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The Politics of Reconstruction in Arkansas


I spend my time between living in Minnesota and Arkansas.  Arkansas for late fall, winter and early spring.  Minnesota living for late spring, summer and early fall.  This arrangement works well based on the weather in each state.  I consider myself a Minnesotan and have lived here for 36 years.  But I was also born in Arkansas and inherited the family farm.

I follow politics in each state but only vote in Minnesota.  Minnesota is considered a traditionally blue state and leans toward the liberal side of the party.  However, we did elect Jesse Ventura, the ex-pro wrestler, as governor a few years ago and allowed him to mess up the state economic system.  We also elected Tim Pawlenty, conservative Republican, for two terms and had a decidedly Republican platform in the state.  Of course we also have elected Michelle Bachman, Mrs. Tea Party, and are frequently apologizing for her.

Arkansas is seen as a solidly red state despite having Democrats running the House and Senate.  In the 2012 elections the good folks of Arkansas elected many Republicans and took control of the Arkansas House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction.  The new Republicans moved rapidly in 2013 with their agenda limiting abortion, reducing taxes and other popular Republican platforms.

Politics in Arkansas are unlike Minnesota, except for Michelle Bachman.  There are a number of Republicans who have taken the Reconstruction politics and reinserted them into Arkansas dialogs.  Many candidates and sitting politicians made their views known in the run up to the elections of 2012.  I shall highlight a few of the more disturbing bigoted statements made by these gang of Republicans.

Kim Hendren, Arkansas state Senate’s Republican leader, referred to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York as “that Jew”.  This statement was not appropriate but Hendren’s explanation of this was:  “I was attempting to explain that unlike Senator Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on the Andy Griffith show”.   It seems that Senator Schumer lacks true American values expressed by Hendren.

In 2012, Republican businessman Curtis Coleman campaigning for the Arkansas state Senate.  He said: “You go from here to southeast Arkansas, and you might as well get a visa and shots because I’m telling you the world changes”.  Southeast Arkansas has a sizable African-American population.  He went on to say that his statement about a visa and shots was not meant to be derogatory but was a metaphor for the diversity of Arkansas.  Coleman said he was trying to “accentuate or maybe even celebrate the enormous diversity we have in Arkansas”.  “I’ve done a lot of international traveling since the 70’s and when going to a new and different land, you had to have a visa and shots.  I only meant it to show the tremendous differences you see from one corner of the state to the other.  I love Southeast Arkansas and meant it only as a metaphor”. 

Kim Hendren reappeared later in the news when he referred to U.S. District Judge Brain Miller, an African-American judge as “this new minority judge”.   Miller was working on a desegregation case at the time.

Republican Senate candidate, Curtis Reynolds, a retired Army officer, offered statements about President Barak Obama.  “When I joined the military I took an oath to defend the constitution against enemies foreign and domestic,” Reynolds said.  “I never thought it would be domestic, but in today’s world I do believe we have enemies here.  It’s time for people to stand up. It’s time for us to speak out.”  He added:  “We need someone to stand up to Barak Obama and his policies.  We must protect our culture, our Christen identity”.  Apparently, Reynolds believes that President Obama doesn’t reflect his white Christen values and is a domestic enemy.

Arkansas State Representative, Jon Hubbard (Republican Jonesboro) set off a firestorm in Arkansas when he defended slavery as good for African-Americans.  He said:  “Slavery was cruel, but as a result of slavery, we have African-Americans living in this country today who are living here in situations that are probably much better to endure than if they were living in Sub-Saharan Africa.  If you had the choice knowing the lifestyle of people living in Africa and knowing the lifestyle of people living in the United States, which would you chose?  Pure and simple”.  Another Hubbard quote:  “But I think the end result-that they [African-Americans] did get to live in America, although the means to getting here were terrible-I think the end result was better than it would have been if they had to live in Africa themselves”.  Hubbard’s statements reveal his American values.

Charlie Fuqua, Arkansas legislative candidate, endorsed sterilization for non-supportive parents.  In his book, “Gods Law” Fuqua called for termination of parental rights and sterilization for these parents, he called for deporting all Muslims and the child death penalty.  In his book, Fuqua said:  “We must require all parents to support their children.  Any parent that does not support his or her children should be sterilized so that they cannot produce more children that they do not support.  Any parent that has his or her parental rights terminated by a court because they have abused or neglected their children should be sterilized…”.  Fuqua defended his Muslim deportation comment telling the Associated Press, “I think my views are fairly well-accepted by most people”.  Fuqua who won the “Friend of the Family” award from the Arkansas Christen Coalition in the 1990’s, had written about the child death penalty, saying that it would allow parents to ask a judge to kill a “rebellious child” He said that he did not believe that many parents would ask the government to kill their children, but that the threat would deter rebellion.  He said the Bible backs him up on this belief.  I guess it is an answer to “spare the rod and spoil the child”.

These examples should give you an idea of some of the radical beliefs held by some Arkansas Republicans.  In fairness, not all Arkansas republicans hold similar views of the bigotry outlined in this post.  It is not surprising that all of the politicians quoted are white males.  In some quarters of Arkansas the South is ready to rise again and reestablish slavery, deportation, and the good Christen vales of a white society.

I am glad that I still retain my state citizenship in Minnesota. But going to Arkansas in the winter allows me the opportunity to see, firsthand, a different political pedagogy.

Timothy A. Bess

April, 2013