A while ago, my friend and I were talking about the 2016 mall stabbing that happened in St. Cloud. I recalled praying that the suspect was not Muslim, especially not Somali, because I was scared of the backlash the Somali community might get. When it was confirmed that a Somali man committed the act, I recall people driving their cars around town and near the Somali community areas of St. Cloud with Confederate flags waving. Unfortunately, the stabbing event fueled more anti-Muslim hate than there already was here – online, and even in churches.
One experience that happened a few days after the stabbing has stayed with me. I was going inside Walmart to go grocery shopping, and as I was getting a cart, there was an older white woman screaming at the top of her lungs about something I could not make sense of. As I was heading out, after finishing my shopping, I heard the same woman outside of Walmart shouting at another white woman. I heard clearly this time that the woman was clearly shouting derogatory terms about Somalis. The other white woman calmly, but strongly, responded with “Somalis deserve love too”. It was one of the most heartwarming events I have witnessed amidst of all the tension in our community.
During one of my classes at St. Cloud State, a few Somali students shared that they have never been asked to be part of a group their whole life. They hear the chatter around them, but they are never included. They went on to explain that they try to never take a class without a fellow Somali. I also heard a Somali student in class share her experiences about losing a friend just because the friend felt “threatened”. It is so alarming how much exclusion there is, and that even students are affected in the tension.
I fear for Muslim communities not just in St. Cloud, but across this country. The extensive profiling of Muslims at airports, vocal hatred of Muslims in predominantly white neighborhoods, and the distance Muslim students will feel from other students are just some of the events that are going on. I fear for Latinos who will not be able to have a chance to start a new life. I fear for people of color and how the government and law enforcement will treat us. I am so afraid for my family and friends who I dearly love.
As an Asian woman, I can only hope for the best and know that, through social work, I hope to educate and inspire many lives who I will come across in the future. I am still holding on to the hope that many of my friends and family members are holding on to: for change to come.
Written by: Danica, St Cloud State student