A young woman and a community lost

The search for Sudi Bashir Abdi shows a dichotomy of social othering.

Ramla Bile

While Somali solidarity was vibrant in the search for Sudi Abdi, as made evident by the many Somalis who congregated along the Mississippi River in an organized search to find the young woman, the loss was not shared by the city.

Despite that Sudi was last spotted on campus, she was a University graduate and she spent the night before her disappearance only blocks from campus, few on campus knew she was missing. Even fewer know her body was found last week. At most, those who saw the search wondered why so many Somalis were on the riverbank wearing orange vests.

At times it seems much about this campus is an attempt of separation from the “Third World within,” as if acknowledging the community around it and the people who make it is culturally contaminating. It’s not far-fetched to argue the white student majority at the University leaves campus only to visit upscale restaurants, shopping centers, coffee shops and clubs in Uptown or downtown. They never really know this city.

The University was not alone in forgetting Sudi. Somalis had to deal with the fact that Sudi’s search was considered a “Somali problem,” hardly recognized by anyone else. Her story was covered when the Daily resumed publication two weeks after she was reported missing, but no other news establishment in the city followed Sudi’s story extensively, a shocking occurrence considering all the coverage usually given to missing people. I can only imagine how different the situation would be if Sudi were a white woman.

Sudi’s story went unnoticed because we live in a segregated world. Just as the idea of an “imagined community” creates national borders, we imagine social barriers that have the capacity to function like concrete walls.

There is an entire culture of separation, and it is the reason local journalists failed to seek Sudi’s story, or more candidly, why many individuals find immigrants unworthy of attention and ignorable.

Sudi was Somali, but does categorizing her as “the other” deny her a place here? It is a shame thousands of the city’s inhabitants were left unaffected while the support Sudi’s family received was mostly from fellow Somalis. It is tragic that a woman can go missing, be found dead and her existence never be known to her neighbors.

Ramla Bile is a member of the Daily editorial board. She welcomes comments at [email protected]