City Hall's Same Sick Story

White guys bribing black guys at Dallas City Hall

Black racial treason. That is the underlying theme in this week's federal indictments at Dallas City Hall.

It's the same theme that ran through the indictment and prosecution of former city council member Al Lipscomb eight years ago. Selling the black community down the river.

In that case the white man talked, so the white man walked. In this week's case the white man, developer Brian Potashnik, talked too, but he got indicted anyway, along with his wife and father.

It's Al all over again at City Hall.
Henry Bargas ©2000
It's Al all over again at City Hall.

Oh, boy. Progress.

In 1999 the charge was that revered black civil rights icon Al Lipscomb had voted to help a white man who owned Yellow Cab drive a bunch of small, independent, mainly minority cab owners out of business in exchange for cash and a lot of free cab rides.

This time the accusation is that black city council members and legislators, all of whom were publicly committed to putting more single-family homes in southern Dallas, betrayed their own neighborhoods by helping a white man build subsidized apartments instead, this time in exchange for cash, free rent and other considerations.

Lipscomb was convicted on federal bribery charges, but his conviction was set aside by a federal appeals panel on grounds that he hadn't received a fair trial. Nobody knows if the feds will be proved right in these new indictments. That will play out.

What's remarkable is the apparent inability of the city, white or black, even to understand the underlying accusation in either the Lipscomb case or this new one. It's not an issue of black people pushing for too much. The problem is black people selling out for too little and white people too willing to buy.

This is about a sick commerce between stubbornly segregated camps that have never found a way to assimilate with each other, so they keep trying to reach cash accommodations instead.

Many white people in Dallas—probably a majority—still can't speak frankly to black people. I get sick of hearing it blamed on white liberals. The worst ninnies about it are the white conservatives.

A great example of white mumbo-speak was the very odd story on Page 1 of The Dallas Morning News this week, right under the indictment story, with a headline, "Reframing the city's crime rank."

The point of the story was that we shouldn't believe FBI statistics showing Dallas with the worst overall crime rate in the nation among cities with a population of more than 1 million. Instead we should believe The Dallas Morning News, which has done its own analysis showing Dallas with a rank of 58th-worst.

Let me cut to the chase here, just because I can't stand the suspense. Why 58th? Well, you could read the entire very long story and never really find out. You had to read a sidebar to get even a murky hint of the answer.

The News' analysis showed that Dallas wasn't really that bad if you compared it to other cities that have a lot of black people. Compare it exactly how, they don't say. They also suggest—without stating it explicitly—that a lot of black crime is against black people, so if you're white and you live in an all-white area, you're golden.

Somehow, in the end, they hint that they have a statistical mechanism that can make black people disappear. Once you X out all the black people, Dallas is only the 58th-worst city in the country, instead of the worst.

Lordy.

I called the editor in charge of the project to ask that he do what a responsible academic using the same techniques would do—lay out his statistical model for me, specifically the variables used and the relative weight given to them. Never heard back.

This is the second big race-based project I have seen in the News based on the News' own highly suspect use of statistics, especially regression analysis. The first was a story accusing former District Attorney Bill Hill of kicking blacks off juries for racial reasons, even though the juries wound up almost perfectly reflecting the racial makeup of the community.

The News refused to reveal its model in that story as well. Academics who publish articles using the same techniques told me at the time it was unheard of to make claims based on regression modeling and then not publish the model itself.

In that case the News happened to be under investigation by Bill Hill for circulation fraud. In this week's instance, our new mayor is calling for help making the city look good in spite of the indictments.

And look, I'm not saying I think the News' analysis of crime statistics is untrue or false or jimmied in some way. I just want to know what the hell they're talking about.

Instead of an explanation, the story is layered with all kinds of ass-covering apology and disclaimer, as with a quote from some white-sounding guru who told the News that black crime can be blamed on "the history of racial segregation and isolation from mainstream institutions."

Oh, come on. That's what I mean about conservatives. Maybe if they actually had some black friends of their own social background, they would know that you don't even hear that stuff anymore from upwardly mobile black people.

Among people not still living somewhere on the psychological plantation, either in the shacks or the Big House, everybody understands that breaking the law is primarily a matter of personal moral responsibility and choice.

I know it gets confusing, especially when you've got thousands of people marching in Jena, Louisiana, to defend gang-style boot-stomping as a legacy of Dr. King.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: If somebody makes fun of you, cold-cock him, get him down on the floor and then six of you kick in his skull until he's dead or retarded.

We still have a lot of people in our society who are full of it—so full of it that they can become ardent champions of evil while believing whole-heartedly in their own virtue. The trick is not to be among them.

If the News wants to say that Dallas has a high crime rate because it has a lot of black people, then the least it can do is stop weaseling and squirming around about it and take a stab at an honest discussion of black crime. In the meantime, I still would like to see that model, because I wonder what they did with the poor white meth-heads in their math.

The black side of the equation is often every bit as screwed up as the white. The best example I have seen in recent days is the argument, rife on blogs and in mainstream media, that federal prosecutors, in order to show racial impartiality, should have indicted former Mayor Laura Miller and council member Mitchell Rasansky.

Miller, the argument goes, should have been indicted because she received generous campaign contributions from Potashnik, the apartment developer indicted Monday. One big problem with that idea: No one has ever even whispered that Miller sold her vote.

I keep trying to get my mind around the idea. The feds should indict white people whom they believe to be innocent in order to balance out the indictments of black people whom they believe to be guilty? The very best explanation I can think of is that somebody here does not have even a minimal grasp of the rule of law.

I suspect Rasansky's name is being tossed into the slop for even more base motives. Both Miller and Rasansky are Jews. A recurring theme in black southern Dallas—a moral Achilles heel—is anti-Semitism. I can't think of another single reason for anybody even to bring up Rasansky's name in this context.

It's part and parcel of the same phenomenon. It's not possible for anybody, black or white, to have even a rudimentary understanding of the black experience in this country and be an anti-Semite. Blacks who are anti-Semites do not understand the history of blacks in America. They do not own their own moral legacy.

Something is going on right now in the black community having to do with the Trinity River referendum. In meetings in southern Dallas, Mayor Tom Leppert and others seeking a no vote from black voters in November have been aggressively promoting the idea that black business people should seek more contracts with the city.

That's not a bad idea. That's a good idea, at least on its face. When Leppert was running for office he made it plain he thinks the city should work to "build strong companies" in the minority community.

The unsettling rumble just beneath the surface, however, is that black leaders who helped Leppert get elected are trying to position themselves as gatekeepers for this new form of patronage. A recent move by newly elected black council members to kick Joyce Foreman off the DART board may have been part of this plan at work.

If that's what's going on, then please allow me to be the first to predict the next big round of indictments. I'm going to say these will come down in, oh, let's say the year 2010. That's about how long these things take to ripen.

They all work the same way. The white man who wants what he wants spots a weakness and goes for it. The black man who needs a dollar and doesn't understand power takes the bait. He betrays his own community for a cheap bribe. Things go south. The FBI catches a whiff. The white guy hires a good lawyer and runs downtown to sell out the black guy.

I devoutly hope that this new round of indictments may inspire the kind of painful introspection this city so badly needs. Somehow we must lift ourselves up out of the cynicism of the plantation—the white idea that black people can always be bought, the black idea that black people have nothing to sell but themselves.

In its place we need sharp eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in which people honestly pursue the interests of their communities on both sides of the river. Maybe by not getting along so well we can actually learn to live together some day.

I'm not holding my breath.

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