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4 Organizing Across Diasporan Crosscurrents In March 1998, a Somali immigrant driver was brutally shot and killed as he responded to a fare in a largely low-income, African American section of North Minneapolis. The incident, widely reported in the press, underscored the broader socioeconomic context in which the CWC was attempting to promote a common "African" identity.1 The cabs stretched for blocks on Monday along the quiet residential street that borders the tiny Minnesota Islamic Cemetery in Roseville [a Twin Cities suburb]. Inside the chain link fence, nearly 80 men huddled together against the icy wind as they watched the body of fellow cabdriver, Said Igal, softly placed into the frigid earth. Like Igal, most of the men were Somali immigrants who came to Minnesota seeking opportunity and a haven from the violence of their war-torn homeland. Some called Igal cousin or friend as they stood gathered on the barren ground in the mid-afternoon sun. But many called Igal, 48, a husband and father whose life was cut short over the price of a fare. "He came here to escape the bullets, and now his life is ended by gunfire," said Abdul Ghani, a 31-year-old friend of the Igal family. "It's so tragic." Police still don't know who shot Igal at 27th and Queen Avenues North in Minneapolis. An afternoon news conference [called by the cab company for which Igal worked] quickly turned into a news conference on cab driver safely . . . Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton [the city's first female mayor, who was also AfricanAmerican ] and other city officials said that some of the responsibility for safety also falls on owners of cabs and cab companies . . . Cabdrivers know that theirs is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. But many of the Somali and Ethiopian men gathered Mondaysaid they are torn by an even deeper issue—perceived racial obligation. While nothing about a suspect, including race, is known, many cab drivers are concerned about serving pockets within the South [the CWC islocated in this area] and North sides that they consider to be high crime areas. Some of the implications have racial overtones. "We are black, and if you see a black woman with children in the cold, you pick her up and drop her off,no charge; or older black people—let them go free," said Faysal Mohammed Omar, a former ABC cabdriver who worked with Igal. "They came first, we came after, but we are still in the same situation." Sonbol [owner of the taxi company for which Igal worked] and several drivers said Mondaythat they believe Igal's killing will hurt cab passengers in parts of south and north Minneapolis. 60 Across Diasporan Space/Time "This will affect certain neighborhoods, because a driver will feel they are in danger and they will not go there," Sonbol said. "We can't force them" to bid on calls for service. Another Blue &White driver who identified himself as Girma said that he feels a bond and sense of racial responsibility to other blacks, and that many of his North Side fares are black. He will continue to serve the North Side, but the killing will make him wary. "The bottom line is, even with a good person, after midnight, you're afraid to go to the North Side, and that messes it up for the good people because all you need is one bad person," Girma said. "Another black person has died, and it doesn't matter , African-American or Somali, we're all from Africa."2 This article highlighted several issues in emerging models for the organization of African diversity in the Twin Cities.First, there wassome level of perceived commonaltybetweenAfrican immigrants and African Americans based on race or shared experiences of racial discrimination. Second, "blackness" was associated with a common African origin. Third, Somali and Ethiopian cabdrivers interviewedfor this article understood and struggled with a core component of North America's racialized model for organizing diversity: the presumed and culturally constructed correlations between criminalityand skin color (that is "race"). Even though a suspect had not been identified, the intervieweesassumed that the guilty party was a Black, specifically African American, person. This and other incidents reported in the press, such as the one below,indicated how American racial constructs were an unavoidable part of how diversity was being conceptualized and organized among African peoples living in the Twin Cities. The neighborhoods in which the CWC operated had among the...


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