Book Review in WSJ

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I have a review of the book, Boom Town, in today’s WSJ. It was odd reading a book about prejudices that seemed to contain so many prejudices of its own. Here’s a snippet:

If Ms. Rosen had wanted to identify resistance from white, rural Christians to diverse newcomers, she should have distinguished between Arkansas’s politics and its business and social life. Businesses like Wal-Mart and Tyson are progressive engines of diversity because they will recruit and hire able workers of any color or religion. The only color they see is green. Social integration has gone smoothly because local residents, assisted by religiously backed norms of politeness, have been generally welcoming. Unlike business, politics is a zero-sum game. Good-old-boy politicians in Arkansas (or anywhere else) are more likely to think that if they share power with newly arrived groups, they will lose some of their own. The few politicians we read about in “Boom Town” illustrate this point, trying to pit low-income whites against Hispanics. Clearly, they would rather be king of the Lilliputians than share a larger empire with the area’s newer residents.

3 Responses to Book Review in WSJ

  1. teLZLA says:

    Politics often a playground for giant corporates….
    But very rarely it hold it’s purity
    Hey I’m talking about Social Democratic Party of India

  2. Joel Vincent says:

    Dr. Greene,

    My name is Joel Vincent and I am a student at the University of Arkansas. We actually met once at a party where we talked about the distinct, 24 hour universe of truck drivers.

    I just read your article in the WSJ, and, while I haven’t read the book, I absolutely agree with your assessment of change in Northwest Arkansas. Growing up here, I have witnessed the transformation of the area first hand. I have seen the population of Springdale triple in my lifetime, and most of this growth has been Hispanic. I have always been struck with how smoothly this transition has taken place, given how radically different the population is from what it was when I was young. For example, can you imagine what would happen in North (or South) Boston, if the population became 60-70% Mexican/El Salvadorian in the course of ten years?

    I do, however, attribute the acceptance of this population shift to an element not mentioned in your review. Northwest Arkansas has historically been a place of economic isolation and hardship. Without great natural resources, the locals have been forced to work hard and be innovative in finding ways to be successful. This hardship has borne a high density of savvy businessmen such as J.B. Hunt, Harvey Jones, Don Tyson, and Sam Walton. I believe that it is a personal understanding of economic hardship, a respect for the strong work ethic of the immigrant population, and recognition of the mutual benefit that they bring, that has resulted in a population that is relatively tolerant.

    If your description of Ms. Rosen’s book is accurate, she really typifies what a disillusioned native Arkansan would expect of someone from “The City”. I really enjoyed your article however, and I am glad to know that a non-native agrees with my assessment of the ethnic dynamics of Northwest Arkansas.

  3. You make an excellent point, Joel. I was actually thinking about mentioning the severe economic hardship in NW AR before the recent boom in reference to Ms. Rosen’s remark about the “comfortable” way of life being upset. You are entirely right that part of why people here are so welcoming is that they have learned that the newcomers are helping them get rich. People who were once really, really poor are more likely to appreciate that.

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