comScore

Willmar isn't overrun by Somalis, nor is it brimming with half-wit bigots

A city councilman notes that the rural Minnesota town underwent an influx of Hispanic migration 20 years ago, and everything turned out fine.

A city councilman notes that the rural Minnesota town underwent an influx of Hispanic migration 20 years ago, and everything turned out fine. Tony Webster

Reader Andrew Plowman, a Willmar city councilman, responds to Somalis have 'taken over the entire town' of Willmar [Video]:

Just wanted to jump on here and offer some clarification and maybe answer questions regarding this.

First, I feel badly. Although I 100 percent support liberty, freedom of speech and therefore the press, this story hurts our town, providing one of two perceptions: 1. The town is overrun with lawless refugees or 2. The town is overrun with alt-right conservatives who embrace racism and hatred.

Neither is true. Willmar is actually overrun with normal people who work hard and support their families, pay their taxes and contribute to society. Our city is growing and we have a fantastic medical system, updated parks, growing business and industrial sectors.

Now for the grit: Yes, we do have a population of Somali immigrants. We also have a population of people who are concerned about what ramifications there may be for large populations with ethnic differences moving into town. There are valid concerns here. However, I believe we are going about addressing these concerns in terrible fashion.

It was mentioned in the comments section, that 20 years ago, the same atmosphere presented itself with our Latino population. One generation later and we have done a 180. Any "gangs" are gone and have been for years. The trailer parks in disrepair have been removed/are being cleaned up and have made significant progress. The generation of Hispanics I went to high school with have good jobs, are raising their families and have integrated seamlessly into our community.

But it took time. Was it easy or quick? No. But it ended up just fine.

Now we are dealing with almost the same thing and acting like it's some unknown phenomenon and (some) people are panicking.

Our poultry industry is huge and all of the supporting industries  make for a monster economic engine that feeds literally thousands of families and contributes massive wealth to the area. That is good. Can there be improvements? Sure...but it doesn't happen overnight.

I'm urging people to be humble, be kind, show love and respect for your fellow human. If we can learn to do that, then let's have some formal sit-downs where the issues can be address logically, not with emotion, fear and anger. Then we might just get somewhere.

Let's not go the direction of national politics, where you are either extreme one side or the other. Most of us are in the middle and that's the problem with two-party politics. Most of us are just trying to do our part, learn and grow. But we all share more in common than we have in differences.

Let's work together and make some changes, both to the system and to our hearts and minds. Thanks and Merry Christmas.