An invigorating discussion on Somalis in Minnesota had a particularly interesting exchange on an assertion that is difficult to prove: Somalis aren’t interested in participating in the American culture, even as they become American citizens.
“There are many Somalis who are eager to have American papers because it facilitates American life,” Ahmed Samatar, the dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship at Macalester College in St. Paul said. “But they either have no interest or have not made the initiative to understand the deep values of American society — the value of democratic politics, the value of individual liberty, the value of equality, the value of loyalty to one’s own society. Those come through long, deep educational process (and) a generational movement.”
Hussein Samatar, the founder and executive director of the African Development Center in Minneapolis, disagreed.
“You betcha,” he said when MPR’s Gary Eichten asked if most Somalis here want to become U.S. citizens. “If you really believe what you just said about the Somalis not being deep enough into American values, I would ask you: Have you done studies that can show the numbers in terms of people not becoming deep? If you have them, otherwise anecdotally it’s not enough.”
“I have spoken to thousands and thousands of Somalis across the United States,” Ahmed Samatar said. “And there are two kinds of Somalis. There are Somalis who come here — and rightly so — because they want to survive. They want to get the documents that will facilitate for them to get jobs, but have very little interest or have not taken the effort to get deep into the societies in which they live.”
Undefined in the discussion, however, is what it means to “get deep into the societies.”
Ahmed Samatar said the fact nobody has come forward with information about the missing Somali young men of Minneapolis is troubling (see timeline). “If you are a citizen of a country in the deepest sense I am talking about, then you will tell the truth. You cannot just say ‘I am minding my own business and yet I want to live here in the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota,’ and not participate in trying to protect society from the things that damage its own sense of self and community.”