Heed what just happened in the battle over next year's school budget for Dallas. Black elected leaders on the school board voted for segregation and failure. It's time for everybody -- I mean everybody -- to rethink the role of black elected leadership in this city.
Of course the traditionally segregated region of the city south of downtown has a right and need to elect the leaders it chooses to public office. But right now the biggest proponent and agent of continued segregation and continued failure in that part of the city is that part of the city.
A few hours ago in a wee-hours battle over next year's budget, school trustee Bernadette Nutall, who has fought bitterly against academic school reform efforts where they may threaten jobs of politically wired black school principals, argued against and then voted against a major program of special support for struggling schools in her own district.
Eric has that story for you already. So happens I have been working on a column for the paper next week touching on it. But we need to pause and look at this again slowly and carefully.
Nutall, who represents high schools that send thousands of young people straight to prison unable to read or write and without a prayer for decent life, voted (unsuccessfully) against a program that will pour $20 million in special resources into Lincoln, Madison and Pinkston high schools -- schools that for years have been able to produce only single-digit percentages of graduating classes capable of going on to real colleges and universities according to state standards.
Most of the money she voted against will be free to the district, from outside sources. Only $8.8 million of it will come from the Dallas Independent School District. The program is based on the highly successful, nationally touted Harlem Children's Zone. Nutall decried the program here as "experimenting with our children."
Oh, it's way more than that. The Children's Zone concept is an experiment with the entire culture in which those children grow up, meaning the politics and economy all around them. It burrows into every aspect of life and society in an effort to create a protective, nurturing, shielded zone.
Why would elected black leaders resist a thing like that? White people in Dallas, who tend to be even less smart about racial issues than black people, don't see it, but the elected leadership of southern Dallas is a remnant of the old ghetto over-class of segregation days. Because the civil rights movement never shook this town very hard, that leadership class, dominated by separatist clergy, still holds sway.
These are people who profit from inferiority, because they profit from separation. Let me give you an example. Real estate. On the editorial page of the daily newspaper today is an editorial castigating the city over the way it disposes of tax delinquent property in poor black neighborhoods. I'm going to assume it's well-intended.
What the editorial does not see -- what I hear about all the time -- is efforts by black elected and community leaders to manipulate the property condemnation process, along with code enforcement and police action, in order to deliver property into the hands of politically wired persons and groups.
If you get a bunch of serious do-gooders out onto MLK Boulevard around Madison High School, for example, backed up by cash and solid political support at City Hall, and they start trying to create genuine child-safe zones, they're going to crash straight into all of the protected poker houses, crack houses, eminent domain scams and other mechanisms from which the traditional ghetto ballas have always profited. (Balla is a Yiddish word for big shot, player, dude.)
Think about this. Nutall has been ambushing school district staff around the city, threatening them with consequences if they don't agree to sabotage the school reform effort in her own district. Her entire thrust, along with black school board trustee Lew Blackburn, has been to protect the jobs of principals in failing schools. This morning she argued and then voted against a $20 million program aimed at saving the lives of kids in her own district.
Under a false flag of communal self-determination, she and her mentor, County Commissioner John Wiley Price, have consistently fought against precisely the kind of economic and social progress their community needs so desperately. They are smart enough to know that real progress will put them out of business.
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Nutall and Price are ghetto ballas. They need the ghetto to survive, as opposed to a true and equal black community, which will thrive and hold strong in conditions of success and upward mobility. But a black ghetto only survives in conditions of inferiority contained and enforced by racial separation. Something like the Children's Zone, bringing in themes and strategies of black success, many of them from successful black people, is a death threat to the ghetto ballas.
I'm not talking to white racists here. I gave up on that a long time ago. I am talking to white people of all political persuasions who believe that the entire city sinks or swims together. I am talking to tons of upwardly mobile black people in this region who know what it takes. I am talking to everybody and anybody who regards children as sacred charges.
The real enemies of these children are not white. They are black. They hold legitimate political office. To do anything for these children, we are all going to have to suck it up, overcome a half-century of post-Civil Rights Movement political heebie-jeebies, and learn to ride roughshod over the elected ghetto ballas.
This is not the time for Lady Bountiful. More like Lady Rambo, who is white, black or biracial, maybe a successful single mother who put herself through community college like Wendy Davis, has a few bucks to bang together and is not in the mood for any more bullshit from the likes of Bernadette Nutall.