Look, To Understand Dallas's Corruption Probes, Forget About the Civil Rights Movement

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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The current issue of Texas Monthly takes on the Dallas FBI corruption investigation, sort of, in a "Behind the Lines" essay by deputy editor Brian D. Sweany. He invokes Dallas, the TV show, and another TV show, The Wire, to conclude that, "Like any good drama, it may take a while for the truth to come out."

That's a safe statement to make about a lot of things, like how to pick the best pickup truck or which grocery store has more fresh produce. I think it's a safe statement to make about walking down the street.

Sigh. Probably the smartest thing we could do in Dallas is just go along with everything people from outside the city write about us, because, as wide of the mark as some of it may be, it's usually better than the truth.

Sweany grew up in Plano and worked for D Magazine, so it's probably unfair to expect him to understand Dallas. (He lives in Sachse.) He doesn't much. Nor is he entirely wrong. His central thesis is that "The old racist order presented few pathways to power for church and political leadership in the south looking for influence."

So the only way to be a civil rights leader in Dallas was to take bribes.

Double sigh.

the accomodation cover.jpg
If you haven't read Jim's book, this summary will suffice.
If it was an old racist order, why would it ever have "presented" any morally acceptable pathways to power at all? Why would black people ever have wanted to touch any of the pathways presented to them by an old racist order?

In his 1989 book Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch recounted how the old racist order in just about every city in the Old South offered pathways to power to the civil rights movement leadership, and the leadership shot them down. When white leaders offered piecemeal accommodations to desegregation, the civil rights leadership said, to paraphrase, "No, just bring the dogs out on national TV and use them on our children. We'll just go ahead and see how that one plays out for you."

Dallas may not have been the only exception to that rule, but it was a big one. Here, black leadership took the accommodation, and that is what we see played out now in these waves of public corruption investigations now in Dallas.

This isn't about racist white people waging war on fearless black revolutionaries. Quite the contrary. This is about the longstanding tradition of cooperation and accommodation between the races in Dallas. That's what keeps sending black politicians to the pen. It's not that they don't get along with the white power structure. It's that they do.

I spent a good long time on the phone this morning with a person who is a white progressive veteran of electoral politics in Dallas, who refused to speak to me about this unless I agreed not to name or identify him or her. This person has had enough, been beaten about the ears enough times, does not want back into the fray in any way.

The person was talking to me about the use of "consultants," or middlemen, in the political diplomacy between the Park Cities-based white power structure and black leadership in southern Dallas. It is, the person said, the key.

The role of the consultant is not to facilitate interaction and understanding between the two camps. The consultant's role is to buffer the two camps from each other.

"It's a package deal," my phone-mate said, "so I don't have to do that stinky stuff."

The stinky stuff would be actually getting to know each other and hammering out some business as equals.

You know, that's exactly what our new Dallas Citizens Council mayor, Mike Rawlings, has said, when asked about black consultants to his campaign who are now targets of the new FBI probe. Asked what one of them, Kathy Nealy, did with the $270,000 Rawlings paid her, Rawlings shrugged and said, "She got me elected."

It's pretty much exactly the same answer I got in 2002 when I asked another Citizens Council candidate, Tom Dunning, about his consultant, the very same Nealy, and allegations of fraud in the Dunning campaign.

Nealy already had accused me of racism for asking her what she did with Dunning's money. I met Dunning over coffee, and he expressed a kind of puzzlement at my questions. "That was the South Dallas campaign," he said. "How would I know what went on?"

The package deal. You pay your money. You don't have to talk to those people or have any idea what nasty sorts of things they may do with your money. It's not your business, in fact, because it's something that goes on across the river where those other people live. That Other Tribe. You don't have to worry about white-people laws, because That Other Tribe is not subject to those laws over there. They operate according to the laws of That Other Tribe. And, you know, who the hell knows?

My person on the phone today reminded me of another chapter, one in which the Observer played a central role -- the vote fraud scandals of 2002. The person on the phone with me said the person knew of political leaders in southern Dallas who had a part in exposing the fraud. The person said they naively went to the Park Cities white leadership for campaign money later, thinking the rich white folks would love them. Instead they got doors slammed in their faces.

What they had not foreseen was this: The vote-fraud machinery worked against the rich white folks in partisan national elections, but it worked for them in local elections.

"This machine, this illegal voting, was used against them [the rich whites] every other November. But it was used by them every other May."

The rich white folks gave zip to the vote-fraud reformers and told them not to let the door hit them in the ass.

