Po­ten­tially mean­ing­ful

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - John Brum­mett, whose col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette, was in­ducted into the Arkansas Writ­ers’ Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrum­mett@arkansason­line.com. Read his @john­brum­mett Twitter feed.

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.

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