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Dallas People Have a Civic Craziness in Our Heads, but Please Don't Mention It

Last Tuesday evening The Dallas Morning News sponsored a conference in the arts district called "Come Together," supposedly to talk about "economic development, education and opportunity" but really to talk about culluh.

Yeah, skin color, that topic that pretty much the whole rest of the world is bored to death with by now but still gets Dallas more excited than sex. The show featured Mayor Mike Rawlings, Uber-Preacher T.D. Jakes, lawyer Liz Cedillo-Pereira, who I think is being groomed to be the next Adelfa Callejo, and Michael Sorrell, the college president who turned his football field into a farm.

The topic was an extension of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Morning News editorial page campaign called "Bridging the Gap," about bringing together the city's two hemispheres. I will have a column about it in more detail in next week's newspaper. This is just a quick note to tell you they did not talk about the one thing I wanted them to, surprise surprise.

The hemispheres. I was hoping before we launched into an earnest evening-long discussion on how to bridge the gap between the hemispheres, we might discuss the fact that there are no hemispheres. We only have hemispheres in our heads.

I bring this up not merely to be a twit, even though that might be sufficient motivation, but also because the hemispheres-in-the-head issue was at the heart of a recent scathing federal investigative report finding Dallas guilty of misappropriating federal funds in order to carry out an official policy of racial segregation.

The HUD report, issued at the end of last year, made Dallas the largest city in the country in the 21st century to be officially accused by the federal government of promoting racial segregation. And the report started out talking about hemispheres:

"The complainant specifically alleges that the city arbitrarily created a boundary that divided into two sectors," the report states toward the top. "The Northern Sector is predominantly non-minority and includes the downtown business district. The Southern Sector is predominantly minority."

See, to people who aren't from Dallas, that's weird. It's striking. It jumps out at them. You tell somebody from L.A. that you live in the "Southern Sector," they think you're talking about some kind of South African shit.

But here everybody just assumes that's how it is, and that includes people in both hemispheres. People in the northern hemisphere usually don't think it's their job to make the southern hemisphere better. People in the southern hemisphere think it is. But hardly anybody on either side ever stops and says, "Hey. There are no hemispheres."

Let me just toss this out: The danger, when you have imaginary hemispheres in your brain, is that you will go out into the real world and try to make those hemispheres come true. You can't rearrange the physical world into divisions that do not exist naturally, but you can do all kinds of weird stuff to the man-made world, like only put sewers in half of it.

There was a guy in the audience right behind me, Robert Pitre, about whom I have written in the past, a landowner near the new UNTD campus near Interstate 35-E and I-20, and all he and other landowners in the area want is a sewer system.

Everybody in the northern hemisphere has sewers. But vast areas of the southern hemisphere have no sewers. I thought if we could agree to ditch the whole hemispheres thing, then maybe the light bulb would go off and everybody would realize right away why there should be sewers in the whole city. Because, you know, it's a whole city.

Didn't happen. Didn't even start to happen. Everybody just jumped right into the usual discussion about diplomacy between the hemispheres. I will explain more next week.

Another thing they did not mention in this long sober discussion of hemispheres was the HUD accusation. I'm sitting out there wondering why they even bother having the discussion, if they're not going to address the HUD accusation. Oh well, it's Dallas. The most important thing, whenever we talk about things here, is to make sure nobody talks about anything.


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