My informant said he or she did not know enough about other cities to know if any of that is necessarily unique to Dallas, but the person said there was another wrinkle that was.

"The other thing, and this is an independent feature of Dallas: It is worse to point out the crime than to have committed it in the first place."

Here's what I think: Nobody outside is ever going to figure us out. Everyone is always going to impose the template of the civil rights movement on us and insist that things like the ongoing federal corruption are refrains from that same old song. They might stop every once in a while and ask themselves if it isn't a bit odd for a city to be in the throes of the civil rights movement in 2011. But they won't.

As I said at the top, maybe we shouldn't want them to. The real truth here is nothing to brag about. Our dilemma isn't about outsiders anyway. It's whether we will ever really cross that river ourselves as a city, or will there always be a boatman there to carry our coins across for us?

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TDema
TDema

 I was there when the Potashnick's ran SWH.  I was the only regional manager SWH had and Bill Fisher was my boss.  He was the most honest, real person I have ever worked for.  If he tells me it was Christmas, I will hang up my sock!  People don't want to know if he is clean, they want to know what to blame him for!  Nothing ever happened at SWH unless the Potashnick's were involved or decided that was how things were to be handled.  Bill merely done his job to support his family.  The Potashnik's hung that over his head every day!  The happiest day of my life was when I learned Bill left and went to his own company.  I was with SWH for four years.  I was there when it all began, go for the real criminals.  Leave Bill Fisher alone!

One Mad Okie! 

Paul
Paul

Hello JimS: I found a copy of "The Accomodation" before price, I mean cost, went through the roof.  It is a wonderful book and has aged well.  I grew up in Dallas in the 50's and 60's and your book very much explains a lot that went on then that I didn't understand at the time.  I also went to college in the Deep South and in the 70's and in rural GA, AL and MS segregated bathroom facilities and racist attitudes were still very common. I think that Dallas's desegregation followed a different path than other cities.  I think that it was a pragmatism that lead the way.  There was an entrenched white oligarchy that had both political and economic power.  A black oligarchy was present that was developing economic power and lacked political power. I think that the ordinary white Dallasite had its own accomodation with the white oligarchy.  That accomodation was: "You can run the city but anything you do with public money has to benefit the city as a whole."  It was this accomodation that lead to employment among whites, the development of a white middle class and the development of the city.  The average white family could care less about what Stemmons, Carpenter, Miller, Thorton and Adams did so long as they had a peaceful neighborhood, a good job, a good school and affordable taxes. I think that both sides realized that "official" segregation was going to come to an end.  But the question was how was it going to come to an end.  Was it going to be by violence or non violence?  I think that both sides realized that a violent end to segregation would not do either side any good. Fast forward to today and now the accomodation between blacks and whites in Dallas is that blacks have political power and still very limited economic power and the whites still have tremendous economic power but limited political power (though still substantial). The white oligarchy has abrogated its contract with white Dallas in that "What is good for us is good for Dallas and what is good for Dallas is good for us." is no longer the case.  Now all the white oligarchy is interested in is in preserving their economic power.  Exhibit 1 for the prosecution is the financing of the AA center.  And don't get me started on JerryWorld. The black oligarchy (after all there is one, just with a different sphere of influence) has used its political power, not for the benefit of the general black population, but for a select few.  After all with all of the political power gained since the 70's, how does one explain the civic infrastructure deficiencies in South Dallas? I ramble on, but when do both sides of the competing power structures in Dallas realize that when you have political power, you do not use it for your own personal gain, it is to be used for the gain of the community. The only other comment that I will make is that civil rights leaders have no job or power when segregation and racism no longer exist.  In a perverse way, I believe that it is in the best interests of some black political leaders that racism and segregation continue to exist. Are there still people who are racist, I am sure that there are, but I would like to believe that the days of institutional racism are behind us, but it seems from earlier comments here that it has merely metamorphosed into a very peculiar and bizarre form.

Plfarmer
Plfarmer

If you are looking for a blending of the tribes as the optimum, please explain the voluntary resegregation of the black middle-class into DeSoto, Cedar Hill,  & Duncanville.Some of the most overt racism are coming out of the mega-churches I-20 way.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Many, if not most, black parents did not want their kids bused.  

Desegregation and forced busing were conflated on purpose.No one was allowed to be for deseg but against forced busing bc it was the busing aspect that was the real goal.

Forced busing was an intentional component used to create demand for tracts of suburban land owned by developers.  These same developers and their minions in black "leadership" stoked the racial fire and would accept nothing less than forced busing, knowing full well it would drive the middle class (mostly white at that time) out.

