Pope county, Arkansas, is a county filled with rural towns, that consists of a predominantly white population. This community is also known for its , conservative values and Christian lifestyle, that is a result of tradition, rather than choice. Like many other towns in their position, Pope county is in an awkward stage of attempting to be as civilized as they claim to be to visitors. One of Pope county’s main struggles is not trying to be inclusive with the African American and Hispanic/Latino communities as well as well as the LGBT community.
For generations, African Americans and Hispanic/Latino residents have been victims of racism and discrimination while living in Pope County. Although the overall race relations have progressed in a positive manner through the years, there is still a lingering racial tension that remains intact. Some of this tension is a result of the many white families that took part of the white flight from the Little Rock area during the time of segregation. This attempt to move away from the Little Rock area wasn’t just to keep their children from being integrated with African American students in public schools, but a means to cling to their racial fears and hatred.
Some social issues that continue to be a problem are institutional discrimination, along with covert and overt racism. Institutional discrimination mostly exists within the education system and with places of employment, where African Americans and Hispanics are targeted if they attempt to stand up against the existing injustices within these institutions or elsewhere. Employers often exploit their financially vulnerable minorities, by implying the fear of termination, sudden loss of hours, lay offs, or write ups.
This has been an undeserving tactic used against minorities in order to maintain control of their employees in their off duty life, that keeps them from complaining, reporting, or protesting any racial discrimination or racism at work, or in the local community. This tactic has been successful due to the lack of management and limited business ownership opportunities given to minorities, at a disproportionate rate.
There is also a trend of small businesses or private owned businesses refusing to hire non-white applicants, while advertising that they are hiring. There are even some retail or restaurant chain managers who refuse to hire or promote minorities, which is a long standing form of stratification that exists here as well. Or in some cases, new businesses in town will hire extremely large amounts of minoirity employees, but after the businsess has been open for a while, there seems to be a trend of that business maintaining a mostly white work force.
A recent example in Russellville would be Steak ‘N Shake, while I was proud to see so many black and brown people be given a chance to work there, now there is hardly any minority employees, but in the first couple months of opening there was a work force of at least 70% minorities. I find it hard to believe that so many employees of the same skin color all had less than desirable work ethic.
For students the repercussions could be detention, intimidation, suspension, negative judgement by faculty members. In some schools, there is little or no celebration of black history month, Martin Luther King Day, or an honest explanation of the civil rights movement in history class. In many schools in the area there has been a problem with them not hiring qualified minority teachers to represent the students who attend these educational facilities. At the same time some schools encourage their students to embrace the confederate flag, or refuse to teach their students about the negative history of the flag and the confederacy in any way. Which helps them maintain a sense of educational control over the minds of the students, and enforces ideas of white supremacy.
Often times the discrimination takes the form of minority students being given less academic help, harsher punishments, and receiving less academic guidance. However, there is an expectation for them to participate in school sports, and to give their school a winning edge in for their athletics department. This double standard of only good enough for athletics, but not good enough for help with exploring the benefits of higher education to the same degree as their white counterparts.
When it comes to police brutality and law enforcement agencies, this mostly white
community is quick to victim blame and blindly take the side of law enforcement, without even caring to learn the facts and details of each scenario.
Last July there was a vigil to honor two African Americans killed by police officers, and the police officers killed in Dallas, Texas. This event was quickly supported by Russellville city mayor Horton, and several other public figures in the community. Before the week was over a local journalist began to spread rumors and white supremacist ideology about the event, and convinced the public figures not to attend.
This was an example of how African Americans are denied humanity and sympathy when they are the victims of police involved murders or violence, but the double standard is to justify and honor police officers regardless of their actions being honorable or disgraceful.
Pope county and Russellville is like so many other communities in America, full of racism and white supremacy tendencies. Racism and discrimination is still a daily problem that involves covert and overt racism with business owners, law enforcement, and school faculty.
This county, and more specifically Russellville, has a long journey ahead in becoming inclusive towards minorities in all aspects of its society. This town also struggles with loving the culture of minorities, and not caring for the people who created the culture they love. Despite these major social issues, there are a growing number of white people who have become more sympathetic towards the struggle of African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos.
I believe part of this positive shift is partially due to the growing number of high school students attending college, and becoming more informed about the world around them with education.