What it Means to Be A Neighbor

– Author –


When Unite Cloud came to my class at SCSU, I was able to learn many new things in depth. I had heard of UniteCloud before, however I was fairly unaware of what the organization did. It was lovely to find out that one of their main goals is to make sure everyone has a place and feels safe in Saint Cloud. I have lived in Saint Cloud my entire life, and many times I have noticed how much hate and resentment certain people in this area harbor for other people.

One of the most impactful taglines I took away from the talk was “silence is indifference”. I definitely need to be more willing to speak out against wrong behavior and rhetoric when I hear it.

In the UniteCloud blog post “Something I’ve Learned” by Lilly McCoy, she explains how she grew up in a mainly white community—and the differences she saw at SCSU. She was able to make friends with people of varying races and ethnicities, which opened her eyes to some societal issues. One of the biggest things she learned about was her white privilege. She became aware of how others were hyper-criticized and she was able to be excluded from that. She asserts that “along with privilege comes responsibility”, something I believe to be very true as well.

I really relate to Lily about white privilege because, although I did not grow up in a mainly white community, I am a white women with privileges. My most vivid memories of when that really became clear to me was in high school. I went to a very diverse, public school that is known for all the trouble that happens there. The rules were fairly strict, especially about security issues such as walking the halls in between class times. There were many times that I would be walking in the hall during class and would not be stopped, however people around me would be. All the times I can remember that happening, the other person was a person of color. It is problematic because even little things like that constantly contribute to the larger system of racism. That is why I think it so important to talk about racist behavior, not only to spread awareness but also to stop racism on all levels. Profiling is not really an issue directly affecting me, but I still recognize that millions of people have it affecting them everyday. It is hard to solve ingrained racism such as profiling, yet if we do not start working towards a solution-people will continue to have their lives altered by unnecessary inequalities.

A big problems to me is that people do not believe that white privilege exists. Finding a calm way to explain that is does, and that there are steps we should take to eliminate it is important. Meeting people at their level and taking smaller steps towards understanding it is more realistic.

Dawn Holler’s blog post “Why I Love Where I Live” describes her experience as a white person in a very diverse neighborhood. She laments how sad it makes her that people look poorly upon her neighborhood because of the people that live there. They really just lack the understanding and familiarity she has with the people living by her. She also shared how much small things such as looking after loose pets, or greetings in the hall matter to her and the community.

I think that Dawn’s perspective on what it means to be a neighbor is very important. I live in a rural cul-de-sac that is all white people, and the whole block which leads up to my house is white people. We all know each other and have gotten together for community celebrations. I have no doubts that if someone different came into the neighborhood, people would be unnerved. Even though any of my neighbors now could turn out to be bad or disruptive-people would be much more upsetting if it was a person of color who came and tried to integrate into the community.

I know that people in Saint Cloud are already upset by how many people of color live in certain areas. It is very disheartening to know that people move away or will not even look at living in certain places just because of who else lives there. As Dawn explains the people that move in are just trying to go about their lives, and there is no logical reason to discriminate against, or judge them. I hope that as the United States becomes continually diverse, people will not think of certain groups as bad or dangerous. We are a long way from that, but spreading stories like Dawn’s and reaching out to people who are being wronged are great places to start.

To undergo a real world activity related to UniteCloud, I volunteered to teach english to adult refugees that do not know the language. The program takes place once a week, at an apartment building in Saint Cloud. I found out about the program through my church. There is a small group of women who take turns teaching the groups every week. At first I was unsure if I would be able to do it, because I am definitely not a teacher. However, after the first time I attended I knew that it did not matter. The people that come are not literate in Somali, so they are starting with the basics of reading and writing in English. So while I do not necessarily know the best ways to teach advanced concepts, I can teach basic skills with ease.

The opportunity is so great. Not only have I been able to offer my services to help people, but also I have been able to connect and learn more about the people in the program. Many of the people are refugees, who fled during dangerous times, and have the scars to remind them of it. However, they are so friendly and very willing to learn. I am sure they have experienced a lot of adversity, in Somalia and the United States, but they are still moving forward. I think that if more people knew about this project, and many others like it, they would be pleased. One complaint I hear all the time is that the immigrants do not know how to speak English. That judgement completely disregards how difficult it is to learn a new language though, especially as an adult. My hope is that I am able to help people learn English and know that I am welcoming them here. I also want to share with people I know, who are not in support of immigrants, the positive, and sometimes life-saving, opportunities immigration has brought people. I think the program is a great way to share about my experience with this group, and I am excited to continue learning from it.

Brittney is a student at St. Cloud State University