“Year of Transition: Eighth Annual Conference”
Joel E. Anderson, Chancellor
Ledbetter Assembly Hall, Donaghey Student Center
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Conversation on Race and Release of Eighth Annual Survey of
Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County
UALR Institute of Government
March 17, 2011
Thank you, Dean Angi Brenton.
Let me add my welcome to UALR’s eighth annual conversation on race.
Whether this is your first year or your eighth year, we are glad that you are here. This year we have a record attendance.
a. Acknowledge various guests
b. Acknowledge university personnel Dean Angi Brenton Dr. Roby Robertson, Director lOG; Cindy Bennett, lOG researchers and staff
c. Vice Chancellor Charles Donaldson, Dr. Logan Hampton, and the staff here in the Donaghey Student Center
Big thanks to the Institute of Government and Survey Research Center staff for years of work on the surveys and for putting together today’s conference. These are the individuals who:
–prepare the report
–arrange the conference
II. Survey Addition: Hispanic Population
This eighth year is a transition year-in two respects. I want to tell you about the changes.
The first is a change in the survey. Heretofore we have limited our surveys to whites and African Americans. That made sense because the issues of race in Arkansas from the achievement of statehood in 1836 until the beginning of the 21st Century had overwhelmingly involved whites and African Americans. Given the small number of Hispanics in Pulaski County, the methodological challenges of conducting a sound survey were also formidable.
1. 2010 Census
According to the recently-released 2010 U.S. census, the Hispanic population in Arkansas (pop. 2,915,918) in the last decade more than doubled to 186,000 (6.4%). The Hispanic population in Pulaski County (pop. 382,748) also doubled to a total of 22,000 (5.8%).
The presence of the Hispanic population is now sizable. It is increasingly important to understand the opinions and perceptions of and about this segment of the population.
2. Immigration Reform (Failure)
Because of the continuing paralysis of the U.S. Congress in regard to immigration reform, there is much emotion and controversy about Hispanics at both state and national levels. The people of Arkansas did not create the problem of undocumented immigrants; and we cannot solve it. National action in required. However, we, and our elected representatives, do have the capacity to make it worse here-by passing punitive laws that are barriers to higher education. Access to college by the children of unauthorized immigrants should not be postponed in the name of comprehensive immigration reform.
At both state and national levels we are eventually going to have to accept a messy reality and turn it into a long-term plus for the nation. Our annual surveys will contribute to a better understanding of the Hispanic population here in Pulaski County.
III. Establishment of Institute on Race & Ethnicity
Now I want to answer the question you have been asking for the past 7 or 8 years. That big question is, now what?
1. Community Demand
We hear at the end of each conference: “This survey data is wonderful, but what are you going to do about it? Just talk?”
Our answer has been that the university had the important providing objective information, such as survey data, community leaders, government agencies, non-profits, and other entities-as well as faculty and students-should then make use of the data and information in their own work. (That has occurred, and we want you to continue to make use of 8 years of survey research data.)
Yet there has been a persistent demand that the university do more, and we have come to the conclusion that UALR, as an anchor institution, can and should play a larger role and provide leadership across a broader front.
In taking on racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination, the university has the advantages of stability, longevity, and prestige. The university can serve as a convener. It is a safe place for discussion of sensitive subjects. It boasts marvelous human resources-faculty, staff, and students-with relevant research expertise across many academic disciplines.
So this is a year of transition for a second reason-the establishment of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I want to tell that story that brought us to this second transition.
2. Chancellor’s Committee on Race and Ethnicity
The Chancellor’s Committee on Race and Ethnicity began meeting nearly four years ago -in 2007-after I extended an open invitation to faculty and staff who had an interest in issues of race, particularly the economics of race.
I can assure you that when I set the date for the first meeting I had no idea what a wonderful experience lay in store for me. The meetings became regular and since then have occurred most Monday afternoons during the fall and spring semesters. Though voluntary, they have been well attended.
