Are we welcoming?

Are you a welcoming community just because you say you are?

St. Cloud, Minn., officials and residents have had to wrestle with itself and its conscience since a member of the City Council proposed a ban on refugees a couple of weeks ago.

Jeff Johnson’s suggestion is largely symbolic and that’s the problem; even if it fails — it would if it ever came to a vote — it stands as a statement of St. Cloud, the wretched comments on Facebook and social media stand as testament to that.

Nonetheless, the council did what it could this week, passing a resolution “in support of a just and welcoming community,” MPR News reports. Johnson was the lone dissenting vote.

“I think it’s important to show people this one guy bringing forward a resolution is not the voice of the City Council or the voice of the people of our community,” City Council member Jeff Goerger said prior to the meeting. “The mayor has been asking for the council to take some action. I feel it was my place to put my thoughts on paper and bring it forward.”

The meeting was packed with people in support of Goerger — or opposition to Johnson.

“The main thing is to dispel the impression that St. Cloud is not welcoming and that St. Cloud is being hurt by the change in demographics,” said Goerger.

Is that possible or can one city official and a band of anonymous commenters reveal a another story? Goerger said his email ran 20-to-1 against Johnson’s proposal, the St. Cloud Times said.

St. Cloud officials have put a lot of work into trying to unite a city undergoing demographic change. Johnson proved how quickly and easily it can be undermined.

It also forces us to examine the question: what does it mean to say “welcome” in Minnesota?

Meanwhile, in Groton, Mass., not far from the spot at which the first shots of the Revolution were fired, all will continue to be welcomed — at least officially.

The Boston Globe says a series of boulders were placed around town, each engraved with the message “all are welcome here.”

It seemed like a positive and harmless idea that the town meeting passed in the spring, but many people in town, apparently, wanted to welcome people, but not all people.

“We do not want someone to read this and think this town has a political agenda,” one resident opposing the inscription said at a selectman’s meeting on Monday night.

That’s America in 2017, where welcoming all people is a political agenda.

Related: Majority Of White Americans Say They Believe Whites Face Discrimination (NPR)

  • MrE85

    If the vote had gone the other way, I think that question would be easier to answer.

  • Rob

    I’d answer the question thusly: One ignoramus on the city council and a bunch of know-nothings on social media are hardly proof that St. Cloud is anti-immigrant.

    • Then again, St. Cloud and its surrounding area isn’t known for their welcoming attitudes of other cultures.

      • Mike Worcester

        My first time living in the St. Cloud area was from 1990-93 when I was in grad school at SCSU. A group of us were at the only coffee house in town at the time, a great little place called The Java Joint — the kind of place that held poetry readings and the cups never matched the saucers they came on. The owner told us that night about how shortly after they opened another downtown business owner stopped in and boldly proclaimed that they would never last, that St. Cloud was a “meat and potatoes town”. Here’s a shock, the Java Joint survived and thrived. Change always scares the bejeebus out of entrenched interests, whether it comes to the looks/language/worship habits of newcomers, or a simple coffee house.

        • I’m guessing a patron didn’t have a beer mug smashed into her face at the Java Joint…

    • Except, that there are more than a few people in St. Cloud and its surrounding area who have already demonstrated their dislike of immigrants. So, it’s not just a single ignoramus or social media trolls:

      “From the posting of racist graffiti at St. Cloud State University a
      couple of years ago to more recent incidents that appeared to target
      Muslim and Somali residents, the city is grappling with increased
      tensions.

      “In recent months, Muslim and Somalis have reported anti-Islamic cartoons
      and death threats. Vandals have broken windows at the city’s only
      mosque, and spray-painted graffiti at a Somali-owned grocery store.

      “Observers say racial and religious tensions are embedded in the city’s history. St. Cloud is rapidly becoming more diverse, but it has long been an insular community closed to outsiders. ”

      https://www.mprnews.org/story/2010/07/30/st-cloud-racism

  • John O.

    St. Cloud is a symptom of the larger problem: collaboration and compromise amongst elected officials is no longer allowable across party lines. Lobbyists and well-heeled donors ON BOTH SIDES demand 100 percent loyalty 100 percent of the time–or else.

    The (mostly) anonymous trolls that inhabit and flourish in newspaper comment areas keep bleating the same old, tired talking points, Combine these folks with a plethora of Twitter bots and other social media bottom-feeders (many of them also fake), these “people” continue to stir the pot and play to people’s worst fears and prejudices.

  • KariBemidji

    The most frustrating part of the whole immigrant debate for me is: “they don’t integrate into our society.” Integration is not a one way endeavor, the newcomers cannot do it alone. Are you welcoming? Did you bring over a pan of brownies and say welcome to the neighborhood? Change is hard, especially when the new neighbor doesn’t speak your language fluently. And it seems like we don’t choose do hard things anymore.

    • Mike Worcester

      A couple years ago I posed a question on my FB, hoping to find some consensus on a contentious topic, the question was — what does it mean to “assimilate”?

      Unfortunately there was little in the way of consensus. That word had so many different meanings to each person responding. Much the same way, I’m sure, that “integrate” would also. One key did come forward though — language. Respondents felt that newcomers should made a more concerted effort to learn the predominant language, in our case English. Problem is that in no previous case in our nation’s history has the first arrivals of any major ethnic group been able to learn English quickly and easily. it’s been the second generation, the kids, who did the learning. So when I am out and about and I hear the adults speaking another language and the kids translating, I remind myself that this has been the immigrant experience, almost since this nation’s founding.

