Interesting panel discussion this morning on race and ethnicity at the River Market’s Ron Robinson Theater in the River Market. The discussion, titled “Money, Class and Opportunity,” was held in conjunction with the release of UALR’s 11th installment of their survey of racial attitudes in Pulaski County. You can see data from the 2013-2014 study and a summary of the findings here.
Moderated by State Sen. Joyce Elliott, the panel discussion featured an introduction by UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson, followed by a digest of the numbers from Arkansas Chief Economist and Forecaster Dr. Michael Pakko. On the panel were Maria Elena de Avila of the Arkansas Department of Career Education; State Rep. Fred Love; Heather Larkin, president and CEO of the Arkansas Community Foundation; Carmen Parks of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Terry Richard-Trevino of the League of Latin American Citizen and the UALR Dept of Anthropology and Sociology and State Rep. Darrin Williams, CEO of Southern Bancorp.
In his introduction, Anderson said that there is often a perception that “time has taken care of” racism, and we should leave it alone. “I would submit that that is an example of moral darkness,” he said. “If time has taken care of it, then the cure is much too slow, and will leave many minority citizens to suffer disadvantage for centuries to come. That would just be wrong.” After mentioning the Little Rock Central High desegregation and the racial troubles in Harrison, Ark., he said: “If time is the cure, then we’re obliged to speed the clock.”
Topics up for discussion by the panel were wide ranging, from neighborhood blight to nutrition to the largely re-segregated state of some Little Rock schools. During the discussion, Dr. Terry Richard-Trevino suggested that the state of Arkansas becoming more fiscally and socially conservative will likely exacerbate the problems associated with poverty. “The U.S. as a whole has the highest poverty rate of any industrialized country in the world, which means we allow poverty to exist,” Richard-Trevino said. “In many cases, it does take government action, at the federal and state level, to attack it…. We don’t see that kind of initiative in the federal government or the state government to really address those issues.”
Elliott said that society tends to be dismissive of poverty today, with people often saying that being poor is the fault of those in poverty. “It’s almost a sport now, I think,” Elliott said, “to blame people who are poor… We can be dismissive of poverty in a lot of ways, because of the face we put on poverty. I suspect that’s because the faces we put on poverty are black and brown.”