The recent troubles among neighbors inside an Auburn apartment block shouldn’t be easily dismissed as a sad, but isolated action, perpetrated by a misguided few. This kind of militant, group intimidation of a Muslim couple should instead be regarded as a fearful episode in cultural relations within the Twin Cities.
It indicates discrimination is growing ironically indiscriminate, as specific race, color or creed, it seems, doesn’t matter anymore. Only one key descriptor need apply now, it appears: different.
Observers have described Lewiston-Auburn like a powder keg of cultural tension, stemming from the Somali migration. Yet the incident in Auburn had nothing to do with Somalis; the husband of the couple is white and originally from New York, while his wife was born in Yemen.
Their fear represents a frightful evolution of our community’s most pressing problem. Though we’ve made great strides toward inclusiveness and harmony, there are many in, and around, L-A who remain comfortable cloaked in ignorance and stereotype. Some express these sentiments in hushed tones, or veiled metaphors.
Others, more dangerously, act out these ugly, stunted feelings against any convenient target. Such as what occurred this month on Main Street in Auburn, where this couple so feared for their safety they felt compelled to buy baseball bats for protection.
And somehow, they remain amazingly convinced our community is the right fit for them.
“It’s still a good community, and I think we can still live here,” said one of the victims, Kenneth Post, to the Sun Journal. “That [building] was just a bad place.”
Post deserves kudos for his understanding, but it would be shortsighted to downplay what happened as just the product of one bad building. On repeated occasions, experts in cultural relations have cautioned that this community is one escalating incident away from severe, perhaps uncontrollable, trouble.
And as much neighbors may wish to explain away this incident as an overblown misunderstanding, this prediction is what makes writing it off so perilous. Failure to heed the multiple warnings from this behavior – the intimidative pack mentality, the jeers and taunts – will leave the Twin Cities unprepared for the next time it occurs.
And it will occur again; a question raised by the incident is how often do things like that happen now?
A clear message should be sent that such actions have no place in L-A.
What’s worse is unlike other “incidents” here, there’s no shortsighted “ham sandwich” media frenzy or intolerant outsider to blame for this flare-up. What happened in Auburn was homegrown discrimination, the most vile kind.
And so dangerous, if left unchecked.