Viola! Sprawl and huge profits for developers were born.

Blacks, unable to move financially, had to stay and endure.  However, now that many have risen to the middle class, they want out of the race-based, quality-stifling district just as much as the whites before them.

The 2 tribes are not blacks and whites.  The 2 tribes are the corrupt oppressors and the honest rest of us.

Plfarmer
Plfarmer

A little black helicopter for me.Judge Barefoot was not in the pocket of fox and jacobs.Just as there was a little Italy or a Chinatown, what would you call the movement of the black middle-class to south Dallas county, if not tribalism?

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Sanders may not have been in anyone's pocket, but he certainly was part of the prevailing culture.  His thinking obviously lined up with the pro-busing crowd.  And regardless of his personal character, the unintended consequences of his rulings have had a very, very negative effect on DISD.

LIttle Italy and Chinatown developed bc of language; people stayed with those with whom they could communicate.

The flight of blacks to southern Dallas county is economically driven.  They are in the same tribe as middle-class whites:  the I-want-better-for-my-kids tribe.

I'm not arguing about the existence of tribes; I just don't think they are racial as much as economic.  I believe the corrupt of both races have colluded to create artificial tribal lines (racial) so that the power of the actual tribe (middle-class Americans) will never be fully realized.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

Judge Barefoot Sanders was not in any one's pocket. Great man.

Facebook User
Facebook User

Sad story indeed. I listened to some of the redistricting hearings and realized just how divided we really are. I think my generation has this perception that we are in some way 'post' racial. Our children definitely are and yet Dallas still struggles.

Abu Eskander
Abu Eskander

I can't recommend The Accommodation highly enough. I read it a few months ago on the recommendation of my (then) boss, a state legislator. Found it on Amazon. One really interesting part was the history of the Dallas power elite using eminent domain, under sketchy justification, to force poor people out of areas they and their friends would later make fortunes developing in huge real estate deals.

minimark
minimark

Why do you go off on your former employer - D Magazine?  The only reason I came here (I come here all the time and would have been here soon, regardless) is that I follow Zac Crain on twitter and he took exception to your dissing of D Magazine and posted links to your articles on D Magazine while you were there.  Still, mission accomplished, sneaky dog!  I did read your article.  YOU DO NEED TO TWEET!  I'm following you despite your tweet-phobia!

BCulbreath
BCulbreath

What's going on in Dallas has nothing to do with Civil Rights movement it's about greed and control.There were many Dallas people involved in real Civil Rights movement non of this crew of Elected Officials were a part of it. Former State Rep.Paul Ragsdale who just passed away Sunday was involved ,and doing a great job for entire State but he got crossed ways with your Highness John Price , Price and PVL took his seat gave it to Jesse Jones. Dallas had a movement by people who were soon thrown under the bus when new Blacks arrived on scene.

cp
cp

And they continue to throw the new blood under the bus. How quickly we seem to forget how Eric Johnson was shunned by his own party...

Mperdue
Mperdue

Park Cities? You know park cities folk don't vote in city elections. None of the Citizens Council types live in the park cities. And park cities folk that I know of don't bandy about the n word. Most are pretty amused and disgusted by Dallas politics of course.

Giving in to the park cities stereotype is as bad as giving in to the South Dallas stereotype. Cmon.

cp
cp

You're right- Parkies don't ever utter the dreaded "n-word", instead they just say "negro". Clever, eh?

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

You're kidding, right?  Most of the "shot-callers" on the Dallas Citizens Council live in either the Park Cities or the northern suburbs.

You can check it for yourself here:  http://www.dallascitizenscounc...

cp
cp

Or in Preston Hollow, don't forget Preston Hollow...

Whodunnit
Whodunnit

The real "bosses" of the bosses...........

Fatty Arbuckle's Tub Stopper
Fatty Arbuckle's Tub Stopper

The U.S. and the U.N. send monitors to foreign countries to monitor elections.  Shouldn't they be doing that here?

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

Jimbo - 

Your book "The Accommodation" is going to be more relevant than you currently know. Stay tuned, it may hit the NY Times Bestsellers. Just remember you heard it here first. 

