LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
At a Trump rally last week, Representative Ilhan Omar was the subject of a racist chant of, quote, "send her back." But when she returned to her district on Thursday night, she was met by this...
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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: We, we, we love you. We, we, we love you...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Among those who came to welcome her home was Saciido Shaie. Ilhan Omar is her representative and also a fellow Somali immigrant. Shaie runs the Ummah Project, a program that supports Somali kids and families in the Twin Cities. And she joins us now from Minnesota Public Radio. Welcome.
SACIIDO SHAIE: Thank you for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was the mood at the airport? Why did people want to show up?
SHAIE: Well, Ilhan is one of us. And, you know, not only that - a lot of us see themselves as being Ilhan. And so it's really heartbreaking to know that our own president is telling one of us to go back home. That attack on Ilhan is not only an attack on Ilhan but an attack on me, an attack on immigrants people, an attack on the minority community.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How does what was said about Ilhan Omar affect you? Do you notice a change in your own treatment?
SHAIE: Absolutely. So let me just highlight what America meant to me. I came to America as a young child. I left my country without my choice. America housed me and give me an opportunity and allow me to be part of the bigger fabric. And so right now, it's about time for me to give back. So I am trying to make my community better. And so when you talk about immigrant people, when you talk about, we don't need you here? Who are you? Like, go back to where are you from. All of that is un-American to me because that's not the America that give me a second chance in life. And there's so many people who are getting the OK from the president to say things to me - like, we don't like you. And take that hijab out of your head. And you're dirty - and all of that. And that's un-American.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you heard something like that?
SHAIE: Of course. A few days ago, I was with my daughter, trying to buy something from the McDonald's. And this guy, a humongous guy came to me and shout at me, I hate people that look like you. You look ugly. Go back to where you from. And my daughter, who's 11 years old right now, looked at me. And she's like, Mom, he said, go back to where you're from. Tell him we're from here, northeast Minneapolis. She's only 11 years old. She shouldn't be hearing those things.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We know that hate crimes have increased since President Trump was elected. Have you noticed that things have changed in that period? I mean, you're saying that the president sends a signal that might be picked up by others. Do you - have you seen a change?
SHAIE: I've seen a huge change. When I was growing up, going to school, all I used to think about was, would I make good friends? Would I be successful in school and graduate? Would I get a good job? Right now, every single day, I look my shoulder, thinking about, is this person a good person, or is this person going to attack you? That is how I feel. It's traumatizing. It's - I don't even know how to explain. And, you know, I came to America as an immigrant. You can say to me anything. But when it comes to my kids, they are born in America. This is all they know.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you tell them?
SHAIE: You know, as a mother, I'm honest with my kids. I tell them majority - I would say more than 90-something percent of American - are great people. They love us. Our teachers love you. Neighbors love you. People we work with love us. One or two or three people would say things. Do not take that in heart because America, regardless of what anyone would say, is our home and will be our home forever.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you think it's more challenging for the Somali community given that it is an immigrant community but you're also Muslim and black - two groups that have been targeted particularly?
SHAIE: Absolutely. You bring all the titles - the ****hole country, the immigrants that you don't need, the Muslim who terrorize the world. But I will tell you something - Somali community are resilient. They have seen war. Some of them walk to America from Africa to South America to America. I would tell you that things like this will not shake us down.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Representative Omar says she will continue to, quote - and this is a quote from her - "be a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us." And I wonder if you worry that her vocal criticism of this president will draw more hatred towards your community. And if you think she's doing the right thing.
SHAIE: Well, I'll tell you this. When it comes to being elected to represent so many groups and so many cultures, the reason why people elect you is to be a voice for them. I don't have a platform to speak, but Ilhan does. And so when you see Ilhan saying things, it's not Ilhan, but it is the voice for the majority of minority communities who are not able to speak. That is their voice.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Saciido Shaie is a community activist and founder of the Ummah Project in Minneapolis. Thank you very much.
SHAIE: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.