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April 13, 2005 RCTC-Presentation

DIVERSITY WORSHOP

My name is Francisco Gonzalez, and I am an investigator and cultural diversity trainer with a
group of community colleges across southern Minnesota, including RCTC. I investigate
complaints of harassment and discrimination, and also provide training and other resources on
areas of diversity. Prior to that I worked as an attorney, both in private practice and also with
Legal Aid and the Public Defender Office

Who are these immigrant and minority communities? What is the difference?

As you may have guessed, I too am an immigrant, but not from a foreign country. I was raised in
the US Territory of Puerto Rico, and came to Minnesota in 1988 to attend classes at Mankato
State University, without knowing a soul, without even having a clear idea where to find
Mankato on a map! I had the advantages of being a US citizen and was eligible for scholarships
and government assistance to be able to go to college. But I still had to struggle, since I barely
knew English, and had to adapt to a different culture in short notice. It also goes without saying
that I also missed the tropical Sun and the palm trees of Puerto Rico, especially on dreary winter
days like today!

HISPANICS/LATINOS: While there are immigrants from at least a dozen countries living in
our area, the largest group is the Hispanic/Latino. Estimated at 150,000 to 200,000 in number. In
addition, every year approximately 15,000 Hispanic migrant workers travel to Minnesota to work
in various agricultural industries These are mostly people of Mexican descent, either Mexican-
Americans or recent immigrants from Mexico itself. In Minnesota there are also large numbers
of people from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) as well as
Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Hispanics can be of any race. There are also large numbers of Indians from Mexico and Central
America, with their own languages and traditions (such as the Kanjobal Maya, Mixtecs,
Purupecha)

Accurate figures are hard to come by, since this population is fairly mobile, but they are
gradually changing the ethnic landscape of rural Minnesota. In towns like Saint James and
Madelia, Watonwan County, Latinos currently are between 20 to 30 percent of the total

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population. Le Sueur, Glencoe, Sleepy Eye also comparatively large and growing Hispanic
communities.
Accurate figures are hard to come by, since this population is fairly mobile, but they are
gradually changing the ethnic landscape of rural Minnesota. In towns like Saint James and
Madelia, in neighboring Watonwan County, Latinos currently are between 20 to 30 percent of the
total population. Le Sueur, Glencoe, Sleepy Eye also comparatively large and growing Hispanic
communities.

SOMALI: Currently there are an estimated 50,000 Somalis living in Minnesota. The vast
majority arrived in the US as refugees after the start of the civil war in their country, Somalia,
located in East Africa. They are overwhelmingly Muslim and, despite strong tribal and clan
disputes, they are a single ethnic group. Somalis are concentrated in the Twin Cities, but there
are important communities in Rochester, Worthington and St. Cloud.
The Somali community is also rapidly growing.

WEST & CENTRAL AFRICANS:


There are growing numbers of immigrants from Western and Central Africa settling in
Minnesota. Numbers are hard to estimate, but they may be between 5,000 to 10,000.
Some of these immigrants came to Minnesota to escape the civil wars in their home countries.

They are a very diverse community. Each specific country has its own ethnic, cultural and
religious groups. It is important to keep in mind that the language and traditions from a particular
group may be very different from those of their neighbors. For example, some languages are as
different from each other as English is to Chinese! There are also Muslims, Christians and
believers in traditional indigenous religions.

The Importance of Ethnic and Immigrant communities to rural Minnesota:


 Demographics: the traditional German-Scandinavian population of our area is decreasing,
as the younger generations move to urban centers, and those who remain continue to have
comparatively low birthrate.

 Immigrants are attracted by the ready availability of jobs, albeit low-paying ones, that do
not require special skills or English-language proficiency. Immigrants bring a much-
needed younger workforce into our area. Their labor allows for the continued operation
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of food processing plans in Waseca, St. James, Albert Lea and Fairmont, to name just a
few.

 Also, most immigrants are attracted to the more sedate lifestyle of rural areas.

As long as these economic and social conditions continue, immigrants will continue to move to
rural Minnesota.

But whenever there is an opportunity, there is also a challenge, and members of these immigrant
and ethnic minority groups share many obstacles that prevent their full integration into
mainstream society:
 Mistrust of government agencies in general and law enforcement in particular: Many
Latinos, mostly from Mexico, are undocumented workers. In the arcane language of the
US Citizenship and Immigration Service, these individuals entered the US “without
inspection” and are thus liable to be deported, or “removed”, at any moment. The events
of September 11 have rekindled hostility towards all immigrants, and increased
government actions against all undocumented aliens, not just Muslims or Middle
Easterners. As a result, many immigrants are extremely reluctant to be in contact with any
government agency.

