An excerpt from a recent letter to the editor the Sun Journal declined to publish:
“I have just received a letter from DHS stating my boyfriend was not longer covered under Mainecare, to me that’s not fair…because Americans treat the smelly Somolians [sic] like good [sic], give them everything free, including cars…the Somolians have been in America long enough to know what life is about.”
So have Americans, we point out, in a country founded on principles of equality, tolerance, and accepting huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But some, it seems, think life in America is no longer about these noble ideals.
Rather, it’s about getting their handout before anybody else.
Yes, it’s a cynical interpretation. But it’s hard to continue to feel upbeat when reading passages like the one above, in which the writer insists on blaming Somalis for doing the very thing they wish to do.
We should be accustomed to it by now, because regardless of efforts to improve relations, many around the Twin Cities insist on hanging onto misguided stereotypes about Somalis. Unfortunately, this problem isn’t confined to Lewiston, but is actually a global issue for the Somali diaspora.
Last week, a Kenyan-based writer for the McClatchy Newspapers, Shashank Bengali, filed a report detailing how Somalis are the most vilified, and stereotyped, ethnic group in Africa.
“A Kenyan colleague once complained that he had to leave his apartment because Somalis were moving into the building, paying cash for everything and driving up the rents – “there goes the neighborhood,” Bengali wrote, echoing sentiments advanced by our unidentified letter writer.
Bengali also writes about the wholesale slayings of Somalis in South Africa, and the staunch refusal of some African governments to issue refugees official paperwork, like identity cards.
They have been made unwelcome in a world they were forced to enter, once their homeland spiraled into hellish violence. As refugees, as an article by Dr. Alice Chartrand Haines of Auburn detailed Sunday, Somalis flee across barren desert to arrive in camps plagued by unhealthy and unsanitary conditions, where cholera and polio fester.
Yet from continent to continent, Somalis face ridicule, insult, blame and sometimes, violent retribution.
And for what? For fleeing war in search of safety. For, as Bengali writes, being entrepreneurial and industrious, which Bengali notes is a prime source of resentment against Somali refugees. For rebuilding their lives against terrible odds, which, the last time we checked, are the kind of “rags to riches” stories in which Americans often take pride.
With all apologies to our unidentified letter writer, this is what’s really unfair.