Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hope and frustration - the complexity of race and culture in SD

Two front page articles in yesterday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader have me pondering instead of pontificating.

The first was a positive piece on the increasing and increasingly well received immigrant population of Sioux Falls. The number of foreign born residents went up almost 60% from 2008 - 09, to 11,000.

"Once you get people in from one foreign country that like the community, you tend to get more, and Sioux Falls has been friendly to them," [SDSU Sociologist Dr. Mike] McCurry said.

The attraction to Sioux Falls is the same for foreign-born residents as it is for those born in the U.S.: low crime, great schools, job opportunities and family in the area, [Multi-Cultural Center Director Christy] Nicolaisen said.

"There's so many pluses about Sioux Falls, why not?" she said.

On the other hand, there's the continuing agony of the Indian Reservations, pointed up in a sad piece on the Indian Health Service.

Senators lambasted Indian Health Service officials Tuesday after investigators found that some workers in the federal agency had criminal records, stole drugs and embezzled money - all while patients endured long lines for medical services or were turned away...

...Health care is a chronic problem for Native Americans, particularly those on large, rural reservations where treatment options are scarce. As a result, Indians generally have a lower life expectancy and higher rates of diabetes, tuberculosis, alcoholism and suicide than other ethnic groups, according to federal data.

One story of different races and cultures harmonizing, the second story about on-going failure to find a way forward.

Many factors leap to mind.

Racism - yes, real, but why is it not the universal frustration of all minorities here?

Local vs. Federal - maybe some of that, but certainly immigration brings Federal involvement to the local scene just as history brings it to the Reservations.

Urban vs. rural - that's mentioned, but the immigrants who are close to Sioux Falls services can't always afford them.

Anyway, no simple "If we just fixed X then Y would follow" answer leaps out at me. The complexity of human problems presents, but so does the hope of progress. I'm certainly interested in perspectives.


Grace said...

Racism exists for the Sudanese minority community here in Sioux Falls. Ask the Church of Holy Apostles who during the months of July and August had an outdoor crucifix spray painted black, hate symbols spray painted on the back wall and church sign listing service times and had two memorial garden benches stolen. Talk to Fr. Abraham of the Sudanese congregation meeting there about the harassment he and his congregation have experienced after church.

You may see it's a different sort of racism, but it's there nonetheless.

TLF+ said...

I believe it, Grace. Thanks for the examples. Yet the overall picture for immigration to Sioux Falls is positive - 60% in a year. So something is working and attractive.

I think some of the difference from Reservations may be that foreign born immigrants come here willingly or at least hopefully, while the Reservations are a manifestation of bitter historic coercion.

And as far as I know, there's not the level of self-inflicted social disruption (addiction, suicide, etc.) among the foreign born that there is on the Reservations.

So, racism is a partial explanation but not a complete definition of what does and doesn't work here.

Not to be flippant, but God has the last laugh on the crucifix vandals. In expressing hatred for Black neighbors, they turned Jesus Black! Definitely showed which side God is on.