Thursday night at the St. Cloud Public Library, Dr. John Palmer gave a presentation based on this document. One of the primary focuses of Dr. Palmer’s presentation was to establish a set of facts so St. Cloud could have an honest discussion about the hidden costs of St. Cloud’s changing demographics.

One of the statistic sets that Dr. Palmer cited was the median household income for the major demographic groups. Dr. Palmer cited statistics from the State Demographer’s Office, which said “Median income is the point at which half the individuals earn less than that amount and half earn more. In 2015, the Median household income of Minnesotans was $60,900. Whites had a median household income of $64,100 with the next four largest groups of Minnesotans (Blacks, Mexicans, Hmong and Somali) having a substantially lower median household incomes than Whites. In order of median income, Hmong had the highest median income at $53,000 and Somalis had the lowest median income at $18,400. Black median income was $28,800 and Mexican median income was $38,500 in 2015.”

Dr. Palmer also noted the poverty rates of these demographic groups:

The largest Minnesota refugee-related population (Hmong), in 2015, have almost three times more of their population living below or near the poverty level than White Minnesotans (61% v. 21%). When the most recent (Somali) and second largest, refugee-related population are compared to White Minnesotans based on percent living below or near the poverty level, nearly four times more Somalis (21% v. 83%) live below or nearly below the poverty level than Whites. When the most recent refugee population (Somali) in Minnesota are compared to the largest and nearly 30 year resident refugee population (Hmong) in Minnesota, it appears that resettled refugees experience great challenges in escaping poverty and low-income status in the decades following resettlement.

Then Dr. Palmer observed:

“If you’re a Minnesotan and you see this data, you should be embarrassed. Something is wrong with this picture,” he said. It confirms the existence of a wide disparity in the economic health of different groups, Palmer said.

Dr. Palmer followed that up with this observation:

“When we look at the experience of the Hmong community and continuing economic challenges faced by African-Americans … we have not done, as a society, a very good job,” he said. “And then, we’ve brought in another population that have high needs.”

After Dr. Palmer’s presentation, he opened the floor to accept questions. One of the ‘questioners’ accused Dr. Palmer of cherry-picking statistics, arguing that Somalis had opened a number of businesses.

This missed the point that too many Somalis live in poverty or close to the Federal Poverty Level, aka FPL. The point Dr. Palmer tried making was that a) Minnesota hadn’t done a good job of making the American Dream available to these minority populations and b) he’s interested in finding a solution to lift these people out of poverty so they could live that American Dream.

Another questioner identified herself as a teacher at SCTCC. She asked whether Dr. Palmer put a high priority on diversity. He replied that he put a high priority on diversity of thought and that he loved America the melting pot but not America, the salad bowl, reminding people of the phrase e pluribus Unum, which means “out of many, One.”

It isn’t a stretch to think that #UniteCloud’s attendees hoped to pick a fight. As Dr. Palmer said at the outset, “If you came to hear an anti-refugee speaker you might as well leave, because I’m not that. That’s not who I am, that’s not what I do, that’s not what I want to be known of as in the community.” Nonetheless, people from #UniteCloud and ISIAIH/GRIP did their best to stir racial tension and animosity. Instead of succeeding, they exposed themselves as only interested in creating heat, not shedding light.

Put differently, Dr. Palmer came seeking a solution. #UniteCloud and ISIAIH/GRIP came to pick a fight.

3 Responses to “#UniteCloud picks a fight”

  • Jay says:

    I was there and Adam from Isaiah tried vigorously to start a fight. I was encouraged to see the majority of the people there weren’t taking the bait. Hadji, the guy that was taping the meeting was trying to start something also. When Hadji brought up some history of the German people that settled in St Cloud 150 years ago, he said THEY were treated better and received more(benefits). Talking points of liberal victims mentality. What disturbed me was that 83% of Somalis are on some form of public assistance. Mostly because THEY feel they’re owed IT. That mind-set WILL widen THE DIVIDE.

  • Gary Gross says:

    That’s a nice recap. I was sitting by the door so I didn’t have a good view of Hadji as he was on the opposite side of the room. As for the ISIAIH/GRIP guy, you’re right. He wanted a fight in the worst way. I thought Dr. Palmer handled that situation perfectly.

  • Kermit Eastman says:

    I thought Dr. Palmer gave an excellent presentation. Unfortunate that not all in attendance were there to “pick a fight”, rather than to learn from the truth.The “pick a fight group” would not be Somalis if the actual cost (benefits) were really publicized and understood. Also, businesses started by the Somalis are primarily “for somalies”. Examples are food stores, taxis, auto repair shops, grocery stores, etc. The bindings of poverty will not be broken with those endeavors.

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