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Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017

Your reactions and others to the refugee issue

Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008, at 11:17 AM

I was just looking over the comments posted on my two stories published yesterday about the Somali event at MTSU last Thursday and I have some thoughts. First, I'd like to thank one of our own bloggers, Chantal Rich, for posting information about the event, because, for some reason, the PR department at the school didn't know anything about it until I called them.

After researching and covering this issue over the past few months, I can safely say that the topic of the Somalis in Shelbyville really pushes some buttons with a lot of people. Late yesterday, a lady came to our offices to complain about our front page. She was upset that the photo and story about a civic leader who passed away this weekend was not as large as the photo of the two Somalis right next to it. However, she apparently neglected to take into account the image of the Red Hat lady at the bottom of Monday's edition, which was larger than any of the other photos on the page. Unfortunately, she left the impression with the ladies up front that the true issue was not the size of the photos, but rather the very inclusion of the refugees in the paper.

This is not the first time someone has taken issue with the mere fact we put these refugees on the front page. When the series first ran, we took some grief from several people because the five part series ran during Christmas week. It appears to me that some folks would rather we didn't run anything at all on the Somalis and pretend like they simply don't exist.

But then there was the other call I got yesterday that gave me pause. It was from a lady that lives in the apartment complex with the Somalis and she was terrified. Sobbing, she told me how all her tires had been slashed and that she was afraid for her safety, the safety of her sister and their pet. Her various tales about life there were nearly identical to what one of our regular readers related about his experiences at the apartment complex in question. She claimed that she had reported the vandalism to the authorities, but since they saw nothing, no charges could be pressed. She was not satisfied with the response of law enforcement, to say the least ...

"Where are my rights?" is what she asked me repeatedly. "They've got more rights than me and I was born and raised in this country!" I had no answer for her, but passed along some phone numbers she requested so hopefully, she will get the answers she seeks.

I hope that the folks at the Somali Community Center of Nashville takes note of these types of reports and addresses them at once. This type of behavior, which has been continuously going on at the complex, will undermine any efforts they may have underway to bring the refugee community and the locals together. They must also take into account the feelings and concerns of those who have lived here all their lives, not simply the rights and cultural differences of the refugees. Vandalism and terrorizing your neighbors isn't considered acceptable behavior in any society that I'm aware of.

But while looking over the comments to one of my stories from yesterday, I could not help but notice how similar they are to what is posted here. These towns in Iowa are getting their share of refugees as well, but after the news story are the local comments which very well could have been lifted from our website. For example:

If these people were provided for by charitable organizations until they become self supporting, then that would be a good thing. All too often , an organization hauls them to the Quad Cities, and then dumps them on the taxpayers via welfare programs etc. No one should get stuck with someone else's bill. If you bring them here, then you should be held responsible for supporting them, NOT the taxpayers. I have seen World Relief haul them to local welfare offices for handouts at taxpayer expense-yet they are supposed to be self supporting ! Note that the article says they are to be working within 6 months- What about those that have little or no skills, or those that still become a burden on the taxpayers during those first 6 months. World Relief should be required to pay for their "failures" rather than taking money from the taxpayers pockets.

If you noticed in one of my stories from yesterday, Amal Adam said she was only given three months of support before being left out there on her own. Fortunately for her, she already knew English and has a skill that would give her a good start in America. But that isn't the case for a great many of the Somalis who come here, not by a long shot. Over the past few years, about 12,000 Bantu have been permitted to move to this country and the briefing material that the resettlement people use explains that they have little or no modern job skills.

As tens of thousands of other refugees are settled around the country this year, I'm sure we are going to see more of these types of stories along with the reaction of the people that live where they move to.

As far as I'm aware of, there had been no other news media coverage of the impact that the Somalis are having on this part of the state until the T-G published my series in December. It has almost been like their existence in middle Tennessee was totally ignored. Oh, you will read about the various refugee groups living in Nashville, but for the most part, they have been very one sided, touchy-feely pieces extolling the virtues of diversity, while either downplaying, overlooking or flat out ignoring the reaction from the rest of the community or the negative aspects of resettling such a large number of displaced people in our culture.

