Overwhelming is an understatement, as far as the reaction to our column in the June 12 edition of the Pelican Rapids Press.  Also overwhelming was the very direct impact of the dark side of social media and the internet, on topics of ethnic diversity.

Quick background:  We covered the 2019 Pelican Rapids High School graduation ceremony, and published an assortment of photos in our print edition. Later, we posted a random grouping of pictures on the Pelican Rapids Press Facebook site. 

Several of the photos pictured some of our Somali graduates.  A Facebook follower criticized the paper for placing the photos of the Somali graduates “too” prominently.  Further, the writer accused the newspaper of “Anti-Americanism at it’s finest!” 

We responded with a column that challenged his accusation that the paper is “Anti-American.” Later, we placed it on our pelicanrapidspress.com website, with a reference on the Pelican Press Facebook page. 

The reaction was unbelievable, the number of people reached by our social media post was nearly 34,000 by Monday, June 17.  More than 15,000 reacted to our post. 

The vast majority of the posts were supportive of the Pelican community’s unique spirit of multi-cultural  inclusion and ethnic diversity. There were a few negative and polarizing exchanges (mainly from the  Facebook follower who wrote the initial post), most of which we deleted or blocked.  

Things get nasty in a hurry on social media. Rather than dwell on the negative, we’re publishing a representative, slightly edited, sampling of the Facebook comments received over the past several days.  

One of the potentially positive outcomes to all of this would be a great turnout for the Pelican Rapids International Friendship Festival, which is June 22, from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Look elsewhere in this edition of the Press for details on the Friendship Festival.  We hope to see you there!

Meanwhile, here are some of the comments readers wrote following the publishing of the column.

Darcy Colosky-Pixley My youngest is a graduate of the PRHS Class of 2019! I’m proud of her and ALL her classmates! That simple!

Nicki Stetz  A reality of Pelican Rapids is our diversity and we do not find it to be a negative. Our children learn to adapt and accept people that have skin colors and backgrounds that may be different from their own. 

There is good and bad in every shape, size and color. To feel you are superior to someone else simply because of how they look and what they wear is shameful.

Àtø Hashi I love the response was given……Pelican Press’s staff do a great job representing Pelican Rapids and making sure Pelican is authentically known for its strong diverse community!  

Staci Allmaras I am proud to be a graduate of Pelican Rapids and see our local paper representing our community. Keep it up!

Lorie Stormo Pelican Rapids should be very proud of its diversity!! My children loved growing up there

Roberta Backman To react in fear and misunderstanding is easy, for it is the brain’s natural response. To react with kindness and compassion is not, for it takes composure and patience. Gandhi, Oprah, and Dr. King all share a few things in common: kind, compassionate, composed, and patient. Oh, and one more thing- their dark skin. 

The color of one’s heart has no correlation to their skin tone. But rather, character. 

Congratulations to ALL members of the PRHS 2019 graduates. May your character continue to define you, always.

Sincerely,    A 2009 PRHS Graduate

Sarah Melby Ehlers Since this is the first time I’ve heard comments in this community similar…you may be giving him far to much voice when repeating it. If anything this community has been actively looking for ways to show their inclusion and kindness to foreign born residents. Clearly there are some who distrust or feel superior, but please do not amplify their voices.

Alan Grothe Having lived here for over 50 years, I am prouder of Pelican Rapids every year. We represent what is good in America. Congrats all graduates!

Denise Magnusson What? Come on people! These graduates are our future. Power on graduates!

Kerri Leucuta Bravo Pelican Rapids Press! I love that Pelican celebrates all cultures!

Doug N Rhoda Miller Our children don’t see color. They see friends.

Kristine Kolar Wow. THIS is the Minnesota I want to live in. Thank you to the community of Pelican Rapids for showing us how to call out anti-American nationalism and hold those who spew it accountable. It is not patriotic, it’s hateful and needs to be called out as such.

Ibrahim Hashi Ahmed. Thank you Pelican Rapids Press, for the thoughtful response, you guys are patriots.

Terra Fitzsimmons. Proud of all the 2019 graduates. As a parent of one of them – they comprise goodness, compassion, and acceptance. They are able to learn and grow from the things that make them different, in the end to be a much richer human in having had first hand relationships with all. It is with these qualities they will lead the way in defining our community as a part of the greater whole – our country… Lead the way Class of 2019!

Bev Johnson I’m proud of small town Pelican Rapids Press, and I’m also proud that my grandsons attend the Pelican Rapids school. Glad they will be growing up with diversity.

Lou Ann Henderson This response is awesome! Bravo to the Pelican Rapids Press! Thank you for standing up for what truly makes America great 

Stacey Hone  My Grandma’s Grandma wore a scarf on her head when she came over from Russia, my Grandma’s mom spoke nearly no English, my Grandma spoke no English until she went to school, my dad was the first generation to graduate high school and college and speak English as a first language but was bilingual, and I only know a little high German from school but cannot speak it. How soon we forget that most of us are descendents of immigrants. Huge bummer that these kids have to live through this nonsense in 2019.

Deb Sjostrom Proud to call Pelican Rapids my home. In a world filled with diversity we need to call out racism and anti-semitism and work towards equity and inclusion. 

Thanks Pelican Rapids Press for taking a stand.

Nadine W. Brown. Pelican Rapids is where David and I have called home since 1994. We proudly return there every summer now. Our children greatly benefitted from this rich diversity…The 2019 graduating class..is probably over 50% diverse with Somalians, Hispanics, AND Norwegians and Germans too! 

Cassie Graff Why is this even a thing? These kids LIVE in AMERICA and GRADUATED from an AMERICAN high school …  they’re American