July 5, 2004


For Bantu Refugees, Hard-Won American Dreams (WILLIAM L. HAMILTON, 7/05/04, NY Times)

Mr. Edow (pronounced EE-doh) and Ms. Idle (pronounced EE-dalay) are part of a continuing resettlement of 13,000 Bantu people from Somalia, descendants of people kidnapped from southern Africa by Arab slave traders two centuries ago. As part of one of the most ambitious relocations of political refugees by the United States in recent history, the Bantu couple arrived in Tucson in May 2003 from a Kenyan camp. They were uneducated, unemployed and unfamiliar with basic facts of American life like electrical appliances and indoor plumbing.

Now Mr. Edow and Ms. Idle drive themselves to work in their own car, a Ford Escort they bought in September. They shop at 99-cent stores. They pay the $635 rent for their three-bedroom apartment. The children, a 15-year-old and two 8-year-olds, are in school, earning good grades and, like other Bantu children, school officials say, outperforming the general student population. Mr. Edow is saving money to buy a house.

"Every month I pay rent," he said, sitting in his kitchen with a bare foot propped on his seat, a cellphone in his hand and a videotape of "Shrek" entertaining his children in the next room. "It's good to own a house. It belongs to you."

Mr. Edow, who could not read numbers a year ago, knows what a down payment is. In May, he applied for a green card, celebrating his application with a red, white and blue cake.

The availability of entry-level jobs in the hospitality industry has made Tucson a popular destination for the resettlement of Bosnians, Afghans and Liberians. There are 71 Bantu people, and more than 100 are expected by the end of the year.

Mr. Edow and Ms. Idle escaped from Somalia to Kenya on foot, a 10-day walk without food. In Somalia, Mr. Edow said, he watched as his father was executed with a hammer and nails.

Now, in life-skill classes that supplement daily English classes, Bantu parents learn that hitting their children is discouraged, though that was how they were disciplined in Africa. They make a wary peace with African-Americans at home and at school who consider them foreign. They learn that Fourth of July fireworks are exploded to entertain not kill, and that being hit by a water balloon, as Bantu children were in one incident at school, is a game and not a hateful fight.

At work, the Bantu refugees learn how to prepare hotel amenities, like placing courtesy soaps and folding the tips of the toilet tissue, though they used pit latrines in Kenya and Somalia and had never seen a toilet.

But caseworkers, school officials and employers say the Bantus are making the most remarkable progress of the refugee groups in Tucson, given that they arrived with the most remarkable disadvantages: the trauma of tribal war in Somalia, where the Bantus were considered low-caste and denied opportunities for education and employment, and a rural ignorance of Western culture and modern life.

The Bantu refugees had to be taught to tell time, an accomplishment that fills them with pride.

Good they can tell it since it's on their side.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 5, 2004 9:31 AM

And to think there are 6 billion more americans out there!

Posted by: at July 5, 2004 1:35 PM

"In Somalia, Mr. Edow said, he watched as his father was executed with a hammer and nails."

And we're the Great Satan?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at July 5, 2004 2:37 PM

This importation of primitive peoples from around
the globe is social engineering on a grand scale
and its goal is nothing short of replacing our
race. The agitators for this seem to be the new
breed of post-racial messianic Christians such
as O.J.

I agree that America needs a good shock to its
system, but that that must come from internal
improvements, not the importation of alien stock.

It is likely that even the second generation amongst these groups will have average IQ's in
the 80 range and then what, you have a self-contained communities of alien racial stock
floating around inside America.

You actually believe that non-whites won't take
the first chance they can to try and turn the tables??? Your belief in the myth of the noble
savage is astounding.

Posted by: J.H. at July 6, 2004 9:41 AM


Posted by: oj at July 6, 2004 9:52 AM

Post human?

Posted by: J.H. at July 6, 2004 9:57 AM

No, those are the libertarians.,

Posted by: oj at July 6, 2004 10:25 AM