What do you know about your immigrant and refugee neighbors? Do you judge them by what you hear others say? Do you choose to believe whatever the media throws at you, no matter the accuracy or inaccuracy of the contents? Do you find yourself overgeneralizing the whole population of your Somali American neighbors?

It is human nature to take the easiest path to judge others based on mere assumptions or biased sources without taking the time to go the extra mile to gather the hard facts about the situation. We tend to believe whatever supports our snap judgement of others.

In recent months, the St. Cloud Times has made an effort to debunk misinformation disseminated locally about the Somali American community in Central Minnesota. Although there is a smart audience that can quickly grasp the reality of the misinformation, there are still those that keep their old ways of negatively thinking about the Somali American community, no matter how many times they’re presented with the truth of the matter. Don’t get me wrong–we live in a free country and everyone can form their opinions as they want. However, common sense tells us that when those with logical decency are presented with compelling new information, they change their mind!

When an article is written about the my community in our local paper, the word ‘freeloader’ is used many times in the comments section, implying that Somali Americans are too lazy to work and that they’re highly dependent on the welfare system. This notion is grossly untrue. Somali Americans are hardworking. Many work in the blue collar jobs in the St Cloud area – places such as Electrolux, Jennie-O and Gold’n Plump. They work hard to put food on the table so that their kids can be successful. Also among the Somali American community are members of the white collar work force – especially in Twin Cities – that work as doctors, nurses, teachers, pharmacists, bankers, businessmen, businesswomen, etc.

[bctt tweet=”Some imply Somali Americans are lazy and dependent on welfare. This is grossly untrue.“]

Yes, we are among those who make up the bulk of foreign born Minnesotans, but, we are also taxpayers like everybody else, contributing to the economic growth of our community.  A report, titled Immigrant Contributions to Minnesota’s Economy (compiled by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition, and the Council of the Americas), highlights the important role that Minnesota’s foreign-born population plays in the state’s economy. This report explains that “the overall role of immigrants in the state’s economy has resulted in meaningful GDP gains in recent years. In 2012, immigrants contributed more than $22.4 billion to the Minnesota’s GDP. That means they accounted for 7.5 percent of the total GDP in the state that year.” The report also explains that “almost 40 percent of Minnesota’s Fortune 500 firms were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.”

We all understand that the United States is a nation of immigrants! Over the centuries, people from different corners of the world migrated to the United States to taste the American dream, its liberty and its religious freedom. No one migrated to America to be discriminated against, to be subjected to persecution, or to suffer humiliation. Everyone in our community has the ability to treat our neighbors in a respectful and humane way. The truth is, we already know as citizens what is wrong and what is right.

St. Cloud belongs to us all. A better and united St Cloud should be preferable to those of us that have love heart in our hearts and believe in the old adage “united we stand, divided we fall”. If we value the human potential and the greatness of tomorrow, we can see that our children can grow together with a bright future if today we sow the seeds of respecting all and welcoming the future with enthusiasm and unity! Let us welcome our newest neighbors in St Cloud!