People are People—The Story Tells Me So
My jailbreak started with a connection to a Somali friend from a Muslim background. M. and I met at Afro Deli and he introduced me to KEKE Chicken, a saucy, savory tomato/noodle/chicken dish with delightful African seasoning. From there our conversation started searching for commonalities and differences.
My class and I have this ongoing project of blogging about reaching across our borders and boundaries and outside our tribes. We hope to try to see, and potentially start to understand, what’s out there (guided-by-voices.com). We’re slowly peeling back layers of daily life to expose the people we’ve missed and the ideas and things we’ve written off with a dismissive comment. We’re asking again about stereotypes and we’re stopping in at the restaurants and shops featuring other languages—the very places our eyes skip as if not there.
Asking questions and trying to see what is right before us is a fruitful exercise, it turns out. Check out some posts.
M. and I talked about the experience if immigration and touched on some oddities with growing up in a brand new culture with a brand new language. My friend’s family had emigrated from Somalia with the help of connections through a sponsoring church. When his command of English fell short in his first days at school he learned to smile a lot. This a time-honored tactic which I know from my own travels, it served M. well. Today he sounds as Minnesotan as anyone—I leave it to you to decide if “Minnesotan” is a positive or negative.
In the middle of the conversation, I started to realize—yet again—that every person is more than a stereotype. It hit me again how it takes less than a minute into one person’s story to realize afresh that stereotypes are partially right and mostly wrong. We connected with his work and his many, smart entrepreneurial projects and dreams for his kids and joys and sorrows of moving to a new culture and leaving a beloved culture. It was a wide-ranging conversation that I hope is just a start. Next, I want to explore Islam a bit with M. to test the little I know and get schooled in so much of what I don’t know.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston