Yes, Faribault is a diverse community

In this file photo, a Somali family waits to cross a downtown Faribault street.

ON ANY GIVEN DAY, I can drive on a street in Faribault, walk along the sidewalk, glance out my office window or go shopping and see a racial diversity of people.

I can stand in my side yard and look toward the home of an Asian couple. I can glance up the hill and watch two preschoolers, the daughters of a white mother and an African American father, play outside. In my front yard, I can see, several houses down, the Hispanic family that has lived in my neighborhood for years.

Yes, Faribault, population 23,352, is a community of diversity. Thirteen percent of our residents are Hispanic/Latino and another 7.4 percent, black or African American, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. All totaled, about one-fifth of our residents identify themselves as “non-white.”

As my husband would say—and this is not meant at all as derogatory—shopping in at least one local grocery store is like walking into the United Nations. We shop side-by-side with Spanish-speaking Latino families and with Somali women clothed in billowing dresses and head scarves.

Just the other evening, as I entered the local public library, a Sudanese man held the exterior library door open for me while his pre-teen son opened the interior door. It’s been a long time since a young boy held a door for me and I expressed to him my appreciation for his respect and good manners.

The other day, while waiting in the car for my husband to pick up milk at a local convenience store, I observed a cluster of teenaged Somali girls, dressed in head scarves and flowing dresses, move along the sidewalk while, just across the street, a 60-something white woman clad in a jacket resembling an American flag pushed a cart of groceries. It was a unique visual illustrating diversity in Faribault.

Faribault International FestivalPhoto by Audrey Kletscher HelblingSeveral Latinos lead in singing of Mexico’s national anthem last September during the International Festival at Faribault’s Central Park. Flags represent the birthplace nations of those participating.

The diversity of my community bubbled to the surface Tuesday after I read a comment on City Pages, an online Minneapolis-based information source. A post I published last week about jewelry store thefts in Faribault and elsewhere in Minnesota was linked to in “The Blotter” section as was an article in the Faribault Daily News which identified the jewelry store thieves as “black males.”

Now I don’t want to get into the issue of whether the news reporter should have racially-tagged the suspects. But I was miffed by the first Blotter comment on the blog post.

It looks like “diversity” has now spread to Hastings and Faribault.

That comment was followed by a reply I won’t print here because of the language. But you can read it by clicking here.

So why did the initial diversity comment rile me? Well, I’m tired of over-generalizations that those of us living outside the Twin Cities metro area reside in closed-up communities comprised mostly of Anglo-Americans. We are not just a bunch of white descendants of Scandinavians or Germans or Irish or French… We are racially diverse and growing in diversity.

If you ask the residents of Willmar or Worthington, St. James or Madelia, or many other Minnesota towns, they’ll tell you the same. Latinos, Asians, Somalians, Sudanese and others call outstate Minnesota home.

Diversity spread to Faribault decades ago. Just stroll through my neighborhood.

How diverse is your neighborhood, your small town, your suburb, your city? Let’s hear.

This post was written by Audrey Kletscher Helbling and originally published on  Minnesota Prairie Roots.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/03/2012 - 11:58 am.

    Sort of diverse

    When 80% of the community is white and the next largest group is Hispanics at 13% (admittedly, some Hispanics categorize themselves as white, which may lead to some undercount), that’s a very limited definition of ‘diverse’. ‘Token’ might be equally appropriate.
    I don’t have the numbers for Mankato readily at hand (I’ve seen them), but they’re similar; even whiter, I think.

  2. Submitted by Mark Rittmann on 05/03/2012 - 10:57 pm.

    Diversity is a challange in out state MN.

    I live in NW, MN.

    Our small town (1500) consists of mostly Swede and Norwegian descendents, with a few German, Polish, and French Canadian, thrown in. It is the history of 19th century settlement.

    Yet our small town has numerous Latinos (or Hispanics ). And a number of black (Afro -American), and Asian members.

    This does not qualify as diversity, but these community members are seen as part of our community. There may be discriminatory views kept close to the vest, but they do not make it into the light.

    Among the Elementary school kids, and High School kids, our modestly diverse fellow towns people are known simply by their first names. Yes, we know their last names.

    As I said, it is not diversity, but it is significant. They are part of our community. They belong here.

    Some of this acceptance is system dynamics (we need each other in a small town) – both for economic and relational support). But the open involvement of those unlike the base is encouraging.

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