Ready For Battle

DISD hired Clarence Glover to defuse a racial crisis. But is he tough enough for the job?

When his former clients describe him, they talk about peacemaking. "He brings people together," says James Rose, an administrator in the Arlington Independent School District who experienced Glover's methods firsthand when Glover was a consultant there.

When other activists describe him, they hesitate to offer praise. Lee Alcorn, the president of the Dallas chapter of the NAACP, says he will be watching Glover with a "jaundiced eye," and explains that Glover "hasn't been too visible. I doubt that many in the community would consider him to be a player."

It was Alcorn who escalated the district's current racial crisis by leading the protests against the school board, which resulted in the shutdown of one meeting and the cancellation of another. And he isn't happy with Glover's performance at the protests, when Glover met with protesting students at the behest of the superintendent. Alcorn claims that Glover tried to intimidate them into stopping the protesting.

Glover would eventually apologize to the students, whom he claims misunderstood his purpose in speaking to them. He says he wasn't trying to bully them into ending their protest. He simply wanted them to examine their own goals and motivations, and consider whether they were ready to fight for the long haul.

But Alcorn finds this hard to believe. "We are not going to be content to have a black face in that position," he says. "We want to see some concrete efforts on his part."

Richard Evans, director of the Dallas-based African-American Education Network and an activist who helped develop the Townview Magnet school, says there is concern that Glover is "a pawn and is an instrument of the establishment."

"He has traditionally played the role of very passive and conciliatory," he adds. "He has always been the sort of mediating type. That has been interpreted as passivity by those who take a more-militant stance."

(None of this surprises a former SMU colleague of Glover's, Alphine Jefferson, now working for the College of Worcester in Ohio. Jefferson refers to Dallas' traditional black organizations as the "homegrown Dallas Black Mafia." "They all thought we were handkerchief heads because we worked at SMU," he says. "If you did not do what they said or participate in the things that they did, they would say pretty unkind things about you.")

Hispanics, who constitute the largest minority in the district, are worried about Glover because they fear he may ignore their needs. "A lot of blacks don't know our history and therefore aren't able to articulate for us when issues of diversity come up," says Michael Gonzalez, chairman of Dallas Hispanic Citizens.

Glover brushes aside these concerns. "The issue is not playing to any one agenda. It is to stay in focus," he says. He says it calmly, as though he doesn't know his office chair is actually a powder keg, and that he's perceived as an enigma.

He is called a racist and a reconciler, an activist and an agitator, a preacher and a pawn. Stories drawn from his past can prove or disprove all these labels. In his new leadership role, he will accomplish either much or little. He says that one of the greatest factors in the outcome is that he's "interculturally friendly"--that he plays to no one group or minority and has friends in them all.

The interview over, he is striding down a hallway, headed to a ceremony that will launch the district's Hispanic television show. He greets whomever he passes in the hall, offering them bright, promotional T-shirts hawking the show.

His hand goes out to everyone.

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