INCcom
INCcom

"Here's what I think: Nobody outside is ever going to figure us out. Everyone is always going to impose the template of the civil rights movement on us and insist that things like the ongoing federal corruption are refrains from that same old song. They might stop every once in a while and ask themselves if it isn't a bit odd for a city to be in the throes of the civil rights movement in 2011. But they won't." JS They will ask why we are in the throes of the civil rights movement in 2011 and the answers will be revealed. I read once, "the civil rights movement of the 60's passed over Dallas because of the real threat of deadly force, that was taken very seriously. The KKK in Dallas had proven itself with deadly force, and they were not to be questioned or people would die. Now that time has passed, Dallas has to go through something they never did - its time, from many perspectives that will play out over the coming months. 

The Don Hill and JWP fiasco's are just the beginning, not the middle or the end. 

cp
cp

Did you skip over the part where JimS said that bombings and threats and KKK and shit like that happened ALL OVER THE OLD SOUTH?? Dallas was no different then.

That's the whole point!

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

"This isn't about racist white people waging war on fearless black revolutionaries. Quite the contrary. This is about the longstanding tradition of cooperation and accommodation between the races in Dallas. That's what keeps sending black politicians to the pen. It's not that they don't get along with the white power structure. It's that they do."

I'm saving this because it should, but never, be on a monument some day. Think Belo would replace the text on their building with it?

FYI, in Illinois where I grew up they call the "consultants" what they are: bag men.

"You pay your money. You don't have to talk to those people or have any idea what nasty sorts of things they may do with your money. It's not your business, . . ."

To paraphrase Sean Connery in The Untouchables: "It's the Dallas way."

Think about it, that's why Bush Sr. had Lee Atwater and W had Carl (Atwater 2.0) Rove. It keeps the oligarchs hands' clean and their conscious clear.

Big D Ex-pat
Big D Ex-pat

I went looking for The Accomodation on Amazon. Whoa! Used, out-of-print for $240! I requested it in Kindle edition. Please say yes (or ask Citadel Press to please say yes).

Tim Dickey
Tim Dickey

I bought The Accomodation in January on Amazon for around twenty bucks. I think you should check back in.

LaceyB
LaceyB

This also speaks to the issue of people wanting to not communicate with other people at all odds--race, geography, or otherwise. Becoming an individualistic, "me, me, me" society is just an off-shoot of this discussion.

However--lemme just say that DISD is completely run in an entirely racist format. Today, I went to pick up my sub sticker (over 2 hrs before closing), and was immediately informed that I wouldn't be seen today. The man, who happened to be black, told me there was too many people there waiting already. Fine.

Until a black woman walked up, seconds behind me. He offered her a few more options, "Lemme see what I can do", "how about you sit down and wait for a minute."

I'm not sure about her situation, but it is very clear about what/whom the priorities are for up there at DISD HR. Especially when they choose who they see and close that section 2 hrs early.

All I want to do is be there for the kids when their real teacher is gone--white, black, or purple. Too bad DISD doesn't feel the same way.

scottindallas
scottindallas

My North African wife seemed to draw the favor of some up there.  She looks Greek or Italian, she got many sub jobs last year.  She was this close to trying to find a position with DISD teaching her native tongue, French.  But, I briefly wondered about the issue you ran into, as the doors seemed to swing open for her.  It doesn't hurt that she's exotic, built like a brick shit-house, charming and sweet.  I'm sorry you're having those issues.  Fortunately, she got hired on at SMU before she had to find an actual position.  With the layoffs and all the uncertainty, we were happy she's out of all that.  Good luck Lacey.

cp
cp

Usually I enjoy your posts, but this one.... well this one made throw up a little in my mouth.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Sorry, I think my wife is hot.  Sounds like a yp

cp
cp

Uh, I meant all that stuff about how super-awesome your smoking hot sexy wife is... I mean, good for you, dude. <hi-fives everyone="" in="" room="" the=""></hi-fives>

scottindallas
scottindallas

She doesn't seek that attention, she's naturally charming, perhaps a bit naive.  She was amazed at how nice this guy was there, VERY HELPFUL, she said.  I was left wondering what all went into that.  She had a hard time interviewing for jobs, where she was most likely discriminated against. 

She earned a full scholarship to SMU with a 3.9, yet had a hard time, and felt there was a disconnect.  At DISD, at SMU with liberal women administrators, she is a hit.  That's the way life goes, I don't like it, but that's how it is.  I think it's proves that it's still a white man's world, though there are places where there's been an accommodation where women and minorities get to have their little fiefdoms.  "It makes sense to me" that they'd protect their own, they've faced the other side of the coin long enough. 