Today, there are 23 regulars in the group. You will see their names listed on the back of the panel card you received as you came in.Â This group, remarkable in its breadth and depth, has discussed a considerable variety of subjects and events, aided by shared readings, reports, external guests, and videos. The concept of the Institute came out of this group.Â About two years ago we decided an institute was needed to institutionalize the commitment and carry out a broad, sustained attack on this long-term strategic issue.
IV. Themes That Have Emerged
After eight years of data and four years of productive conversation with conference participants, community representatives, and the Chancellor’s Committee, several themes have emerged:
A. Race is THE big problem
-In several survey years, blacks (and this year Hispanics) have indicated they have been discriminated against within the last 30
days while shopping, dining, or working -For this year’s survey that means some form of discrimination occurred as recently as November 2010.
B. There is a code of silence in most communities.
C. You have to face it to fix it.
D. We need a fresh agenda on race.
E. A better future must come sooner rather than later.
-Yes, we have made progress. But progress has been slow. We must speed it up.
F. Things can go backwards or regress.
G. The university can make a difference.
-In the 2006 survey, both black and white respondents credited colleges and universities highly for their work in improving the conditions of black Americans.
H. Need a broad approach
-Success will require that a significant number of people want and work for change. We cannot just preach to the choir if we want the flock to grow.
I. Need a sustained approach -This requires that the commitment be institutionalized.
J. All voices must be heard.
-Race is a difficult subject to talk about, especially with other races. But it is okay to disagree and think differently about issues of race.
K. Trust is a major factor.
-In surveys over the past eight years, respondents have indicated a lack of trust in government, the education system, the judicial system, and other races.
-Whites are more trusting of other races in general than blacks or Hispanics.
For African Americans, trust is difficult even among themselves. Trust declines among those who look different.
There is a real sense of, “you don’t get it if you don’t look like me.”
V. Video-”Freedom Writers”
We have a video clip from the 2007 movie â€œFreedom Writers,” which is based on the true story of a naive, young white teacher whose first job is teaching freshman English at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California-formerly a high-achieving school which had gone through a voluntary integration process. The teacher, in this video clip, cannot get through to her class, and she does not understand why.
“Can I get out of here, please” is what the young white man said. You hear an African American young man explaining why he does not respect his teacher, a Latina young woman explaining why she distrusts and in fact hates white people, and you see the faces of other African American, Hispanic, and Asian students watching the exchange with steely looks of confrontation. It is a tense, an uncomfortable situation.
The easy thing to do would be for the teacher and the young white student to retreat and not engage in the discussion.
It is hard for whites to hear negative comments that reflect poorly on them just because of their skin color. It is also hard to be in the minority in a hostile room, as they were. But how much harder is it for minorities who frequently experience racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination day after day.
In the rest of the movie–after months that became years of tough conversations in class, learning experiences outside the classroom, and serious self-reflection-the students and their teacher overcame their prejudices to become trusted friends.
We must be brave. We must face the tough questions and talk to one another openly and honestly. As individuals and as a community. It takes more than a one-time conversation or encounter, however, to break down barriers to progress. It takes commitment for the long haul.Â That is why we are launching the UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity.
The Institute on Race and Ethnicity is a concrete response to feedback for the university to “do more.” –It is a response to the truths of those themes. –It is a commitment for the long haul.
VI. Selected Steps in the Development of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity
1. Visits to Other Campuses
-William Winter Institute -Roy Wilkins Center -Poverty and Race Center (Law School) -Benjamin Hooks Institute
2. Petit Jean Summit
-UALR leadership and community leaders. 20/20
VII. CCRE -Unique Strength at UALR -Committee sets UALR’s Institute apart from those at other institutions –Others were wishing or trying for stronger integration with the larger campus –We start with that: at least 20 people who are invested in the Institute and it is not even fully in place. –Number will grow as various faculty and staff become associates or fellows –Because of this committee, the UALR institute is OF the university, not just AT the university.
VIII. Mission & Goals, Deliverables
Mission Statement: The mission of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity is to seek racial and ethnic justice in Arkansas by remembering and understanding the past, informing and engaging the present, and shaping and defining the future.
