Several hundred Little Rockarea liberals crammed into St. Michael’s Episcopal sanctuary Sunday afternoon in western Little Rock for a worthy civic exercise.
It was mostly a venting session against the raging affronts of the outrageous new occupant of the White House. But the event also offered honest and relevant moments of gritty tension in what we’ll call the progressive movement. And those made the event more credible and potentially meaningful.
In the end, it was an hour wellspent nestled against the woods and the neighborhood lake a few yards south off Cantrell Road.
Donald Trump has motivated and mobilized noble efforts at resistance by good people like these, who in this case were organizing themselves as Indivisible Central Arkansas and calling their event a “missing persons town hall.” That was because U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and U.S. Rep. French Hill, all Trump-enrapt Republicans, declined to attend.
Cotton had run his gantlet in Springdale. Boozman and Hill are scaredy-cats.
Terri L. Root, who coordinated the event, said the purpose was to assure those in the beleaguered minority in a state overrun with Trump support that they aren’t alone.
The organizers invited an array of anti-Trump speakers addressing a variety of Trumpian affronts. I agreed to speak briefly in defense of the news media against Trump’s attempts at suppression and delegitimizing.
I meant to speak metaphorically when I asked attendees to be dexterous enough to give hugs to newspaper reporters while, at the same time, fending off the groping of the preposterous second-place president. But I was happy afterward to get taken literally several times.
A Muslim-American geriatrics doctor at St. Vincent’s, Bushra Shah from Pakistan, extolled her religion as loving and peaceful. She charmed the crowd—and shamed Trump— with references to her happy “Muslim-American-Arkansan” family of three children.
But it was the dearth of other minorities in attendance that provided the usual liberal tension.
Christina Mullinax, speaking for Planned Parenthood mainly to rally support for Obamacare, brought up the overwhelming whiteness of the audience.
During the audience participation period, another Planned Parenthood member advanced the theme, saying that a group trying to mount a progressive movement can’t simply ask black people and Latinos to show up and expect their attendance when white progressives haven’t shown up for them.
She noted that the Little Rock School District was planning to shut down four elementary schools, and that all the affected schools were south of Interstate 630 in black neighborhoods. She wondered what the folks in attendance might be willing to do to fight that.
A young African American woman, saying she felt uncomfortable to be among only four or five persons of her color in the audience, said the assembly represented white people concerned about what they were losing when she didn’t feel that she’d ever gained much that she could lose.
The modern liberal coalition of white progressives—usually welleducated and middle- to- highincome—and black people has always been a pragmatic one lacking any strong interweaving fabric.
And now we can add to that dynamic Latinos and Hispanics, who happen to the ones in greatest direct and immediate peril from Trump policies. And they were under-represented, if represented at all, in the Sunday-afternoon assembly.
White liberals tend to worry about the state of the earth against climate change. Black people tend to worry about the state of their streets against neglect.
White progressives tend to emphasize investments in downtown commercial and residential rebirth. Blacks tend to think we ought to invest in the inner city as it is rather than presume we need to coax young white people to it.
White liberals tend to embrace rights for gays, lesbians and transgender persons. Black people— some, many—say it’s not the same.
There’s no inherent right or wrong in that disconnection. There is only a need to plow through it from both sides.
Root and others worked hard to reach out to diverse groups for Sunday’s meeting. Blame inertia. Getting white folks and black folks together was hard in Little Rock long before Sunday.
Here’s hoping Indivisible Central Arkansas can stay in business, bottle Sunday’s enthusiasm, grow from Sunday’s candor, meet regularly and move the venue from time to time to midtown and downtown and the east and south sides—and up to Jason Rapert’s Conway.
And here’s hoping the organizers can nab a Republican officeholder— any Republican officeholder—to show up and face the music, also known as a constituency.