A few weeks ago I wrote a story about Harrison, Arkansas, which bills itself as the “gateway to the Ozarks,” but is really more of a pit-stop en route to Branson, Missouri. Basically, Harrison makes the map for a single reason — it’s the national headquarters of the KKK.
Only it isn’t, because that’s actually a fenced-in farm about ten miles down the road in Zinc, and anyhow, these days the KKK is pretty much a grubby summer picnic thrown by a single inbred family, and half the people in Harrison wouldn’t recognize Thom Robb, alleged Khief Kracker, even by name. And probably less than 10 percent recognize him by face.
Many people in Harrison — including the high school counselor and the diversity task force she leads, the Harrison race task force, made up of ministers, citizens and city leaders, and the Fed Ex diversity task force, run by the town’s biggest employer — are struggling to comprehend the past, make retributions and change the town’s image. I found the people of Harrison warm and generous, and I enjoyed my day there. And while the effort to change is a bit bumbling, the intentions seem pure.
Harrison is 97 percent white and two percent Hispanic, with other ethnicities comprising less than one percent of the population. But in my day there, I had conversations with a much more diverse group of people than I ever encounter in a single day in Little Rock– among them, an Afro-Brazilian, an American Indian, a Latina, a Brit and an Aussie. And I dig the vintage signage.