Sunday, June 21, 2009

Springdale, Arkansas a "small community"? I don't think so

When I heard the promo into an NPR story this morning say that many Marshallese Islanders have settled in a "small community" in the Arkansas Ozarks, my ears perked up. I'm from the Arkansas Ozarks, and I waited with great anticipation so I could learn which small community it was. Turns out, what reporter Jacqueline Froelich calls a "small community" is Springdale, Arkansas, population 63,837, and part of the Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers Metropolitan Statistical Area. Maybe Froelich thought that any place in the Arkansas Ozarks must be a "small community" since it is hardly a place known for cities or cosmopolitanism.

Of course, "small" and "large" are relative. Similarly, "rural" and "urban" are not a dichotomy, but rather represent points on a continuum. Still, I think NPR can do better than this. The real story here regarding the Marshallese migration to Springdale is one about multi-ethnicity. Until a few decades ago, Springdale and environs were almost entirely non-Hispanic White. As with the Marshallese, many Latina/os have migrated to the Springdale area in recent years. Also like the Marshallese, many Latina/os have come to work in the thriving poultry processing industry, and they have spread out into service industries and attend local educational institutions. Of greater interest to me would be information about how the Marshallese and Latina/os have transformed a previously homogeneous (and dare I say, provincial) metropolitan area into a multi-ethnic one. To what extent have they truly integrated into the community? How have they transformed it?

See my article on a related topics, "Latina/os, Locality and Law in the Rural South" here. It is forthcoming in the Harvard Latino Law Review (2009). In it, I consider the difference that rurality (as reflected in nonmetropolitan places--those smaller than Springdale) makes to the integration of Latina/os into these previously ethnically homogeneous places.

1 comment:

Urk said...

Interestingly enough, Jacqueline Froelich is a local, a news producer at KUAF in Fayetteville. She's written articles about the purges of African Americans in Harrison and Eureka springs in the 20th Century. I wonder if this is a case of someone presenting what's expected to be a digestible formulation according to their audience's pre-conceived notions of what Springdale Arkansas must be like.