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About that 1957 declaration

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About that 1957 declaration

In response to Max Brantley's column "Forget 1957; talk about today" (Nov. 23) on the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce proposal to repeal a 1957 Little Rock City Board resolution that cheered Gov. Orval Faubus for fighting to preserve segregation at Central High School.

With all due respect to Ruth Shepherd, Charles Stewart, and anyone else behind the repeal effort, I respectfully disagree with it, am offended by it, and will publicly denounce it.

Repealing the ordinance can't and won't undo a single injustice associated with what Little Rock did to support Orval Faubus in 1957. It won't do anything to eradicate present systemic bias. It will simply amount to window dressing for the cultural incompetence and calculated injustice that characterize how Little Rock operates.

Governor Faubus seized on that cultural incompetence and tolerance for calculated injustice in his reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Little Rock civic, religious, and business leaders followed Faubus in 1957 in much the same way they followed the 2011 sales tax appeal by Mayor Stodola and the Chamber of Commerce.

Rather than an ordinance repealing a dead declaration that nobody cares about (but which should never be forgotten or excused), we ought to propose and lobby for passage of an ordinance that ends the three at-large city directors and have all city directors elected from fairly drawn voting wards. That ordinance would address ongoing systemic bias and have real impact on how power is held and wielded in the capital city of Arkansas.

This repeal effort is merely a "feel good" exercise, an attempt to erase ugly history. History, ugly and otherwise, can't be changed by a cover-up. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments didn't try to erase slavery. Instead they were ratified to end and address the systemic injustices slavery carried.

What Orval Faubus did in 1957 (including the unjust declaration enacted by Little Rock directors) can't be erased. Nobody should try to cover it up, defend it, or rehabilitate the city's image on account of it. It happened. It was unjust. And it was widely supported by politicians, business, religious, and civic leaders.

Rather than turning over the political graves of Orval Faubus and the misguided people who supported him, we should invest our time and efforts in confronting and correcting present injustices. Passing an ordinance to repeal the 1957 declaration takes no courage, corrects no wrong, and changes no injustices suffered because of that declaration. Little Rock won't be a bit more just whether the 1957 declaration is repealed or not.

We profess to be agents of social justice. Let's not waste our time exhuming a dead ordinance. No one should celebrate passage of an ordinance to repeal a dead ordinance when we have living injustices to face and fight.

Wendell Griffen

Little Rock

(Griffen is a Pulaski County circuit judge.)

From the web

The only systemic bias that exists today is the Democratic Party's abuse of the Justice Department and Civil Rights Statutes to suspend the rights of whites in employment and education through Affirmative Action Programs. That is for everyone except for themselves. A bold solution to the under-representation of blacks and Hispanics on the city council would be to incorporate into two new cities, East Little Rock and West Little Rock. That would prevent a predominance of either race on their respective city councils.

Thomas Pope

The at-large council membership is systemic bias whether Thomas Pope believes it or not. City officials' obeisance to the Chamber of Commerce is another systemic bias. And since the city's main newspaper serves as a spokesman for the above that represents a third systemic bias.

Too many of our citizenry shy away from all things political, therefore none of this is going away. All hail the Little Rock occupiers.

Verla Sweere

Hope for critical thought and empathy

While walking to class at UALR last week I heard the sound of preaching. I was surprised to find a man and three women preaching fire and brimstone outside the student center. They were not there to convert, council, or pray with students. They were there to tell us we're hell-bound, the lot of us. My homosexuality condemned me, while the girls on campus were whores, and the frat boys, whoremongers. We were all servants of Satan. The group was not on campus to change minds, nor were their minds open to change. They were only there to display their own vanity (which I'm pretty sure the Lord frowns upon).

The crowd of student observers grew over the three hours I watched. I was so transfixed I had to skip class. I couldn't look away. If the "evangelists" ' purpose was to win souls for Christ, they failed miserably. If their purpose was to bring a diverse group of students together, they succeeded. The crowd was every color, creed, religion and sexual orientation. Lesbians passed out "gay cookies." Frat boys made it rain condoms while Muslims distributed information about Islam. Self-professed Christian students challenged the preachers on their interpretations of scripture. Those challenges gave me hope that the next generation of evangelicals and social conservatives will be capable of critical thought and empathy.  I was very impressed with the student body that day. If that group of people is indicative of our future, then perhaps we will see more people who seek to understand rather than shout ideology at the personal expense of others.

H.L. Moody

Little Rock

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