Minneapolis South High clash exposes Somali- and African-American student rift

  • Article by: Allie Shah , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 23, 2013 - 6:11 AM

A rift between Somali- and African-American students may stem from “mutual ignorance” of each other, observers say.

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greg62Feb. 23, 13 4:57 AM

Too bad the melting pot is more like a pressure cooker these days.

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mnfanintampaFeb. 23, 13 6:01 AM

Unfortunately, the media, politicians, and educators have created tremendous divide amongst class, race, and gender. In all my years, I have never seen this much tension and animosity between people. Why is this behavior a surprise to anyone?

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aardvark878Feb. 23, 13 7:20 AM

How did the media, politicians, and educators create the tension? It's just a byproduct of a changing Minnesota, and basic human nature to divide the world into "us" and "them." I came to Minnesota in 1990 as a white American, and while people who have been here for generations were polite to me, I've often been left feeling like an outsider. It's so hard to get folks to include you in their social circle here, and people feel the need to point out that you're not from here, like your some kind of foreigner. It's gotten better over the years as more people have moved here from other places, but I'm white and speak the language, which is an advantage. And oh, yes it is...I've heard plenty if racist comments in my time. So I don't doubt that those who aren't white face a tougher time of it. I think things are so racially charged because people are inherently shy of those they don't know or understand, and afraid of change. But once you start talking to each other and learning more about each other, you start to realize that most human beings, no matter what group they belong to, just want to live peacefully and feel safe and take care of their families. I think the schools have been trying to open that dialogue for their students when tensions escalate...and I think, therefore, that it's this younger generation that will help Minnesota evolve into a more accepting place for us "outsiders". Don't give up on learning more about your neighbors and classmates...there are good people everywhere, if you take the time to get to know them.

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comment229Feb. 23, 13 7:55 AM

Just when are we going to have schools that are there for learning again instead of addressing all the problems associated with parental responsibilities and social ills and now, cultural disparities? You are there to learn, study, do well. If you want to fight, argue, debate cultural differences and just plain goof off, go to the mall. Ironic isn't it? that even Malls don't put up with this crap (for lack of a better word) and yet we expect our schools to deal with it. It shouldn't be their job!

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YoganaziFeb. 23, 13 8:02 AM

Where are the parents? Do they volunteer at school or just show up to complain? This tension has nothing to do with teachers, the media or politicians. Take responsibility for the actions of your children and stop blaming everyone else.

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perronjpFeb. 23, 13 8:15 AM

Interesting that the other day there was a newspaper article about kids being unsafe at city bus stops. The Police stated there were only about 13 assaults (not that that is good either) at these stops serviced by Metro Transit. No mention how many assaults occurred at Mpls schools own stops on their buses. Let's not compare apple to apples in other words. Mpls should stop pointing fingers in attempts to divert peoples attention to false arguments about a few minor incidents when they have these riots and fights erupting inside their own buildings.

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ebenezerFeb. 23, 13 8:18 AM

The United States isn't the former country of anyone. It is a new country, with, for most, a whole new and different way of life than was previously lived. My family didn't expect to recreate their old country when they came here, and I didn't want that country back when I learned our family history and became grateful for where I now was. All I can say is in a country whose premise is toleration of all, there should be no tolerance for promoting and supporting the idea you can stubbornly bring the old ways with you...in expectation things can and will remain the same.

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ajnaguyFeb. 23, 13 8:48 AM

As a teacher, while I agree that it is not our "job" to teach How To Get Along 101, the school is often the first place kids, particularly those from another country (not just countries in East Africa, but during my tenure, from Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central America as well) are in a situation where they are forced to work with/alongside someone different from themselves. And of course, American kids are in the same situation. There are a lot of factors in the home that will influence how these interactions will go, but school can also be the place where people do get to know and accept each other.

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g5thistimeFeb. 23, 13 9:00 AM

“Black people are already here. They’ve seen everybody come here and everybody seems to get a break,” El-Kati said. “They see how other people are celebrated when they do the slightest good thing.******Maybe El-Kati needs to be educated. Maybe he does not know about busing students for the past 30+ years to integrate schools. How well has that worked. The head start program, how has that made things better? In my opinion all it has done is wasted good taxpayer money. The schools can only do so much. The parents need to sit with their children and help them with homework. Parents need to be good role models. When a child is raised watching his parent(s) get up every day and go to work that is setting a good example. If a parent sits around saying the government is not providing enough assistance how does that child grow up? If you are an American, be an American, its time to drop this African American, Somail American. Or maybe EVERYBODY should be Italian, Irish, Sweedish, Finnish, Polish, Danish American.. You want to be different, but when someone calls you out then your answer is to fight. Wrong answer.

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swmnguyFeb. 23, 13 9:35 AM

This is a great article, and it (finally!) touches on something I've been seeing as a parent in the Mpls. Schools since 2003. This particular incident at South follows incidents--between the same exact kids--at Bancroft Elementary then Sanford Middle School, and now at South. And that's just what my kids have been telling me these past 11 years. I'm sure it's happened at other schools; I know it's happened at Roosevelt as well.

One of the best things this story does is to indicate how meaningless a classification like "race" is. The fighting at South began with a scuffle in the first lunch period between a Somali kid and an Oromo (Ethiopian) kid. Then over the next two lunch periods, it escalated into the brawl that we all heard about, which involved American black kids and Somalis, for the most part.

I suppose it's easy to say, "Oh, they all have dark skin," and think they have something in common. False. The Ethiopians and Somalis are at war with each other in East Africa. Most Americans of African descent who have been here a few centuries came from West Africa, and had their indigenous culture completely stripped from them. As the article indicates, these groups of kids have nothing in common; maybe as little as Irish and Italian and Polish immigrant kids did 125 years ago. And they were all "white," right?

This stuff pops up in the schools because the schools are among the only places where people from every ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic group come together. Also, as the larger society pretends that we have solved all our racial issues, and that we don't have a class structure in America (two very pernicious myths that need to go away), the schools are an area where those differences can't be swept under the rug and must be addressed. Of course, we ask the schools to deal with those issues for us in silence, and without the necessary funding and resources to do all that.

One result is that my middle-class white kids, from a stable home with a high emphasis on cultural knowledge and an expectation of success, get short shrift while resources are rationed to give remedial help to the kids who come from far less-advantaged backgrounds. I don't mind too much. My kids do fine and will continue to do fine. I understand division of finite resources.

I hope this incident at South forces some honest, open discussions in our entire community, so we take a realistic view of where we really are and how best to move forward so everyone gets at least most of their needs met.

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