We didn't do that. We gave you the facts: The good and the bad. It has definitely started a discussion and I'm given to understand that the MTSU event was set up directly as a result of the series.

But we still have a long way to go. There are a great many hurtles to jump. Efforts must be stepped up to educate both sides: The refugees and the community. The Somalis must understand the rules and laws here and adapt to them. Likewise, more efforts should be made locally to reach out to the refugees.

Because I fear that if some type of communication isn't opened soon, the feelings about our new neighbors are going to get much, much worse.

Some folks don't react to slashed tires in the same way that others do.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Good job! You have done a very good job with addressing issues from both sides and you are right. There needs to be stepped up education for people comming into America and people here need to quit judging based on their ignorance. Lets bridge a gap and not make it wider.

-- Posted by KatieBug on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 12:02 PM

It was good seeing you at the talk.

-- Posted by cfrich on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 12:03 PM

I don't think the people of Shelbyville judge based on ignorance at all. They judge by the way they are treated. If The Somalis truly wanted to become a part of our community they would try and have a little respect for the residents who live here...as of this date it has not happened. The Somalis are not the first immigrants we have ever come in contact with here in Shelbyville but they certainly are the hardest to get along with. I realize they come from a war torn country but we had nothing to do with their problems..so it is time for them to stop blaming Americans for their problems. We are only trying to help them but this must be a 2-way street. They must help themselves along the way also.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 12:18 PM

i agree i was running to town to grab some more dirt and plants as i was gardening,so anyways i had a sleeveless tshirt and some capris on and passed some somalis they immediately started whispering and pointing to my attire i assume since they werent speaking english and i took it very offensively but just smiled and said hello as i passed they quickly stopped talking and turned there heads.ive also has runins at mcdonalds with them in which they were very unfriendly and rude.i have no problem with people coming here to a better situation but they should learn respect and realize we are a different culture and should not be looked down upon because we dont practice their beliefs

-- Posted by jdw931 on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 12:26 PM

Over the past couple of years I have seen several pieces for furniture tossed out on the side of the road, that was a rare site several years ago. Most of US would never discard items like that on the roadside.

They are rude, I don't like going into a store and have my teenage daughters stared up and down by the males, they don't even try to hide it. I can go from zero to B**** mode in about 1 second when it comes to my kids!

Between what my husband and I paid in taxes I think we took care of another family last year. I want my tax money to go to the elderly that are in need not the Somalis or TnCare recipients that keep having kids left and right. They need to force birth control after 2 kids on taxpayers dime!

-- Posted by Disgusted on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 1:42 PM

Amen, Disgusted I have always thought we the taxpayers should have at least some say on where our tax dollars are spent.

I would have much rather my taxes went to help the Katrina victims who are still struggling almost 3 years later. These people are American Citizens who were treated and still being treated like outcast. Why should we be so willing to help other countries while our own citizens are begging for help?


Where are all these displaced government funds for them?

-- Posted by Dianatn on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 3:30 PM

Geez - if they want to be treated "fairly" then they need to learn the "Golden Rule" or is that against Islam too?

-- Posted by puppydinks on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 4:35 PM

I wonder if it would help to consolidate some of the Somalis so goods and services could be offered more efficiently at the start.

This would not be creating ghettos in the negative sense nor would this solution be confined to immigrants as opposed to Katrina survivors or any similar special population.

People could still live where they wish and join the regular communities when ready.

I think it might help people adapt to their new lives faster if the sources of upheaval were limited.

Think of the new citizens of our past.

Attempts were made to place them together in areas that would not feel too alien.

They were given skills they would need in their new home and the skills and culture they already posessed were respected.

There wasn't an overemphasis on "entitlement" nor were they tossed by the handful into a completely foriegn environment with people who have no way of dealing with their introduction.

Things weren't perfect a century ago and they aren't hopeless now.

