What will happen in Olivia?

A reporter's notes

Sometime-CP contributor Brett Stursa reported for the Olivia Times-Journal from 2002-2003. Indications are that roughly 80 of the Katrina evacuees will end up seeking shelter in the quintessential Minnesota small town.

Stursa offers some insight on what may happen if--and apparently that's a big "if"--any hurricane victims end up in Olivia. Her e-mail to Blotter recalls dynamics that have happened when the state has welcomed refugees en masse before, and foreshadows what could likely happen again:

"After reporting for the community newspaper in Olivia for more than a year, I learned the people of Olivia are good people and I'm sure they'll embrace Katrina refugees with all that is Minnesota Nice initially.

"The farming town of 2,500 is nestled about 90 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. Public transportation doesn't come its way and the local economy has been dwindling for years. If the Katrina refugees stay for any amount of time, they'll be stuck in a town with little to do, with nowhere to go--and if they're black, they will be the only ones in town.

"It's not hard to imagine how a warm-fuzzy embrace could get tense rather quickly. Racism and the fear many small-town dwellers have of outsiders can stay dormant for only so long.

"I'm sure the community will help Katrina victims as best they can. But if the situation lasts for any amount of time, it'll be an interesting one to watch unfold."

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