 Racial profiling: Practice in which law enforcement personnel intervene with a citizen
solely or principally because the individual belongs to an identifiable ethnic or racial
group. Hispanics and other people of color are more likely to be stopped and interrogated
by law enforcement personal than people of Anglo/European descent.

 Discrimination (employment, accommodation, public services, private businesses)


– Racial Discrimination is basically refusing to provide the same services, opportunities
and rights to an individual based solely on the fact that such an individual belongs to a
disfavored racial or ethnic group.

 Immigrants are unfamiliar with the law, with their rights, many cannot read or understand
English, and this makes them very vulnerable to fraud and scams.

 Education: Cuts in the already meager and inadequate English as a Second Language
programs in area schools threaten to further hamper the education of immigrant children
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with limited-English skills.

 Employment: Service and food-processing industries; low-skills required, barely above


minimum wage salaries.

 Social interaction: Generational conflicts, breakdown of traditional culture (language,


norms, etc).

Problem solving:
These new immigrants are here to stay. They bring their culture, their labor, their skills, their
enthusiasm, their hopes and dreams. Their presence will literally change the face of Minnesota.
These immigrants are doing their best to improve their lives and create their own solutions to the
challenges they face. In Rochester and cities across southern Minnesota we are lucky to have
many active community leaders and the presence of several immigrant-created organizations
supporting these efforts. But these communities cannot do it alone. They need the support and
encouragement form the general community, from mainstream society, from each end every one
of you.

I would like to ask you to think about ways in which you could help build the new Minnesota,
the inclusive, diverse and Multi-cultural Minnesota of the 21st century. Simple things like:
- introducing yourself to your new immigrant classmates and neighbors, making them feel
welcomed
- letting your local school board know that you value and support English as a Second language
and other programs that help immigrants
- speaking out against insensitive racial or ethnic remarks spoken in your presence.

All of these can help create a better environment for all of us who call Minnesota home.

I want to thank you again for your invitation and for your interest in this topic, and I would like
to invite you ask me any questions that you may have regarding my presentation.

Thank you!

APPENDIX

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Useful phases in Spanish

Hola! Hello

Buenos dias Good morning.

Buenas tardes. Good afternoon

Como te llamas? What is your name?

Como estas? How are you?

Somali Culture:
Things to know for successful cultural-interaction with Somali parents and students in an
education setting.
Hello. [literally, "Is it peace?" standard
Ma nabad baa?
greeting]
Waa nabad. Hello. [literally, "It is peace." in response]
Subax wanaagsan. Good morning.
Maalin wanaagsan Good day.
Galab wanaagsan. Good afternoon
Habeen wanaagsan Good evening
Magacaa? What is your name?
Iska warran? How are you?

Somali traditions may have an impact on the success of Somali students in a new school
environment. It is therefore important that teachers and administrators have an understanding of
the Somali culture and how it relates to the behavior of Somali students. Knowing this
information, will help these students reach their educational goals.

Traditional Somali Dress

In Islamic tradition, the form of dress is important for men and women, and children between the
ages of seven and nine are expected to dress according to tradition. For example women should
wear the hijab, which is a dress that covers the body except for the face and hands. Somali
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families have the following expectations they would like American schools to:

* separate the girls from boys when they have mixed or body touching activities like swimming.

* give students options, especially girls, about any activity related to dress. For example, playing
baseball or other sports with Somali dress.

* consult with students' parents regarding any clothing conflicts.

Traditional Somali Food

It is prohibited to eat any food related to pork. Whenever possible, schools should:

* send home the school's menu for the month.

* provide a translated menu, so parents understand the meaning of some American food (hot
dog).

Prayers

In the Muslim faith, Somalis pray five times everyday wherever they are. In Somali schools,
there is a special place for prayer. Somali families expect schools to:

* provide a room for prayer, along with a prayer schedule.

* allow their children to go to Friday prayer or have Friday prayers in the school.

Greetings

In the Somali culture, men don't shake women's hands for a greeting unless they are spouses.
The women don't shake hands either. It is important to keep this in mind when parents come to
school conferences and meetings.