Recent decision by Minneapolis City Council to sister with the Somali city of Bosaso has been hailed by some as "step in the right direction" and "historic" by others. But is it really?
This type of arrangement is a common practice in communities throughout America. Albeit, it's done with more frequency in more economically established and politically mature communities to add other intangibles such as cultural exchanges. It's generally considered symbolic gesture with very little or no immediate consequences.
Since there is little evidence indicating Somali community in Minnesota meeting either criteria, it's certainly a misplaced priority.
Minneapolis leaders should be voting on resolutions that accelerate economic and political integration of one its newest communities. Resolutions that bring job training, bring satellite sites of Hennepin County Library, and bring additional academic support for children attending underperforming schools in neighborhoods like Cedar Riverside, Seward and Phillips would have been more consequential.
Mayor Betsy Hodges campaigned on closing achievement gap; phenomenon that's far more prevalent and with more immediate impact in the aforementioned neighborhoods than strengthening ties with Somalia. Majority of council members promised to relentlessly focus on changing current economic inequalities in Minneapolis. Sisterhood with another city thousands of miles away is contrary to that promise.
Moreover, this type of political symbolism misguides precious energy and brings more unhealthy competition to the Somali community. There will be more drives for sisterhood. There are talks of Mogadishu and Hennepin County becoming sisters.
The unhealthy aspect of this is that it leads to wrong view of the primary purpose of Somalis being in America. It leads to a belief that the primary purpose is to advocate accessorial towns and villages. Where instead the primary purpose is to establish viable community and continue to make positive contributions to America. Once these purposes are accomplished, such intangibles are warranted.
Strong economic and political connection to Somalia is step backward. The conditions that led to thousands to flee are ever more present. Political gestures such as this one only help importing vestiges of those problems to Minnesota.
There is nothing that American cities couldn’t export to Somalia without sisterhood. Somalia is in great need of humanitarian supplies and they should be appropriated based on needs without political considerations. Sister-alliances decision presents a risk of humanitarian supplies potentially becoming political football.
It's for these reasons and perhaps more that sisterhood of Minneapolis and Bosaso is neither a historic nor a step in the right direction. It's, therefore, a step in the wrong direction