City Hall's Same Sick Story

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.

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.


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."

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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