Grocery Store Chatter

hands of color

Overheard in the grocery store checkout line: “I don’t know why those Somali’s can’t learn English. How do I know they’re not talking about me?” Since I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut under certain circumstances, I said, “Do you think that Somali people have left their war torn country, left famine and torture and death, left their families and friends and everything they have ever known to come half way around the world and stand in a grocery line just so they can talk about you? Do you really think they don’t have anything more important to say than that?” To which I got a scowl and no reply. I guess I should be thankful that I am not so jaded that I am still surprised by the idiocy of some people.

My online blogger friend Audrey Kletscher Helbling wrote a really nice post about Somali and other people of color on her blog, “Minnesota Prairie Roots” which I re-blogged a couple of days ago. I could not agree more with what she has to say. Everyone in this country except Native Americans either came from, or has ancestors who came from some other country. We cannot blame people for wanting to come here and start a better life. If we have an issue with our government immigration policies then by all means we should be going after our politicians to change them. But to hate, dislike or despise people who come here just because they are different is wrong. I think the biggest issue is that a lot of people have a hard time with change and with accepting people who look, dress, talk or worship differently than they do. I think this would be a pretty boring world if we were all blond haired, blue eyed English speaking Lutherans. Or dark haired, brown eyed Spanish speaking Catholics.

Diversity is what makes our world great. I love meeting and talking with people from other cultures and counties. I grill them with questions about their homeland and customs. As soon as you ask a Mexican or Somali person about their respective countries they open right up and tell you all about it. In my line of work I meet people of other nationalities every day. I try to engage them in conversation as often as I can. I hope that it makes them comfortable around me. We all live together in this increasingly small world. We need to get along.

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4 thoughts on “Grocery Store Chatter

  1. Thank you Marshall. You’re a gem. I wish there were more people like you out there in the world. What you wrote resonates with me as I am a Somali-Finn who has been at the receiving end of such chatter. Somalis or the name, seems to attract a lot of flack. As a researcher and a Somali, I often wonder what triggers this kind of reaction or behavior towards us. Is it the culture? Religion? Color? I would love to know your thoughts on this.

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    • Mostly I think it’s fear of change, of difference, of the familiar. People seem to like what’s familiar snd are afraid to change. Afraid of self discovery and what they might appear like to their familiars. Thank you for following my blog.

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  2. Excellent post, Marshall. Thank you for speaking up instead of just standing in that grocery store line silently taking it all in. We can use our speaking and writing voices to make an impact. And you did, in that moment, in that grocery store.

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