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Racial Attitudes Draws Crowd to Discuss Values, Social Conflict, Trust

Nearly 300 Pulaski County residents participated in UALR’s 8th annual Racial Attitudes Conference Thursday, to discuss values, social conflict, and trust.

“Over the years, UALR has experienced resistance from many in the community who felt we were stirring up trouble, and advised us to let sleeping dogs lie,” said Dr. Angela Brenton, dean of UALR’s College of Professional Studies, in opening the conference, reaction panel, and open microphone discussion.

She praised Chancellor Joel E. Anderson’s commitment to bring light to a topic that has fractured Little Rock and Pulaski County’s history.

“Joel’s response has been consistent – ‘You know, it has been my experience that anything worth doing involves some risk.  We faced people who said the racial attitude survey was a bad idea, and it was better to let sleeping dogs lie.  If we’re going to pursue an agenda, let’s pursue it with wisdom, but also with courage, honesty and integrity’,” Brenton said.

Anderson, who delivered the conference’s keynote, updated attendees on the progress of establishing UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity for the people of Little Rock, central Arkansas, and the state of Arkansas. Space for the institute has been identified on campus and the process of interviewing candidates for the position of director soon will begin soon.

The new institute will be the culmination of seven years of internal conversations, programming, research, and outreach on the subject of race. The proposed institute will serve as the resource for multi-disciplinary, research-driven data — including historical, sociological, educational, and economic analysis — in order to combat structural racism and support racial and ethnic justice.

Local leaders – Marion Humphrey, retired Pulaski Co. Circuit Court judge; Vivian Flowers, director of recruitment for diversity at UAMS; and Maricella Garcia, director of Catholic Charities Immigration Services in Little Rock – reacted to findings of this year’s survey, presented by Siobhan Bartley of the Institute for Economic Advancement.

“I am very pleased that Hispanics are now part of the survey,” said Michel Leidermann, editor of El Latino and an annual attendee of the conference. “The census numbers show this is a growing population, even more than the census numbers show.”

Questions asked in this year’s survey probed what each group thought about values they share with Hispanics. Nearly one-third of respondents – 29 percent – said U.S.-born Hispanics and those who had immigrated to the U.S. shared ‘a lot’ of their values.

“These Hispanic results are fairly similar to those gathered from a Pew national survey in which 25 percent of Hispanics said they felt immigrants and U.S.-born Hispanics shared, ‘a lot’ of their values in common, along with 39 percent saying ‘some,’ and 30 percent saying ‘only a little,’” Bartley said.

Other findings in the report include:

  • Blacks, whites, and Hispanics are most likely to rate marriage as “very important” over any other value.
  • Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to say living a religious life or being wealthy is “very important.”
  • Nearly three in four Hispanics say newcomers to the U.S. strengthen American customs and values.
  • Blacks are more than three times as likely as Hispanics to say the president shares “a lot” of values with them.
  • Blacks consistently perceive more social conflict and greater degrees of social conflict than whites and Hispanics.
  • Blacks perceive lower levels of conflict between blacks and Hispanics than Hispanics do.
  • Hispanics perceive fewer conflicts in their relationships with whites than they do in their relationships with blacks.
  • Blacks perceive the greatest degree of conflict between the rich/poor, the young/old.
  • Hispanics perceive the lowest degree of conflict between the rich/poor, the young/old and immigrants/those born in the United States.
  • Blacks are most likely to identify themselves as Democrats, and Hispanics are most likely to identify themselves as Independent.
  • Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to believe opposition to Obama’s policies is due to racism.
  • Blacks and Hispanics trust others to a lesser degree than whites.
  • In general, whites from outside Little Rock trust others to a lesser degree than whites within Little Rock city limits.
  • Blacks, whites, and Hispanics trust the people at their place of worship more than they do any other group of people.
  • Blacks are the group least likely to trust their own racial/ethnic group “a lot.”
  • The majority of blacks and Hispanics believe they are treated “not very well” compared to whites.
  • Both blacks and Hispanics report having been victims of unfair treatment in common situations during the past 30 days.
  • Approximately one-third of blacks, whites, and Hispanics say they had not interacted with friends of a different racial/ethnic group at home or outside the home during the last year.
  • Blacks and whites engage in more social interaction with each other than they do with Hispanics.

During the open microphone discussion portion, participants expressed worry that upward mobility of ethnic minorities may wreak havoc on inner city neighborhoods. Humphrey, who lives in a downtown neighborhood in Little Rock, said convenience to the center city and avoiding long commutes will help older neighborhoods remain vibrant.

In response to the final question from an audience member about what can be done bolster declining neighborhoods, Brenton noted two ongoing projects UALR is helping to spearhead – the University District Development Corp. and the Promise Neighborhood effort.

“UALR’s commitment to the University District and the new Promise Neighborhood program is to work in a holistic way with neighborhood development, education, access to health care, and economic opportunity,” she said.