Racial Attitudes Commemorates 10th Year

Ten years ago, UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson issued a challenge at the inaugural Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County conference: “You have to face it to fix it.”

A decade later, much has changed to improve race relations; however, the issue still clearly persists. Anderson said this fact is supported by the 2012-13 survey on crime and punishment, which was issued by the UALR Institute of Government in conjunction with the 10th Annual Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County Conference on Thursday, March 28.

The UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity hosted the conference and offered the results of the survey, which went live on the institute’s website Thursday afternoon. Survey data for all 10 years can be found on the institute’s site.

“Ten years may sound like a lot, but for the issues we’re addressing, I would say we are just now to the point where we have begun to have a real baseline for looking at ourselves and our movement,” Anderson said.

Anderson said a positive trend was indicated in the increased improvement seen in questions related to trust, “particularly given that trust is the foundation on which easy and enduring cooperation is built.”

In general terms, both blacks and whites rate race relations as “very good” or “somewhat good.” Yet a more nuanced look at the numbers shows a level of disparity regarding racial profiling, Anderson said. Nonetheless, the perception of profiling has indeed waned among blacks.

“I would offer speculation … that this could be a case where direct attention to an issue by responsible officials [such as law enforcement] actually produced that result,” he said.

Anderson said that such data encouraged “cautious optimism” about race relations in Arkansas. But, he added, glaring examples also existed to demonstrate that profound gaps are still prevalent among African-American and Latino perceptions of life in the community compared with whites.

Anderson said he would challenge those who believe in the myth that there are not problems in racial and ethnic perceptions to look at the survey data.

“It is not helpful to deny it and it is not helpful to fail to recognize it,” he said.

A distinguished panel of area leaders also contributed their thoughts regarding the results of 2012-13 survey following Anderson’s remarks, including retired Appellate Court Judge Olly Neal, who grew up during Jim Crow segregation in Arkansas.

Other guest panelists included Robert Tellez of the Monterrey & Tellez law firm; Leta Anthony of the Willie Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center; Little Rock assistant chief of police, Eric Higgins; and Dr. Charles Chastain of the Prison Library Project and professor emeritus of criminal justice at UALR.

Thurday’s event concluded with a roundtable strategy session to encourage community dialogue.

The UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity was founded in July 2011 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. UALR has collected data on attitudes concerning race relations since the beginning of Anderson’s tenure as chancellor in 2003.

Video of the conference may be found at ualr.edu/race-ethnicity/press/1389-2/.

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