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Ohio Capital Journal: J.D. Vance’s comments about Somali community spark pushback in Columbus
The Republican U.S. Senate nominee spoke about a Somali community in Minneapolis during an interview last year
By Nick Evans
September 21, 2022
- In an interview last year, Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance brought up violence in a Somali community to defend his hardline stance on immigration policy. Columbus is home to the second largest Somali community in the country.
- Vance relayed a story from a friend about violence in a Somali neighborhood in Minneapolis known as Little Mogadishu.
- “You have crazy things happening like some guy hatchets another person to death in Little Mogadishu,” Vance told Murphy. “Is it racist to not want that to be part of your community? That not to be part of your city?”
- “I don’t think it is,” he continued. “I don’t think it has anything to do with the color of people’s skin, I think it has something to do with I don’t want people to get hatcheted to death in a community where I live.”
- It was a strange pivot in a long-winded answer about the nature of what constitutes “an American.”
- Trying to preempt charges of racism, Vance added, “I frankly don’t care about the color of the skin of the people who are coming. It’s a question of whether they believe it’s okay to blow yourself up in a mall if you disagree with somebody.”
- From that, Vance jumped straight into his story about a supposed hatchet attack in Minneapolis.
- In a small conference room on Columbus’ North side, Vance’s comments about the Somali community washed over Ismail Mohamed.
- His family fled Somalia in the late 1990s and eventually wound up in Columbus.
- He’s a lawyer and one of two Somali candidates for the Ohio House almost certain to win this November.
- Assuming they do, they’ll be the first Somali lawmakers to serve in the Ohio statehouse.
- “You know, clearly J.D. Vance did have a political agenda,” Mohamed said after listening to Vance’s comments.
- Mohamed readily recalled the Minneapolis case, but he questioned how Vance deployed the story.
- “To bring it up at that point, to bring up that one example?” he said. “That’s the image that people tend to paint, when they just pick one example that’s extreme and be like, okay, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to be stabbed to death, and of course, anybody would agree with that.”
- Mohamed called it “disingenuous” for Vance to cherry-pick one incident for political purposes but stopped short of taking personal offense. He argued that while some immigrants do commit crimes, research suggests they’re generally less violent than American citizens.
- Mohamed encouraged Vance to visit. He explained Somalis in Columbus have worked hard to carve a place for themselves and contribute to the broader community.
- “We have over 300 businesses from cafes to restaurants to car mechanics to the trucking industry, which is huge in our community,” he explained. “We’re bringing millions of dollars in taxes, and we’re contributing to the overall economy.”