Question: What is the Institute going to do? I will show you what an institutionalized, broad-based, sustained program of work will look like.
Goal 1: Foster sustained awareness of the issues
â€¢Â Â Annual Racial Attitudes Surveys and Mini-Conferences
â€¢Â Â Media: UALR Public Radio (KUAR) and University Television original programming and broadcasting of IRE-related events (and community events)
â€¢Â Â IRE Website (and social media)
â€¢Â Â Annual Speaker Series -prominent, thought-provoking, controversial, non-controversial
Goal 2: Provide research-based information and informed policy recommendations
Research is the unique strength the university brings. Research is essential to having good information. Research grounds discussion. It provides a foundation not based on emotions.
â€¢Â Â State of Minorities in Arkansas Report (periodic)
â€¢Â Â Local data on African American and Latino demographics
â€¢Â Â Research on economic consequences of racial and ethnic injustice
â€¢Â Â Reports on structural racism in Little Rock and Arkansas -health disparities, housing segregation, racial disparity in the
criminal justice system, discriminatory urban planning policies, student achievement gaps, economic disparities, etc.
â€¢Â Â Archives
â€¢Â Â Historical research on civil rights in Little Rock and Arkansas
–Whites must understand the black narrative
â€¢Â Â Civil Rights Markers in Arkansas
â€¢Â Â Secondary school curricula on race and Arkansas history
Goal 3: Build bridges and seek reconciliation through dialogue
â€¢ Contacts by community members in towns/cities across Arkansas who want to address race issues in their communities
- Forrest City event -Roll call of Civil Rights-Movement in Forrest City with the Mayor participating.
- UALR Professors Kirk and Romney plus two graduate students participated and were able to film the event.
“All you ever hear about is the Little Rock Nine. The Little Rock Nine didn’t go to jail. The Little Rock Nine wasn’t beat up by
the police. You never hear about the lives that were lost and ruined because of what happened in Forrest City.”
(Rev. J. F. Cooley, participant in the civil rights movement in Forest City in the mid-1960s.)
â€¢ Problem-solving and Rituals of Atonement
â€¢Â Established programming for business leaders, with web resources, regular
â€¢Â Established programming for faith leaders, with web resources, regular meetings
Goal 4: Provide formal study opportunities for students
â€¢Â Minor in Race and Ethnicity
â€¢Â Student research projects at Institute and in partnerships:
On-campus: Prison Re-Entry; AAMI, Sequoyah National Research Center, ASBTDC
Off-campus: ASI, Butler Center, Mosaic Templars
â€¢Â Graduate course on Central High Crisis
â€¢Â Theses in History and Public History focused on race and ethnicity
Goal 5: Serve as a state-wide information clearinghouse
â€¢Â Institute website with links to resources related to race and ethnicity -organizations, data/reports, (will be available in English and Spanish)
â€¢Â Calendar of events on website
â€¢Â Mapping of civil rights event locations, civil rights leaders in the state
Goal 6: Hold the University of Arkansas at Little Rock accountable
â€¢Â Â Mentoring programs for faculty/staff, encourage minority participation
â€¢Â Â Leadership programs for faculty/staff, encourage minority participation
â€¢Â Â Student Survey
â€¢Â Â Faculty and Staff Survey
â€¢Â Â African American Male Initiative
â€¢Â Â Campus-wide Book Discussion
You can see that UALR is launching a full court press on race and ethnicity issues.
VIII. Getting Underway
1.Â Â Hire director
2.Â Â Assign office space
3.Â Â Development of funding -We must achieve significant private support.
That is the plan. That is our program. We are on course, full speed ahead! Our over-arching goal is a better community for everyone. A just community. A peaceful community. I rejoice that this is a year of transition…that we have taken the major step including a sample of the Hispanic population in our annual survey…and that we are now launching the UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity.
Now it is time to learn more about the results of this year’s survey and to have the benefit of the analysis and comments of our panelists.