The Catcher Race Riot, an event largely unknown even in Arkansas history circles until recent years, has received a bit of press here lately. I wrote a piece, “Nightriding and Racial Cleansing in the Arkansas River Valley,” published in the Autumn 2013 issue of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, which mentions the riot in the context of other cases of ethnic cleansing in the region. I also wrote a brief remembrance of the incident for the November 21, 2013, issue of the Arkansas Times. Finally, reporter Jacqueline Froelich recently covered the incident, and modern efforts to uncover what actually happened, for radio station KUAF.
In his 2012 book, Enduring Injustice, Jeff Spinner-Halev makes the argument that the first step in recovering from past atrocities is not an apology from descendants of the perpetrators, whoever they may be, or the current government in power; after all, who has the authority to apologize for something which someone else did, and did long ago? Rather, he argues, the better course for beginning to repair past relationships is acknowledgement, which can take the form of including those incidents in textbooks and museum displays as a start. By educating people, we create the possibility of a new normative framework in which we can labor to make sure that historical injustices no longer continue as enduring injustices. And I am wholly gratified to be witness to the sort of change that might well see that new framework coming to fruition here in our little part of the world.