Rumors and Reality

Over the holidays, my mother in law reminded me of a saying that is so pertinent to our day and age:

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Fear drives people to set aside their intellect and comprehensive capabilities. Case in point, the cross necklace rumor that was started a couple weeks ago in the St. Cloud area. As best #unitecloud can tell, this is the was the first telling of it on Facebook:

Wal-Mart Rumor - originalThe status reads:

I just heard a (friend of my good friend) went to check out at a store in St. Cloud. Being the good Christian she is, she had a cross necklace on. When ready to check out, a Somali clerk told her she had to remove her cross necklace before she would check her out. And, being the good Christian she is, she refused and asked for a manager. (The) manager then came, informing her she (had) to remove the cross necklace in order to go through her check out line. She and the lady behind her left their groceries where they were and walked out.

What ever happened to a free country? What ever happened to Christianity?????????? We are unable to believe in Christ or our religion!!!! So why do others get to believe in theirs even if it is offensive to us Christians? I will no longer be shopping at this store in St. Cloud. We as Christians need to stick up for our rights also. This should not be one way!!!!!!!

This status had over 3,000 shares. Imagine for a minute how many of our neighbors read that story. Wow.

For those that read that story, there were a few possibilities of what to do next.

One option was to read it and ignore it/do nothing.

Another option, which we saw played out in the comment section of this status, was to stop and think and realize that the reality of being told to go to a different line because of a necklace – by a manager at a secular store – is really unlikely. People who saw this status also commented about the whole “friend of a friend” part of this story. This person did not see something with their own eyes but was passing it on as truth. #unitecloud even talked to a person who knows the original poster of this status – they told us that they confronted the poster via Facebook messenger and pleaded with her to take it down because of the damage it was causing to our community. #unitecloud also reached out to the original poster, but, they did not return our message.

The last option, which we saw played out in the comment section, through the number of shares the post received, and even in other original statuses (like the one below), was to take this rumor as truth and spread it around as another reason to hate all Somalis and/or all Muslims in this area.

Walmart Rumor - 2nd storyThis status reads:

So, right in small town Sartell, MN, a guy wearing a cross necklace was told by the Somali bitch at the check out he had to go to another line because he was a Christian and the manager told him the same thing…..but if the show was on the other foot, all (you) bleeding heart liberal fuckers would call the man racist and intolerant. I find it funny how all I hear is we are supposed to accept and be tolerant of these fucking people when they can just shit all over us?????? Bullshit.

Time to lock and load and defend what’s ours and that includes against (you) that are helping to destroy this country and hand it over to the enemy. 

Geez. Talk about a whole other level. Name calling and all call to arms to boot. Scary. #unitecloud did report this status to the Sartell police.

348sBoth #unitecloud and the St. Cloud Times got multiple messages concerning these rumors. The Times did some investing at Wal-Mart (which many say this happened at – although folks also claimed it happened at Coborns, Sam’s Club, or Aldi) and did a story on it stating that Wal-Mart can not verify the rumor, even after talking with employees and management and reviewing surveillance tapes. In fact, Kory Lundberg from Wal-Mart corporate headquarters told the Times that such actions by a store employee would violate company policy.

So, all signs point to the falsehood of this rumor. That being said, we know there are ways that Muslim folks are different from non-Muslim folks. Their feelings and treatment of pork, as well as alcohol, are one example. Their prayer life and their dress, especially for some Muslim women, are an example of ways they stand out in Western society.

So, we’re different. So what? #unitecloud knows of the differences firsthand as we navigate the waters of a Muslim Somali American man (Haji) and an American-born Christian woman (Natalie) working in the St. Cloud community together. You know what we’ve found out, though? Our differences do not divide us because we choose  to have a healthy amount of respect for each other as humans and even for each other’s choice of religion.

Peace is a choice, one we all must choose on a daily basis. It is imperative we understand that, while there will be differences in the way we live our lives, we all desire a peaceful and prosperous community. #unitecloud will continue to work towards that end in 2016. Thank you to those of you that continue to join with us, both online by sharing and commenting on our articles, and in person by participating in community events and giving back to those in need – we so appreciate you!

About the Author

Natalie Ringsmuth

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Natalie grew up in Central Minnesota and received her Music Education degree from Concordia College in Moorhead. She taught middle school choir in Georgia and worked in the church sector for over a decade. She now works as a legal assistant at Tripiciano Immigration Law, a trainer with the CARE (Community Anti-Racism Education) Team at SCSU (St Cloud State University), and as Founder and Director of #unitecloud, a non-profit working to reduce racial, religious, and cultural tensions in Central MN. She is a member of the Community Impact Team at United Way of Central MN and is a member of the St Cloud District 742 school board. In her spare time (haha) she loves to spend time with her husband and 3 children.