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Race and Arkansas



Race and Arkansas

My interpretation of what guest writer Michael Dougan suggests in his article, “Come Home, Barack,” in the Dec. 4 issue of the Times, is that Barack Obama should have run as a white man here in Arkansas. Why is it that our president-elect should “neutralize the public's perception of [his] blackness?” Why is it that Obama should have run an advertisement displaying his “uncanny” resemblance to his white uncle as opposed to advocating his healthcare or energy plans?

To burnish his connections to the white race, Dougan suggests that Obama “attend a Civil War re-enactment,” or “join the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.” For a campaign built on unity and progress, I'm not sure those photos would be on message. Dougan also points out that Malia and Sasha could join the Daughters of the American Revolution; why not sign them up. You know, pandering never seemed all that genuine to me.

Nowhere in his column does Dougan suggest that Obama run on his credentials and the platform of change that, ultimately, got him elected. Obama is black, he can't change that. The majority of Americans are white, we can't change that. But we can change our mindset that a black person, to fit in, should act just like good ol' white people. Can we please just move on and forget about skin color and its long associated stigmas?

Ben Thielemier

Little Rock


Thank you to Mara Leveritt for a thorough article Dec. 11 on why we should no longer use labels of race in Arkansas, or in our country today. I have struggled for years to ignore others' racist remarks and characterizations and on occasion attempted to educate individuals myself. I thank her for being so informative, yet non-judgmental, in her piece.

Donna Hilton



After several issues that should have been published in “Bored Housewife Reader” or “Breathlessly Hysterical Weekly,” I began to suspect that you had followed the local TV stations into the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy of journalism. It was with great satisfaction that I spotted your Dec. 11 issue and saw that Mara Leveritt had contributed the cover story.  As usual, Ms. Leveritt gave us a well-written article about a topic that really affects us.

Ms. Leveritt gave herself a difficult task, navigating the minefield of language, politics, and history from the perspective of race — mostly “black” vs. “white” for an Arkansas readership. Race in America is such a complex issue and no one can really expect a single article to explain it all. Nor does she attempt the impossible task of providing solutions. Instead she offers a few salient points, offering a few ideas about a small corner of the elephant in the room.  Some of the best literature can challenge our assumptions or give us an old topic from a new point of view and to me Ms. Leveritt succeeded in this.

To add a little more to the discussion, I'll offer this: Nazi Germany categorized a person as Jewish based on the religion of one's grandfathers (I'm not sure back how many generations). Practicing Catholics, Communists, and worshippers of many other religions were sent to the concentration camps not because of their blood but because of the beliefs of their ancestors. In stark contrast, when I lived in Miami in the late 1980s, I met many people who called themselves Jewish, never mind that many of them never stepped foot in a synagogue, kept kosher, or even took a day of rest on the Sabbath. For them, “Jewish” was not a race nor a religion. It was their heritage and continued to be a part of their concept of themselves. 

Thanks for this fine article. Please continue to publish articles from Ms. Leveritt. I'm willing to wade through the dreck for an occasional gem.

Rusty Wyrick

North Little Rock

That coal plant

It seems SWEPCO is seeking a rate increase for plants that are not yet in operation. This would be a violation of a long-standing principle in utility rate-making — “used and useful” — that ratepayers only pay for equipment for which they are receiving benefit. Has the PSC abandoned the principle? If so when did this occur? Or is SWEPCO seeking what would be an earth-shattering change?

Robert Johnston

PSC Chairman 1983-89

Rehab in the 'hood

Several midtown Little Rock homeowners are frustrated with the substance abuse recovery center in their neighborhood. They are amazed that their complaints about this facility have been ignored. The residents are not asking for anything special, they just want the current ordinances (residential zoning) enforced. The community feels that they are being asked to do more their fair share in regard to such facilities in their community.  There is the concern that a proposed residential clinic would bring even more problems into the area, already a known drug corridor. This type of residential treatment center would be better placed in a light industrial area or commercial area. The needs of citizens' concerns are not being taken into account. The citizens of the community are not opposed to people seeking drug treatment, but feel that a drug rehabilitation center should not be located in a residential area.

