The good, the great, and the ugly

Central MN has so many good things. Central MN has so many GREAT things. However, Central MN also has some very ugly things.

Let me give you a quick snapshot of this by telling you 3 stories that happened in the St. Cloud area in the past month. Do you want the good news first or the bad news? Bad news? Ok, good idea….let’s start with the ugly so we can end on a high note:)

A Facebook group was started entitled: “Central MN Somalian Accidents”. Note: Somalians is not a word – the correct word is Somalis. The description says that it was started “for people who hate Muslims/Somalis” to complain about the way Somalis drive in St. Cloud. Many of you let us know about this group and one person added me to the group which allowed me to see the ignorance and hatred for myself for a short while until they kicked me out (surprise!).

While the site did include some extremely deranged postings about #unitecloud, that wasn’t what concerned me most. As you can see by the picture of a couple screenshots of comments made on the site, violence was the supposed answer to their unabashed hatred of their Somali neighbors.

The one that really got to me was “I stand with refugees (as they’re) kneeling in front of me execution style.” This grotesque comment haunts me. This is the exact kind of inhumane behavior that made our refugee neighbors become refugees in the first place. And now, here they are in Central MN, and we have folks threatening them in the very way they were running from?

As I looked through the site, I realized that the people running it were the same folks that litter the comment section of St. Cloud Times/WJON/KNSI with hate-filled comments. Here, in this “closed” Facebook group, they were allowed to say what they REALLY mean. They “let loose” on what their true leanings are. Let’s not mince words here, some of our neighbors harbor so much hatred in their hearts for our New American neighbors that they want them dead. Sit with that for a minute – and then, let that move you into action.

Now on to the good. The stars of this story are YOU, our #unitecloud supporters! Our Ramadan date project raised $1500 which we spent at Sam’s Club to purchase over 150 boxes of dates. For 3 Fridays in a row, volunteers from the community joined us outside of our local mosques to hand out dates to our Muslim neighbors. Why dates? Tradition has it the dates are the food that is used to break their daily fast during the 30 days of Ramadan.

“Why?” was the question we were asked most, when people realized these dates were free and came with no strings attached. “Because we’re your neighbors, ” we said. “Ramadan Kareem!”

One older Somali genteman struggled to climb the 3 stairs up to the mosque after receiving his box and then turned around, held his dates up in the air and exclaimed: “USA! BEST COUNTRY! THANK YOU USA!”

And finally, I will leave you with the GREAT. Here at #unitecloud, we love stories of neighbors blessing each other! A local couple, Bill and Jennifer Lieser want to share this picture with you as well as the story behind it in their own words:

“(We) were surprised for the second time tonight with a very tasty authentic Somali meal made by our neighbors. One afternoon, over the winter, we noticed three teenagers that were locked out of their house because their parents were late due to bad roads. All we did was give them snacks and keep them warm for about an hour and ever since then, they’ve gone out of their way to repay us.”

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 about a decade. She now works in an immigration law office and is the Founder and Director of #unitecloud, a non-profit working to reduce racial, religious, and cultural tensions in St. Cloud. She is also the Vice-Chair of the Stride Academy school board, a charter school located in St. Cloud. In her spare time (haha) she loves to spend time with her husband and 3 children.