Grappling with Little Rock violence means grappling with race | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Grappling with Little Rock violence means grappling with race

Posted By on Sun, Jul 2, 2017 at 8:23 AM

MESSAGING: Many have criticized the advertising for Friday night's rap show that ended in a mass shooting.
  • MESSAGING: Many have criticized the advertising for Friday night's rap show that ended in a mass shooting.

A note I received this morning from a venerable African-American leader in Little Rock broached a subject that has been danced around since the mass shooting early Saturday left 25 wounded at the Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock — race.

The club draws black clientele. A rapper promoted in a gun-wielding photo was the lead act. Some reports indicate shooting broke out along gang lines. All the 25 wounded and three others injured were black. The white mayor said something about keeping guns away from the wrong sorts of people. The shooting followed a spate of drive-by shootings that left many wounded in black neighborhoods. My friend wrote:

As my mind continues to reel, I have been replaying the images on TV I saw today. Is it true that our City Manager came out early and spoke? Is it also true that the Mayor and several Anglo members of the City Board later held a press briefing at City Hall? What on earth kind of message did that send to the world that is watching Little Rock yet again. Do we think that sending the message that diverse city leaders are worlds apart will inspire confidence or respect? It will be well nigh impossible to bring order, convene concerned citizens or work across the fault lines of race, sexual orientation , ethnicity, religion and class.

Those planning the 60th anniversary of the 1957 desegregation of LRCHS need to take note. Just what will we celebrate or is it an opportunity to thoughtfully reflect. We have made progress but are a long way from being able to declare a victory. Shame on all of us in leadership positions across the face of the Little Rock community.
I didn't attend the City Hall news conference. But none of the photos I've seen indicated that the three black members of the City Board were in attendance. I've asked Directors Ken Richardson, Erma Hendrix and Doris Wright about that. Perhaps they were out of town. City Manager Bruce Moore and Police Chief Kenton Buckner, both in attendance, are black.) The grassroots group, Stop the Violence, which plans a news conference today, has been singularly outspoken in the past in emphasizing the disproportionate toll of crime in the black community and the city's disparate concern relative to neighborhoods where violence occurs.

The mass shooting occurred in a reviving downtown, merely three blocks from the Little Rock Tech Park that is being underwritten with $20 million in sales tax money.

Not a few commentators on social media have questioned over the weekend the city's investment in the currently understaffed police department. (Give the city credit, though, for acknowledging the city's problem. It provides free cars to 140 or so cops to commute to cities other than Little Rock. It's been explained that many cops think Little Rock isn't safe and it's majority black schools are unsuitable for their children.)

Yes, the retrospectives 60 years after 1957 will be interesting. The state took over the majority black school board and now runs the district. A third of city cops won't live in the city they serve. Violent crime disproportionally harms black neighborhoods, abandoned by whites fleeing to annexed sprawl or suburban cities. The legislature thinks more guns in more places is a path to greater safety. Some city leaders think suppressing provocative advertising is a solution (but I've yet to see them express concern about the NRA ads that more or less urge retribution against liberals who favor gun control).

Praying and concern trolling are all well and good. But count me pessimistic about the positive impact on what ails us.

UPDATE: City Director Doris Wright said she'd left town Friday for a class reunion and was out of town the day of the event.

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