Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Stay Away From Somalis!

by Yassin Ismail
Saturday, March 13, 2010

"What's another word for fastidious?" I ask as I glaze blankly at my computer screen.
"Thesaurus," answers Amina, my cubicle neighbour, as she types away on her computer.
"Thesaurus?" I replied confused.

"As in use a Thesaurus."

"I've already googled the word, and I don't like any of the terms I got back," I explain, scrolling down my computer screen.

She stands up and places a small thesaurus on my desk. "At the risk of sounding old fashioned I suggest looking through that. It might prove to be more useful...but you'll never know unless you try."

The patronizing tone of her voice irritates me, and I gave her a look that conveys this. Indifferently, she takes her seat and begins to type again. God, I hate you, I think to myself. From my first day of work, a little over six months, when I was assigned my cubicle, I've tried to be friendly to Amina, not only because she was my cubicle neighbour but because she was the only other Somali working at the company, and all I received in return was a patronizing, sarcastic, attitude, which was delivered in a lethargic manner.

Coming from a small town, with very few Somalis, I feel an instant sense of kinship whenever I see a Somali person. Unfortunately, the Somalis in the big city I’m currently living in are nothing like the ones from my small town. I remember one day standing in the line at Starbucks, when I noticed the girl taking the orders at the front. Immediately my Somali radar went off!

When I finally reached the front of the line, the girl indifferently asks to take my order. I give her a big smile before telling her what I wanted. As I pay for my order, I causally ask her if she's Somali.

She fixes her eyes on me for the first time, "Why do you want to know?" she asked suspiciously.
"Oh...uhmm...well...you see... because I'm Somali and I thought you looked Somali, that's why," I explain in a friendly tone of voice.

She looked me up and down, before replying, "You don't look Somali."
"Oh... I...don’t..." but I never get to finish what I was saying because she cut me off by calling, "NEXT!"
That's basically how all the Somalis I've met so far are. When I had initially moved to the big city I had such hopes of being able to connect to my community, and within the first month of my arrival all those hopes were dashed.

One day though I was finally enlightened to the reason. I had been working late at the office and running late for dinner with my friends I decided to call for a cab. The cab driver turned out to be a friendly middle aged Somali man...in fact the first friendly Somali I had met since arriving in town.

“I could tell you are Somali!” he said grinning at me through the rare view mirror. “That long pointy nose,” he touches the tip of his nose, “That is a Somali nose!”

He begins asking me about what I do and I reply that I’m a Junior Executive of Managerial accounting. I like to throw that title around whenever I want to impress people. Technically, it means I sit in a small box all day crunching numbers and get paid poorly for it, but to the average Somali when I tell them my title they think I’m the CEO of the company! My mother also throws this title around whenever she meets the mother of a girl she thinks I should marry. Like all Somali mothers, my mother has been planning my wedding since I was born and having all the details worked out all she needs now is to find the girl that would make her the perfect daughter in law.

The taxi driver seems impressed by the title too and tells me how we need more Somali young men like myself in the community. He asks me then if I know any Somalis in town and I tell him I don’t.

“Good! Good!” he replies. “You know these Somali people. They are no good. They just get you in trouble or they want something from you. It is better to stay away. I tell my children when you see Somalis don’t talk to them...they are just trouble!”

I simply nod along as listen to him speak. “A good boy like you should stay away from Somalis. Far away!”
He drops me off at the restaurant and as a pay him he gives me his card and tells me to call his cell number whenever I need a cab.

As I take his card I wonder if when he said ‘stay away from Somalis,’ that included him too. I don’t have much time to ponder this though as I’m already late for dinner with my friends.
Yassin Ismail
[email protected]