Kadra Abdi is originally from Somalia and Kenya, and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She obtained her Master of Public Policy degree with an emphasis on Gender and Global Policy and a minor in Human Rights from the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College in Anthropology, and Women and Gender Studies. She has a strong background and interest in international development, social entrepreneurship, and community-based organizations. She has worked with diverse communities in Kenya and Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota with a focus on program development and the creation of healthy relations across cultures. Follow Kadra on Twitter at @JESUISKADRA ———
“We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are — in our bones. The promise we see in those who come here from every corner of the globe, that’s always been one of our greatest strengths. It keeps our workforce young. It keeps our country on the cutting edge. And it’s helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known.”
– President Barack Obama
In June 2013, I traveled to Stockholm, Sweden as a grantee of the U.S. Government, specifically of the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm. The purpose of this travel was to present a workshop at the 2013 Nordic Somali Youth Summit, “a project that continues to strengthen and connect engaged youths across the Nordic borders and promote cross-national cooperation on education, employment, social entrepreneurship and political participation.”
During the summit, I led a workshop titled, “Modern Somali-American.” I discussed the dichotomy of traditional and modern social norms and how they are reconciled day-to-day in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I also shared stories about efforts to engage community members as active participants in creating solutions to community concerns.
I was proud to be an American in Stockholm. I was proud to emphasize my American-ness more any other part of my identity.
I shared stories from my four, formative years at Luther College. It was at Luther where I learned to be comfortable in my skin and with my identity, which was not exactly mainstream in a Norwegian-American Lutheran college.
I identify as a Muslim, Somali, American, and a feminist. At Luther, I learned that the intersection of those identities is not only possible, it is a strength.
Over the years, I became much more self-aware. I became aware of my ability to comfortably navigate and shift between cultures and identities. I learned to be at peace with being a perpetual insider and outsider.
My Somali counterparts in Sweden could relate to my stories. We connected on our shared narrative. I left the Summit feeling inspired. I made friends, and potential collaborators. I made connections that would last me a lifetime.
Sadly, upon returning to my own borders, the same values I was espousing to foreigners abroad about America’s tolerance of immigrants were not extended to me.
I traveled back to Minneapolis on Sunday, June 9th. Upon returning, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport conducted an unnecessary, unjustified, illegal, and degrading search.
I understand that for some people, searches at airport checkpoints might seem routine, but let me explain to you why this was not.
It was not a random security check upon my arrival into the United States. After the initial questions, the officer referred me for additional screening without explaining the process. I was the only passenger chosen for the additional screening, and the screening took place in the open area, not in a private room.
The Officer said my name and country of origin were “red flags” and that people with my name do “bad things.” He said “there is always an issue when people are entering the United States.” Simply put, I was the target of racial, ethnic, and religious profiling.