OCT. 8, 2004 | The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) celebrated its Eighth Annual Diversity Week recently with discussions on local race relations, minority health disparities and an International Fest. The week of events Sept. 20-24 also included the state of the campus address by Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Chancellor Joel Anderson, Ph.D., discussed the findings of the school’s first survey of local racial attitudes in a presentation Sept. 23. He told the audience in the College of Public Health’s Pauly Auditorium that most respondents to the recent survey of racial attitudes in Pulaski County, the state’s most populous county, showed a belief that race relations were good.
Despite that upbeat assessment, he said the study also identified potential problems in perception of treatment by blacks and whites in the county and challenged residents to use the survey as an opportunity talk about the issues and seek solutions.
Diversity Week events were built on the theme “Teaching, Healing, Searching and Serving From a World of Difference,” based on UAMS’ mission “To teach, to search, to heal, to serve.”
Two UAMS faculty members discussed results of their study that shows health differences between minority and ethnic groups and whites in Arkansas. The study was led by Creshelle R. Nash, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the College of Medicine and assistant dean for professional relations and assistant professor in the College of Public Health, and Eduardo R. Ochoa Jr., M.D., assistant professor in the Colleges of Medicine and the assistant dean for minority affairs and assistant professor in the College of Public Health.
The week wrapped up with International Fest as several UAMS employees shared aspects of their various cultures through music, dance, ethnic attire, food, pictures and other items from all over the world.
In his presentation, the UALR chancellor talked about how racial problems have hurt Arkansas.
“In my judgment, race is a big problem. I think it has been the number one problem in the state since before statehood and I think it is very much a barrier to progress,” Anderson said, adding that the school will continue with an annual survey to help the community identify problems and maintain awareness.
While eight in 10 blacks and whites rated race relations as “good” or very good” in the phone survey of more than 1,611 residents – split about evenly between races – the results were less optimistic on questions about perception. A majority of black respondents said their impression was that blacks were treated less fairly than whites at work, while shopping or in dealings with police.
That finding disagreed with the impression of the majority of white respondents, Anderson noted. The races also disagreed on whether they believed a black student would have a better, a worse or the same chance as an equally qualified white student to get into a major U.S. university. Most blacks didn’t think blacks would have the same chance.
Anderson said in future surveys interviewers would try to gain more information on the basis for these perceptions. Gaining this information can help everyone recognize the issues and perhaps their own prejudices, he said.
“Discrimination and racism are age-old evils and if we’re going to limit and eventually eliminate them, we’re going to have to be persistent at it,” Anderson said.
Links on This Page Racial Attitudes Survey Home Page: http://www.ualr.edu/iog/racialattitudes.htm