For what it's worth, at SMU, she works in the international center, where they have many latinas who speak Spanish, my wife is the only French and Arabic speaker.  SMU recruits heavily from the Middle East, so she seems a fitting hire.  Her boss, a Peruviana started ESL courses with my wife at Richland 12 years ago.  Didn't think all this background was appropriate nor needed, I hope it settles your tummy.  But, DISD did open up for her, and it made me wonder.  Lacey's account confirmed some suspicions I had. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

And at least at SMU she'll have AC and bathrooms and running water.

Spence, Spruce, Adamson, PInkston, Woodrow, and Sunset are among the schools with NO ac, unavailable bathrooms, and, at Woodrow, the cafeteria was reported not to have water hooked up.

Meanwhile, our school board members are musing about volunteer programs we could start one day for affluent volunteers with extra time and $250 to buy their own little piece of influence.

Schools are understaffed, waiting on HR.Schools are in shambles, waiting on construction companies.

Kids are waiting for some decent, honest school board members.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I had a similar issue w/ city records back in 2009, after I had my wallet stolen. I went into procure my birth certificate, Both I and a hispanic lady caught an attitude problem from LaTaDeesha or whatever her name was working the booth, yet when a "sister" showed up, they all got lovey in a GRITS-sort of way. No two ways around it: This city is full of angry, racists african americans and many of them have jobs at city hall, the DISD, ect. If we're going to change Dallas for the better, we need to get rid of the bigots behind the scenes once and for all..

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

I think DISD is part of the accommodation made in Dallas with minorities.It seems that in exchange for minority votes, DISD control was handed over to the minority community and left to fall apart.

There is no other way to explain what goes on in DISD.

No one rich or white--and certainly none of the rich, white churches--has stepped forward to publicly question what is happening to 150,000 children.

The thinking seems to be that DISD is for the minorities and run by the minorities.  Any corruption is their problem.  The warehousing and soul-killing of children is their problem.Whites stay out of DISD in exchange for votes.

Its So Sad
Its So Sad

Absolutely true. Ever notice that most central admin jobs are held by blacks?This district was NEVER majority black.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

Don't forget the extremely lucrative construction projects funded by periodic bond issues-- the whites get those (after being sure and breaking off some for favored minority contractor subs).

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I think the wholesale evisceration of the once Cash rich and insulated by those in power, domains and fiefdoms of JP courts  & Constables seems to Have tilted the landscape of the WHITE MAN IS COMING FOR US ALL to where was he JWP  when the Man came for me ?

Mlindley4111
Mlindley4111

Reminds me of that line in the Polanski movie uttered by Nickelson, "That's Chinatown."

mike 

Guest
Guest

Who let Emily Litella in here?

scottindallas
scottindallas

"The other thing, and this is an independent feature of Dallas: It is worse to point out the crime than to have committed it in the first place."  The operative phrase is "plausible deniability"  And, I guaran-damn-tee you that it is not unique to Dallas.  And, this is how the world of obsequious sycophants is crafted.  If you're perceptive and earnest--they want nothing to do with you. 

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Not sure you can draw a parallel to the Contra situation here. 

I think it is more like it is OK to step in dogshit and walk through somebody's house during a party, but it is considered unacceptably rude to point out that the person has dogshit on their shoes.

scottindallas
scottindallas

You made me look it up.  Plausible deniability dates back to WW2 at least.  I never connected it to any specific event.  That said, I like your analogy a lot.

U Got It Right!
U Got It Right!

Another right-on-point article by Jim Schutze concerning the on-going corruption probe. He gets it right.  All of us that have been deeply involved in city politics are fully aware of the "accommodation" that has continued for decades. While it has aways seemed 'just the way our city works", now it seems dirty, wrong and, of course, illegal. The big difference between other corruption probes, like Don Hill, now the FBI is looking at who has been giving the money. The FBI sent a clear message of that by showing up at the Allyn and Company offices and interviewing Mari Woodlief, executing their search warrants on the day the Mayoral Inauguration and including Ross Perot, Jr. and his connection to JWP to hinder the Inland Port project. The north may still not have to look into the eyes of the south, but looks like they may be setting across the table with the FBI - in handcuffs.  

Good job, Jim!

Bob
Bob

For the life of me, I still cannot understand how Carol Reed's name has not come under any scrutiny given the fact that 1) she works the same elections; 2) she's in the same bid-ness as Allyn Media; 3) she closely works with Kathy (but she has receipts!) and Allyn; 4) She works closely with Hilllwood.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Maybe see Jim's article about "Queen for a Day"?

Guest
Guest

How is Laura Miller these days?

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Gave up, threw in the towel. Does PR for the Oil & Gas industry. Hey when you've got kids the mortgage always wins.

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