We do believe legislation is needed to limit the number of drug rehab and treatment facilities that are able to locate within residential communities. We believe that the city should take a stronger role in regulating those entities.

There is tremendous concern that families will be forced out of the neighborhood — families with children, elderly. There will be families that will not be financially  able to go anywhere. Someone needs to really get this information out so that people will know that their community is in jeopardy of the same happening to them.

M.L. Morehead

Little Rock

Sacred and profane

I'm one of those odd people who is fascinated by word origins. With all the comments on Internet blogs about the language of a certain Illinois politician, I got curious about the origin of the word profanity. The word has its origins in a Latin word that literally means “outside the temple.”

I thought of this when I read an e-mail from a good friend who expressed his unhappiness with a display of Christian religious symbols on the courthouse grounds in his community. His language, though somewhat less colorful than that of the Illinois governor, would nevertheless probably be classified as profane.

But he is not alone. While I was checking out the blogs, I noticed a number of folks who were equally angry about resistance to placing Christian nativity scenes on public property. Interestingly, the language used to express their displeasure was no more sacred than that of my friend. Goodness!

As a person who goes to church every Sunday (OK, I have missed a few, but not many) because it feeds my soul, I confess to a grateful appreciation for Martin Luther's innovation of recreating the first Christmas. There is a creche in our living room right now. While our church does not have one outdoors, I would be delighted if we did. But I find myself pretty squarely on the conservative side of the church/state separation question.

Clearly the Founding Fathers did not want a state religion like they had had in England. And, lest anyone be confused, most of these thoughtful men were more Deist than Christian. So it is a little confusing when folks get to fighting about putting religious (or anti-religious) symbols or messages on public, government property. For a while I thought that the solution was to allow everyone to “advertise” particular religious beliefs. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and all that. Unfortunately, that has only kicked up the hostilities a notch or two.

Perhaps we ought to take some direction from the whole sacred/profane distinction. Those of us who make religious professions can, and probably should, do it in terms of our worship and our care for the most vulnerable of God's children. Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, waging peace, these seem to me to be good ways to let others know of our faith commitments. Surely these are sacred duties.

Just as surely, the government and the public square are profane. Oh, I don't mean that in the sense of cussing, for goodness sake. I mean it in the original sense of “outside the temple.” Government, so that it can be an advocate for justice for all, must stand outside any temple, and for my money, that includes avoiding the religious (or the anti-religious) entanglements that come with Nativity scenes, winter solstice exhibitions, menorahs, or other symbolic presentations. Who would have known that word origins could be so helpful?

Larry Burton

Little Rock

The rebel flag

John Brummett in his opinion piece “South rises again at Faubus Motel” says his flag is the American one. That's funny; it seems to me that Brummett's and the Democratic Party elite's flag is more often a cause rather than a country. Whether it's domestic or foreign policy, the sovereignty and security of the U.S. always has to take a back seat to their causes.

Brummett describes the Confederate flag as a “flag of secession.” That was true in 1860 but most people who fly the flag today see it as a symbol of heritage. The truth is these people are far more loyal Americans than those who want the U.S. to acquiesce to the United Nations or European elites and Third World movements. But he knows that and instead has chosen to mischaracterize the motivations of traditional Southerners to promote one particular cause or another.

Thomas Pope

Little Rock

Another election done

Another political cycle has come and gone and it was a memorable one. We losers will return to homes, families and jobs while the winners struggle with trying to mix employment with public office.

In Arkansas, it appears an array of political parties have established influence. There were nine independent candidates on the ballot and seven presidential candidates. Voters may not complain about a lack of choices. The Republican Party used to be the token party, but now the Green Party candidates are serving as the long-shot tokens on the ballot. The Greens finally put a candidate, Richard Carroll, in office. It's about time.

The next political cycle may prove to be just as remarkable. Arkansans will have many choices and great possibilities.

Gene Mason



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