      • And there are STILL pockets of native European language speaking areas sprinkled throughout the state…

      • wjc

        All of my grandparents were born in Poland. The two that were alive when I was a child (in Chicago) barely spoke any English. There were 2 daily Polish newspapers. There were Polish radio shows. My parents were bilingual, and I know a few Polish words and phrases. It is the way the assimilation has always worked in this country. Dziękuję.

        • RBHolb

          You and your family seem to have followed the worldwide pattern among immigrant populations. If the grandchildren speak the language of the “old country” at all, it’s because they learned it out of cultural interest.

      • Jay T. Berken

        My frustration of the ‘English only’ crowd is that up and down they want people to only speak English in the U.S., but then does not want to follow it up with the resources to help people become English language learners.

        • Mike Worcester

          Yeah, it seems they want folks to learn English by watching t.v., or by osmosis, or maybe by having someone wave an Ollivanders wand over them and *poof*, King’s English mastery secured..

          Obscure but amusing movie reference below:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsywLclz8A8

        • Rob

          Hypocrisy is one of the American Exceptionalism crowd’s best things.

      • RBHolb

        The pro-assimilation folks love to quote Teddy Roosevelt’s speech about “hyphenated Americans.” What they seem not to realize is that he was talking about a lot of the things we find quaint, or even “expressions of our heritage.” Syttende Mai celebrations and newspapers in Yiddish were as offensive to many Americans then as Somali flags and convenience stores where you can “enviar su dinero” are to their descendants today.

      • Barton

        My German ancestors arrived in the States around 1830. They did not speak English only until WW1. Until then, they spoke German (well, a dialect, if you want to get specific) at home, at school and at church. Their newspapers were in German as well. They lived in a rural community made up of mainly other Germans, and (eventually) some former slaves. There was little need to assimilate or integrate. Not until WW1 made them do so.

    • Mike

      When we moved into our Minneapolis neighborhood 15 years ago, only the neighbors on one side introduced themselves. That’s it. If others are getting brownies, we missed out.

      Minnesotans tend to keep to themselves, and only associate with people they’ve known since childhood. That may be true of other places too, but it’s certainly true here, as anyone who didn’t grow up here can attest.

      The upside of this arrangement is that it seems to keep the nosy neighbor in check – to some extent anyway. That might not be such a bad thing when you consider the potential for culture clashes between people of very different backgrounds, religions, etc. Good fences can make very good neighbors.

  • lusophone

    If an immigrant population doesn’t feel welcome, it’s not because of just “one city official and a band of anonymous commenters.” It’s because the community isn’t welcoming. And I’m not just talking about St. Cloud, I’m referring to the state as a whole, including the largest two cities.

  • AL287

    A certain POTUS made it acceptable to let your bigotry and racism show.

    Prior to last year’s election those tendencies remained buried because it wasn’t socially acceptable. It still isn’t acceptable for the majority of Americans but a lot of people with those tendencies now believe it is hence the lone council member who proposed a ban on refugees.

    Trump’s base has been emboldened by Trump’s abandonment of social decorum and social mores.

    There is no point trying to change a bigoted and racist person’s views. They have learned it from childhood at the knees of their parents and their parents’ social circles.

    I have very well-educated friends which usually means they have a more welcoming view of immigrants and refugees.

    Not.

    I just don’t discuss the current state of affairs in the country because I know I will just get shouted down.

    It’s really very sad and quite disturbing.

    When a patient has a cancerous tumor, surgery is necessary to remove it with the idea of promoting a cure. When that’s not possible, radiation is used to shrink it and provide relief to the patient.

    America has a cancerous tumor. We can do political “surgery” and remove the offending tumor (impeachment) or we can do political “radiation” and bombard the tumor much like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are and keep speaking out.

    It’s up to you, America. Do we want a country that has walled communities of homogeneous, segregated populations or can we accept and welcome immigrants of all nations and beliefs?

  • JMR

    Are we welcoming? No, I don’t think so. I’ve lived in Minnesota for 5 years now and find that it’s been very isolating. People aren’t very nice (shocker) and I don’t feel comfortable being myself while out and about. I can’t imagine what it’s like for immigrants and refugees who don’t look or sound like the rest of us. It must be incredibly difficult to stay positive and brave the world in the face of resentment.

    • ec99

      “I’ve lived in Minnesota for 5 years now and find that it’s been very isolating. People aren’t very nice (shocker)”

      Unfortunately true. I haven’t lived in MN for over 50 years, but when I visit my sister there I am saved by my “native” accent and vocabulary, which I somehow kept. Of course, in other parts of the country I “talk funny.”

  • John Magee

    At least 2 BILLION people from the 3rd world want to migrate to Western nations. Are we prepared to “welcome” as many as 500 million people or more and an endless procession of migrants following them to the United States forever into the future? Does open borders mean they will be open indefinitely? Even if a fraction of that number migrated to the USA they would paralyze our social welfare system and be a drain on all of our resources which would change our country forever and turn us into a 3rd world country. Do we want to give our grandchildren and future generations inherit a country as crowded as China, India, other parts of Asia, or Africa? Diversity and multiculturalism aren’t fads, they are forever. The people who whine about man made climate change and global warming don’t care at all about the drastic environmental changes we will face someday in a country with 1 billion+ people. Open borders is total insanity. We have no moral obligation to allow any immigrants into our country either legally or by giving illegal migrant invaders amnesty. The President of the USA has a duty to enforce all immigration laws already on the books passed by Congress.