‘It reinforced and reminded me that recent immigrants will soon be integrated into this society and frictions/problems will resolve themselves. History bears this to be true.”
These sentences were written on an evaluation form completed by police officers attending one of the seminars that I conduct for law enforcement officers from time to time. It was an event at the Anoka Police Department several years ago. The forms were filed anonymously, but I wish I knew the evaluator’s name so that I could credit him or her.
That note gave me hope and increased my trust in our law enforcement system, arising, as it did, from a Twin Cities suburb where most inhabitants have few encounters with immigrant communities. It came as a surprise to me that a police officer (or police department employee) would be so optimistic about immigrant communities.
Back then, I thought there might be a long way to go before those beautiful words could come true, that the officer in question was exaggerating. But it didn’t take me long to see the light of hope at the end of the tunnel — a reality that recently arrived communities are integrating into mainstream society.
As one current example, you may have learned through the major media that, in Minneapolis, the election of DFL Party delegates is coming up soon. But you’d think the election were tomorrow if you could listen to Somalis talking in the coffee shops where they gather after long days of work. The election is already eliciting constant debate. The differences among the candidates are discussed, as are their positions on city issues like the budget, neighborhoods, security and so on.
It is interesting that two Somali candidates are running for the positions involved and that Somali-Americans, residents of Minneapolis, are talking about whom they plan to vote for and the reasoning behind their support. In my judgment and humble experience, the city is not yet ready for a mayor drawn from the ethnic Somali or East African communities. But running for the post is a good start.
It is a reflection of the feeling of the Somali-Americans, and of their willingness to participate in the democratic process of their city. It is a sign indicating that these, my own people, at last believe what we’ve heard for many years — that America is a land of opportunities.
Let this experience be a reason to bring unity among Somali-Americans so that they can work together toward a strengthening of our forces as a community. Numbers and voices matter in this country and in the West in general, and we must actively participate in the development of our new country, the United States.
And one more point: I sincerely hope that the media will begin to depict the Somali community in a more positive light. For up to now, at the hands of the local news outlets, we have been a defenseless community whose image has been continuously undermined by the negative stereotypes.
Abdi G. Elmi, is a trainer on diversity and cultures in Minneapolis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.