“Race, particularly white-black race relations, has been a major problem, indeed the major problem, the biggest obstacle to progress, in our state since it was founded in 1836,” said Chancellor Joel E. Anderson in his September 30, 2003, inauguration speech.
Anderson made this statement one hundred years after sociologist and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in 1903, “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” Race relations remain a central issue in the twenty-first century.
In UALR Fast Forward, the University’s strategic planning document, UALR promises to be a “keeper of the flame on the subject of race.” This pledge reflects recognition that race remains a foremost barrier to social and economic progress. Since it is an issue that communities large and small find difficult to confront and therefore often ignore, the university provides leadership through an annual survey and related activities.
UALR’s annual survey of Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County, based on the premise “you have to face it to fix it,” has successfully focused attention on a paramount community issue.
10 Years of Research and Counting
In 2013, after 10 years of collecting data through the Racial Attitudes Surveys, the university made the extensive information collected available and accessible worldwide.
This section of the Institute website will serve as a resource for scholars, community leaders, and other decision makers who need local data in order to conduct further research and make informed decisions that are impacted by race and ethnicity.
According to an analysis of all 10 years of data collection, one of the most important factors hindering race relations is a lack of trust in others who may look or sound different from oneself.
Survey respondents have indicated a lack of trust in government, the education system, the judicial system, and people of other races. Review the survey reports and access the database on the Racial Attitudes Surveys Research Data page.
Shaping and Defining the Future
The university has stimulated grassroots efforts across the county to move the greater Little Rock community away from being a national symbol of resistance to racial equality, due to the 1957 desegregation crisis, to being recognized, through national media attention, as an emerging model of wholesome white-black relations.
One result is that attractive out-of-state businesses and organizations that once declined to re-locate or open new sites in this area have begun to do so, attracted to a community that is successfully addressing a human issue that too many metropolitan areas ignore.
In a speech on the UALR campus in November 2003, award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns said that he found himself returning in his work again and again to issues of race, which he sees as central to the larger American narrative. Burns called Little Rock “the beginning of the solution” (Hammer, 2003) to United States race relations because of the courageous action of black students in integrating Central High School in 1957.
Since 2003, the University has conducted extensive surveys of black and white residents of Pulaski County, probing views of government, law enforcement, interpersonal relations, education, discrimination, and economic opportunity. In 2007, UALR added a survey of the campus community, engaging students in a frank discussion of racial attitudes on campus.
We continue to seek solutions to issues of race relations. Chancellor Anderson committed UALR to an ongoing role in this endeavor. He announced that UALR would conduct an annual survey of racial attitudes. “This is a difficult issue that in many communities, not just here, has been cloaked by a code of silence, which makes it easier to pretend it does not exist. You have to face it to fix it. . . . I believe this annual survey will help us speed progress in our community on a most fundamental problem.”