The situation might be alleviated if there was more time for "decompression" and more time for residents old and new to think of themselves as having a home in common instead of being immersed in the new set-up so quickly and thoroughly that the predominant feelings are those of wariness and resentment.

As for people misbehaving,hate often masks fear and a feeling of helplessness.

The rancor can be reduced when people of maturity and leadership assert their authority over their own and insist that negative behavior will not be permitted.

I remember seeing a hint of this during integration.

Some people acted out due to tension.

Others did because they'd been given a great excuse for their usual foolishness.

We didn't have a lot of wholesale rioting because the various factions refused to allow it to happen.

People who might have indulged in misdeeds were shown enough respect that they were expected to "straighten up and act like folks."

It's a lot easier to act with contempt towards others if that's what one's been offered.

When one is treated as the other person treats his own( no better and no worse), then we cease to be strangers and start being neighbors who share common feelings and experiences.

Right now,it's easy to look for what buttons to push to annoy the monster next door.

When we start to feel the other persons' pain and joy,we'll feel less as if we are being caged in the midst of enemies.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 4:44 PM

WOW. Nicely put.

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Wed, Mar 26, 2008, at 7:32 PM

So maybe you think we should just give them their own state?

-- Posted by Dianatn on Thu, Mar 27, 2008, at 12:36 AM


Now there's an idea!

-- Posted by Disgusted on Thu, Mar 27, 2008, at 7:47 AM

It might help if the community where they were being placed was actually consulted before placing them. Most of us have ancestors who were immigrants and I don't think mine were given special treatment. They all had to learn to live together.

I have no problems with any immigrants if they are required to obey the same laws that I am required to obey.

-- Posted by stardust on Fri, Mar 28, 2008, at 11:36 AM

I live in very rural MN(the state with the largest Somali population). The factories that we work in all have a very diversified workforce. Which means in order to make everyone feel equal changes had to be made. It made me feel equal when the prayer room was set up. I'd been waiting for one of them. It made me feel equal when break times were set up according to where the sun was, that bothered me for years. The best thing is the posters in the restrooms that tell me where to put my human waste and the dirty tissue when I'm done, and HR would prefer that I stopped using the sink as the toilet. On the rare occasion that there is a pot luck you need to list the ingredients on your dish to ensure no one is eating contaminated food. Thanks to of all of this I have never felt so equal.

Currently my brother and his family have faced financial hardships. They have 3 small children, the youngest having had congestive heart failure one month after he was born.(but doing great now!) My brother works a 12 hr shift in a factory and she then works part time when he's home. They both pay taxes. My husband and I both work 12 hour shifts and pay taxes. But when they realized it was time to swallow their pride and tried to get a little help to get them back on their feet they were turned away, told they have to make sacrafices in order to have the money to make their house payment and pay their utility bills.

This is where the hard feelings on immigration come to play. I was sitting at the social service waiting room, it was full, but not a single person there was born in the USA. Every member of my family and almost everyone I know has had a job since they were 16 or younger where we had to pay taxes. So after 20 years of paying in why can't any of us get a boost when we're down?

We have all heard the stories our grandparents have told about our ancestors coming to America. It was not easy, for example my "Great" Grandfather came from Germany and the first job he had was to dig tree stumps out of the ground from sun up to sun down for less than a dollar a day. I don't recall any stories about his trip to America being paid for by the American Govt. or that when he got here he was welcomed with open arms and the agreement that he would be financially supported for the first 6 months at the tax payers expense, and if he wanted to go to school that would be taken care of also, transportation and all. Or that if he got in trouble with the law it would be overlooked because of all the diplomacy involved.

From the stories I was told everything he got he worked for. I stongly believe that is why alot of us have a strong work ethic. Our ancestry taught us if you want it you will work your @## off for it.

It doesn't matter what country it is. The ancestors of each individually country made it what it is today, whether that be good or bad. I was always taught "You made your bed, now you sleep in it."

-- Posted by mntaxpayer on Mon, Apr 7, 2008, at 9:47 AM

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Brian Mosely is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette.
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