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Policy led to Little Rock's segregation 

The legacy of tobacco

Before I could get to the cover story of segregation history in the July 10 issue, I was treated to a full-page Camel cigarette ad. Talk about "history." It was the production of tobacco that brought huge waves of slaves to North America and started a problem that has never died, including the segregation of Little Rock. The slavery continues as an enormous amount of tobacco production in the world, including the U.S., is accomplished with child labor. At least part of the "living history" could be ended by not taking tobacco industry advertising.

J. Gary Wheeler

Little Rock

Policy led to Little Rock's segregation

FindX's comments (Letters, July 17) last week raise some interesting points about our article, "The roots of Little Rock's segregated neighborhoods," (July 10) that are worth addressing, particularly their assumption that segregation is somehow a "natural" phenomenon.

As our article points out, segregated residential patterns have become much more pronounced in Little Rock since 1949. If segregation were natural, this change could not have occurred, since natural laws are by definition immutable. So if changes in residential patterns have occurred, that must be because of human intervention.

Are Little Rock's segregated neighborhoods the result of a conspiracy? You bet. City officials admitted as much during a school desegregation suit in the 1980s, the federal courts ruled that was in fact the case, and the federal appeals court upheld those findings. We're not talking grassy knolls or faked moon landings here; we're simply repeating the conclusions that the federal courts have reached based on the evidence.

What about the students who self-segregate in the hallways, at lunch and in the classrooms? I'd suggest that the artificially created segregated environments that they grow up in, which constantly shape their social reality day in and day out, are replicated by extension in schools. To suggest that self-segregation in schools proves that those students are happy enough to grow up in segregated neighborhoods is to fundamentally confuse cause and effect.

As to the refrain "how about we spend our time and effort on getting people to naturally integrate and value others for our diversity," I agree, but that has been the charge of the city's schools since the Brown decision in 1954. The past 60 years don't seem to have gotten us much closer, and I don't see that magically changing anytime soon. How about we start to address and tackle some of the persistent and entrenched structural obstacles in the way of achieving that goal to get better outcomes?

However, all the indications are that Little Rock, along with the rest of the United States, is in retreat from integration. The school settlement earlier this year removed exactly those remedies — magnet schools and M-to-M transfers — that were put in place by the courts to counteract the effects of the conspiratorially created segregated neighborhoods. Once these remedies are phased out, there will be no active measures in place to combat segregation. Meanwhile, numerous factors, some old, some new, continue to racially polarize the city and its schools.

It is precisely because of these developments that we thought it timely to revisit and reflect upon exactly how and why Little Rock got into the condition that it is in today. We believe it is important for everyone in the city to understand. Without being fully aware of how the city got to this point, there can be no hope of productively going forward from it.

John A. Kirk

Little Rock

One for Otey

I think the choice of "Otey the Swamp Possum" as one of the Arkansas Travelers' two new mascots was a good one for a number of reasons.

He is cute, cuddly and friendly, which will make him a favorite with kids.

He is a unique and original type of mascot.

Opossums have lived in Arkansas for a long time, so they have a natural connection with Arkansas.

To give Otey more notoriety, I'd call him "The Awesome Possum."

Kenneth Zimmerman

Huntington Beach, Calif.

Disproportionate

Stop killing kids! Israel has a disproportionate response in Gaza — which may be a war crime or a violation of the Geneva Convention — killing over 300 civilian innocents, including more than 100 children. Hamas has killed no kids and one innocent civilian. 300-1 is disproportionate. It is a similar ratio to last time Israel bombed and tank cannoned Gaza, killing 900 innocents to three Israeli civilians killed. The U.S. Secretary of State expresses concern about killing so many innocents, especially children. Express your concern to your government officials.

Robert Johnston

Little Rock

From the web

In response to "That 'ghetto' traffic box," a story about Theresa Cates' public art depicting African Americans. It has received complaints and, in a few instances, been painted over.

It's sad that people would have such little respect for the joy depicted in this work and would refer to it as "ghetto." This is an amazing piece and the people in power who bowed down to the complaints of a few should be ashamed of themselves. Stick up for the many rather than buckling to the few.

Felicia Knight Olson

Submit letters to the Editor via e-mail. The address is arktimes@arktimes.com. Please include name and hometown.

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