Somali-Americans are making a name for themselves in Minnesota some are finding their way into politics according to this report by Ibrahim Hirsi of the MINNPOST
Ever since Omar Fateh announced his run for a state legislative seat last December, he’s been taking note of a recurring experience on the campaign trail: It’s easy, at first glance, to mistake him for an immigrant or a refugee from Somalia.
But when people hear him speak, they realize something different about him. “A lot of times,” he said, “they say, ‘It’s interesting because you don’t have an accent.’ ”
Each time Fateh comes across these individuals — and he often does during campaign events or phone conversations with constituents — Fateh uses the moment as an opportunity to walk them through his family history.
He tells them about how his Somali-born parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s; how the couple then got married in New York City; and how they eventually gave birth to him in Washington, D.C., 28 years ago.
“I’m an American,” he tells them.
Even then, Fateh is quick to say that he doesn’t take issue with questions about his identity and that he is, in fact, proud of his Somali heritage.
But the reason voters assume he’s a refugee has a lot to do with the immigration experiences of the Somali candidates who have come before him. While there have been dozens of Somali-American politicians who have run — and won — political offices in cities and towns across Minnesota in the past two decades, not a single one of them was born in America.
The same is true for a half dozen Somali-Americans whose names will appear on an election ballot in Minnesota this year, including two other candidates vying for the same District 62A state House seat that Fateh is.
Fateh’s experience, as a U.S.-born Somali-American, represents something of a milestone for the Somali-American community in Minnesota — the emergence of a second generation of leaders — even as it reprises a familiar story, a path taken by the German, Scandinavian, Eastern European and Southeast Asian refugees who came to Minnesota before them. Continue reading “Somali-Americans are coming into their own in Minnesota”