Examining the ‘miracle of Russellville’
In 1995 the Latino population of Russellville was essentially zero percent. Today we believe it to be 50 percent.
If you were to ask a university professor of sociology to predict what would happen if an English-speaking town went from 0 percent to 50 percent Latino in 24 years, he would most likely expect severe conflict inspired by abrasive interactions.
Not so in Russellville.
Instead, there are no major conflicts, and any abrasiveness is confined to isolated, individual events that largely go unnoticed in the larger scheme of cooperative activity.
I think that is a miracle. How did it develop?
Both sides deserve great credit. The government did not do it; individuals did – and they did it spontaneously, just being human.
With respect to the older, established group, they observed and admired the obvious attributes of the arriving Latinos:
- By and large, they work hard.
- They are dependable.
- They are honest and grateful.
- They love their families, particularly their children.
- They worship God, knowing they are far from perfect. Thus, they are humble. They attend activities of their church with enthusiasm.
- They work to make their communities strong and safe. They have a pronounced bias against criminal and destructive persons and elements within their group and find ways to make them leave.
- They pursue the American Dream.
All that adds up to the older community accepting the new Latino residents calmly and pleasantly.
On the Latino side, they mostly come to Russellville and nearby because a close friend or family member told them, from experience, that this area had proven to be a safe place with good work opportunities and a pleasant, affordable way of life – that they have verified via experience.
But there remains a divide. The Latinos see it and feel it. The older community is blissfully unaware and quite sincerely surprised when informed of it.
The slight divide looks like this, to list some examples:
- There is a lack of Latino members in business, civic and social groups.
- There is a lack of attention to Latino influence in the history of Russellville and Franklin County.
- Regarding this publication, the church directory is lacking in listing Latino churches.
When this is pointed out to older residents, they are quite surprised and are quick to reach out, offer their hand to a Latino and give them a friendly tug.
- In November 2017 there were no Latino members of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. Today there are six, and there are many more to come. All it takes is for a member to ask.
- The directory of churches mentioned above is soon to list several Latino churches, and that number will continue to grow.
The dialogue goes like this:
“What do you think about the huge influx of Latinos into our community in the last 25 years?”
“They are mostly great, good additions to our community.”
“How many Latinos are in your club?”
“Gosh, there are not any.”
“Why don’t you reach out and offer your hand to a Latino friend and ask him or her to join?”
“Wow! Good idea. I never thought of that.”
Keep in mind that most of our Latino neighbors are reluctant to reach out for fear of looking aggressive or “pushy” to the more established community. To them, that is being polite.
We are thus making great progress toward a fine community that looks like the photo above to the right, like two hands fully clasped. The Founders of the USA had a Latin phrase to describe it: “e pluribus unum” – out of many, one.
Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to recruit two Latinos into your social and business circles within the next six months. That will yield this result: unity in our community – and you will polish the miracle of Russellville.
Dick Rowland is the senior coordinator for the Complete Census Count Committee 2020, Franklin County.