Race and Arkansas 

Race and Arkansas

My interpretation of what guest writer Michael Dougan suggests in his article, “Come Home, Barack,” in the Dec. 4 issue of the Times, is that Barack Obama should have run as a white man here in Arkansas. Why is it that our president-elect should “neutralize the public's perception of [his] blackness?” Why is it that Obama should have run an advertisement displaying his “uncanny” resemblance to his white uncle as opposed to advocating his healthcare or energy plans?

To burnish his connections to the white race, Dougan suggests that Obama “attend a Civil War re-enactment,” or “join the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.” For a campaign built on unity and progress, I'm not sure those photos would be on message. Dougan also points out that Malia and Sasha could join the Daughters of the American Revolution; why not sign them up. You know, pandering never seemed all that genuine to me.

Nowhere in his column does Dougan suggest that Obama run on his credentials and the platform of change that, ultimately, got him elected. Obama is black, he can't change that. The majority of Americans are white, we can't change that. But we can change our mindset that a black person, to fit in, should act just like good ol' white people. Can we please just move on and forget about skin color and its long associated stigmas?

Ben Thielemier

Little Rock


Thank you to Mara Leveritt for a thorough article Dec. 11 on why we should no longer use labels of race in Arkansas, or in our country today. I have struggled for years to ignore others' racist remarks and characterizations and on occasion attempted to educate individuals myself. I thank her for being so informative, yet non-judgmental, in her piece.

Donna Hilton



After several issues that should have been published in “Bored Housewife Reader” or “Breathlessly Hysterical Weekly,” I began to suspect that you had followed the local TV stations into the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy of journalism. It was with great satisfaction that I spotted your Dec. 11 issue and saw that Mara Leveritt had contributed the cover story.  As usual, Ms. Leveritt gave us a well-written article about a topic that really affects us.

Ms. Leveritt gave herself a difficult task, navigating the minefield of language, politics, and history from the perspective of race — mostly “black” vs. “white” for an Arkansas readership. Race in America is such a complex issue and no one can really expect a single article to explain it all. Nor does she attempt the impossible task of providing solutions. Instead she offers a few salient points, offering a few ideas about a small corner of the elephant in the room.  Some of the best literature can challenge our assumptions or give us an old topic from a new point of view and to me Ms. Leveritt succeeded in this.

To add a little more to the discussion, I'll offer this: Nazi Germany categorized a person as Jewish based on the religion of one's grandfathers (I'm not sure back how many generations). Practicing Catholics, Communists, and worshippers of many other religions were sent to the concentration camps not because of their blood but because of the beliefs of their ancestors. In stark contrast, when I lived in Miami in the late 1980s, I met many people who called themselves Jewish, never mind that many of them never stepped foot in a synagogue, kept kosher, or even took a day of rest on the Sabbath. For them, “Jewish” was not a race nor a religion. It was their heritage and continued to be a part of their concept of themselves. 



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