As a Muslim male of Somali descent living in post-September 11 United States, Mustafa Jumale knew that he risked harassment from law enforcement officers and racism from some Americans. Although he had never experienced it himself, harassment by police was a common complaint among his peers. But Jumale thought that if he did everything right – completed high school and went to college – people would treat him differently.
After three years at the University of Minnesota, where he studies Sociology of Law, Criminology and Deviance, Jumale learned that the university is far from the save haven he was looking for.
“‘Minnesota nice’ at this university is covert racism,” Jumale said, as he sipped a cup of coffee at as shop just outside the university’s West Bank campus.
Jumale’s sentiments stem from observation and interview he conducted of least a dozen students for a research paper he wrote about the experiences of “Somali College Students at a Predominantly White Institution.” In his research, Jumale heard from a Somali honor student who majored in English Literature but was told by a professor on the first day of class that the course was “too advanced.” Then there was another student who told him he received a D in a term paper because, according to the professor, “the words in your essay are not words you would be able to understand.” But no grievance was more common than alleged harassment by the university’s police.
Jumale heard complaints about police officers randomly searching Somali students’ supposedly looking for stolen property. Others complained about being asked to provide IDs while white students walked by uninterrupted.
Despite the pain these incidents caused, Somali students treated them like nuisances and went about their studies. It wasn’t until last October, when a police officer detained three Somali students for robbery, that Jumale and his fellow students realized that these were no trivial issues. (MORE)