthy foundations fund it. It is part of the State Policy Network, the Koch brothers’ national organization of advocacy groups.
That makes it too dangerous to ignore. Instead, Minnesotans should remember Crockett’s quote and the motivations behind it whenever we encounter CAE’s positions on school vouchers, unions, immigration, civil rights, trauma-informed teaching and stripping away environmental safeguards.
To paraphrase Maya Angelou, Crockett has shown us what the Center of the American Experiment is. Believe her.
Denise Specht, Shoreview
2020 PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Trump’s trumpeters have it all backward, as they will soon see
The June 21 piece by Jennifer Carnahan (“Minnesota poised to break toward Trump — and greatness,” Opinion Exchange) was a curious read on our state’s political mind-set.
To attribute Minnesota’s economic vitality to Trump is ludicrous. Other than the massive tax cuts to corporations and the well-to-do, President Donald Trump’s economic agenda (read: tariffs) has been brutal to Minnesota farmers and manufacturers. The “good times” that will end “if the Democrats take back the White House in 2020” have not been that good, unless measuring one’s 401(K) balance as a sole criterion of Trump’s impact. Many Minnesotans’ values go deeper than that.
And the 1.5% margin of loss in our state by Trump in 2016 indicates only that Clinton was a weak, ineffective candidate and that many chose to take a shot with Trump.
We all now know Trump to be a narcissistic, untrustworthy and divisive blowhard that panders to base instincts and those unfortunates who are perennially aggrieved.
No matter who the Democratic nominee is, I suspect Carnahan will have a tough job keeping Trump’s margin of loss under 15 percentage points.
Fool me once ...
Joe Carr, Eden Prairie
PEDIATRIC GENDER CLINICS
Let the gender experts — not a right-wing writer — have their say
I read (with dismay) Katherine Kersten’s absurd article in the June 21 Opinion section (“We may look back and ask: What were we thinking?”).
The Star Tribune Opinion pages are giving Kersten space to air her questionable views on a legitimate issue of pediatric medicine ... one about which she clearly knows nothing.
I hope you will provide rebuttal space in the next few days for pediatricians and child psychologists to provide some actual evidence on the topic of gender orientation in children. I am certain that among the various Twin Cities hospitals and the University of Minnesota’s Medical School there are a number of professionals who would be pleased to offer a realistic and factual assessment of the issue.
John B. McKelvey, Edina
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