Endless night 

Crittenden County’s troubles rooted in its racist past.

QUESTIONS REMAIN: About the death of 12-year-old DeAunta Farrow, shot last year by a white West Memphis police officer.
  • QUESTIONS REMAIN: About the death of 12-year-old DeAunta Farrow, shot last year by a white West Memphis police officer.

In West Memphis the endless night of racial conflict that so characterizes the Arkansas Delta in the 21st century is being played out in a hothouse atmosphere of emotion and acrimony that is increasingly devoid of restraint. The aftermath of the tragic, night-time shooting death in June 2007 of 12-year-old DeAunta Farrow by white West Memphis policeman Erik Sammis, with its charges and counter-charges by an African American judge, a racially divided City Council, and white police chief, escalates almost with each news cycle. At one point in December police Chief Bob Paudert publicly called the six black city councilmen “a group of vigilantes,” adding, “I've had all I want of these radical, clueless members of the council.” The six had voted for a resolution requesting that West Memphis's white mayor, Bill Johnson, fire officers Sammis and Jimmy Evans, his partner the night of the shooting.

The chief also implicitly threatened a group of black ministers in West Memphis for their actions. “Some of these radical ministers are convicted felons and I've had calls asking me to expose them for who they are and what they are,” Paudert told the West Memphis Evening Times.

The six black City Council members responded by voting to “request” the mayor also to fire Chief Paudert, who has held the position for nine years and had been credited with substantially reducing crime in West Memphis by “pro-active” policing measures. The four whites on the board voted against the resolution. Mayor Johnson said publicly, “Chief Paudert has my undivided, unequivocal support,” and allowed the chief to remain on the job. A city ordinance requires seven votes to force a dismissal.

Throw into the mix two visits by activist Al Sharpton and other outsiders, allegations by the mother's private attorney who has filed a civil suit for damages for $225 million that DeAunta Farrow did not have a toy gun as alleged by police, and the power of the Internet to make plain the racism that rages on both sides of the color equation, and you have the makings of a perfect racial storm.

To be sure, what has been occurring in Crittenden County is not about any one incident, however incendiary. Like all racial dilemmas, whether in South Africa or the United States, Crittenden County's struggle is rooted in both the near and distant past. In the racial sphere, the history of Arkansas, particularly the history of the Arkansas Delta, has largely been the commitment of its white citizens to white supremacy, its eventual curbing by the federal government, and the failure in the last 50-odd years to come to terms with its consequences.

The temptation in Central Arkansas is to consider the on-going events in Crittenden County as problems peculiar to the Delta. In comparison, the racial difficulties outside the Delta deceptively appear almost manageable. On the contrary, the struggle that is consuming West Memphis and Crittenden County today may well be viewed in Little Rock as 2008's most dreaded “coming attraction.” In other words, assuming whites continue to leave the city and political power in Little Rock continues to shift to black Arkansans, racial conflicts that seem today mostly centered around the Little Rock School District and education will manifest themselves in other areas of public life. Thus, as Little Rock becomes a majority minority city the racial tragedies in the Delta are either Little Rock's future, or, in the best-case scenario, an on-going case study of what can go hideously wrong.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Grif Stockley

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation