Thursday, February 05, 2009

SOMALI CABBIE CRISIS: UPDATE

I just returned from Minneapolis. My cabbie from hotel to meeting place was a white guy from Denmark. Halfway there, it occurred to me that I was in a cab in Minneapolis, where there had been a big controversy about Somali Muslim cab drivers refusing to carry passengers who were drunk or carrying alcohol. There was a big stink about the cabbies' civil rights, remember that? Well, the final resolution was that if you want to be a cabbie, you can't mess up the system by picking and choosing who gets into your cab, and if you don't like it, you can drive a school bus or deliver mail, which is the right answer and I sure don't remember seeing that get any press, do you? When common sense prevails, the story disappears.

Incidentally, my cabbie from meeting place to airport was black with an African accent. I asked him where he was from and he said "East Africa." I asked where exactly in East Africa and he said Somalia and gave me a long look. I asked him why so many Somalians would move from 100-degree Somalia to 2-degree Minnesota and the answer was obvious: Somalia was beset by civil war and people fled, and there were three families who had settled in Minneapolis, and their family members followed, and word got around that there was a small concentration of Somalians in Minneapolis, and people fleeing to a new country needed a point of contact and community, so Minneapolis suddenly developed a Somali population. I reckon the story behind every ethnic population in every US city would be the same. Reading, Pennsylvania has a large Mexican population that formed the same way, with poverty the driver rather than civil war.

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