Here it comes, the 2019 Dallas mayor’s race, and it is going to be a filthy replay of the 2005 “strong mayor” election in which the business oligarchy jammed its thumb down hard on the race button.
The preview is playing now on social media. It’s a corny video with scary music in the background based on a recent City Council vote to select a new “mayor pro tem,” an honorary position on the council.
During that meeting, the white council members most closely associated with the white good-old-boy leadership downtown jumped on East Dallas council member Philip Kingston, a progressive, for daring to nominate a white person to be the new mayor pro tem. And, look, I know, you need a playbook and your special weird-Dallas-racial-crap decoder ring to figure this stuff out.
You have your mayor. That’s the person who wins the mayoral election. Under the good-old-boy rules, that’s a white person, with one exception. Then you have two more titles that are made up: mayor pro tem and deputy mayor pro tem. Those titles mean pretend mayor and deputy pretend mayor. For decades, the pretend mayor and the deputy pretend mayor have always been minorities.
The issue staring the council in the face at the recent meeting was that the incumbent pretend mayor, Dwaine Caraway, had to resign the post because he’s headed to the federal pokey after confessing to crimes that involved betraying tens of thousands of children who must ride the bus to school every day. Now, part of what you need to know is that Caraway was a great favorite and puppet of the white good-old-boy leadership for championing causes like not removing Confederate monuments.
Kingston wanted to make longtime council member Sandy Greyson the next pretend mayor. Greyson, who is white, has a deep-running well-deserved reputation for integrity. Well, let’s let Kingston speak for himself. Here is what he said:
“Mr. Mayor, I offer a substitute motion to nominate Sandy Greyson to be mayor pro tem of the city of Dallas.
“This selection is an expression of council’s will about who the people are who should lead it. We had a problem. It’s not the fault of the remaining council members, but it has affected our standing with the public.
“And in order to begin to improve that standing, I think it is incumbent on us to pick the one of us for the remainder of this term who is most above reproach. That sends a signal to the public that we are serious about doing this job in a clean, ethical and transparent way.”
See? He said nothing about race. He certainly said not one word about the three African-American members still on the council. But the issue was that making Greyson, a white person, the new pretend mayor would have violated a longstanding tradition by which the good old boys always give those titles to black people and Hispanics as sops and consolation prizes.
One person who jumped on Kingston right away and hit that race card as hard as she could was council member Jennifer (Staubach) Gates, widely rumored to be a main contender for the good old boys’ next mayoral candidate.
We’ll look at what she said, too, but first a word of caution: Hold on tight, because when you try to follow Gates too closely, you’re always in for some spine-tingling loops. Her line was basically that the title of pretend mayor belongs to the black people and making a white person pretend mayor would be discriminatory:
“I think if we don’t support black leadership right now that we are saying we are tainting them at a different level than we are tainting the rest of the body, and that’s not fair,” she said.
Hmm. Everyone should be tainted the same? OK, I guess.
“And so I think we, you know, if we said now we need more white leadership at the top, then we are taking the leadership opportunity from a minority and making it appear that they are more guilty than the rest of us are, as a body, in our relationship with the reason why Mr. Caraway went.”
Yes. In an age of racial equality, everyone should look equally guilty. Got it. But what is their relationship with “the reason why Mr. Caraway went?” Went where? The pokey? Should I find what Gates said troubling? Or just forget about it?
I’m going to just forget most of what she said, but I don’t think I can shake the weird damn racial stuff. Rich white people playing the race card in the name of the black guy who’s going to the pokey. My decoder ring is beginning to emit some kind of green smoke.
But we’re not done. In the unattributed video now playing on social media, clips of council members talking are interspersed with free-floating minor-key chords from a church organ to give the whole thing an aura of spooky solemnity. But I actually laughed out loud when they did the church organ chords for council member Rickey Callahan, who is the council’s resident white Gomer. Something about Gomer and the church organ just cracked me up:
“Yeah, thank you, Mayor. I don’t think it’s also unfair but it is very disrespectful for the African-American people, and it’s always been this way, and somehow to cast aspersions to two fine African-American members of the council [note: there are three black members, but Callahan doesn’t like one of them] I think is grossly unfair.
“And I really resent the comments, you know. Just again, I said recently, ‘Let your yes be yes and your no be no.’ If you’ve got something against either one of these gentlemen, put it out in the open, shine the light on it. Don’t hide behind the vote and say, ‘Well, these guys might not be this and might not be that.’”
Then Callahan refers to one of the most extremely picayune ethics complaints ever in all of Dallas City Council history, a reprimand given Kingston by the council last November for making a recording on his phone about a fundraiser while sitting in his City Council office. I think the violation was improper use of a city chair.
“And this is coming,” Callahan says, “from a gentlemen that’s been reprimanded by the council, so I resent that and I’m going to support [council member] Casey Thomas [for pretend mayor], my friend, thank you.”
Thomas was elected pretend mayor of Dallas on a 9-4 vote. The third black council member not included in the count by Callahan, Kevin Felder, walked out rather than vote.
The absolute kudo for the most broadly exploitative use of the race card in recent memory, however, goes to Mayor Mike Rawlings, who wound up the race-card festivities with this oration:
“This [nominating Greyson] is a terrific slap to the African-Americans around this council,” Rawlings said. “We have three good, respectable African-Americans [he included Felder] that represent this city well, and to say that they are less than what they need to be from a reputation standpoint [no one said that] is something that is very dangerous for this city.”
Very dangerous. VERY dangerous. Very very VERY dangerous. And the funny thing is, they mean that. That’s probably the one thing the white good old boys downtown really mean.
If they can’t keep buying off the black community with pretend titles, if they ever had to show true respect to black leaders instead of Sambo respect, then they might lose control of the city.
These are the same people who have brought us a succession of corrupt black leaders, and they love those guys, because they can corrupt them. Everybody knew Caraway was on the take. He almost bragged about it. They could count on him for zoning votes and Confederate statue votes whenever they pulled his chain.
And the thing was, in Caraway’s case, as in all of these cases, the black guy always goes for cheap. He confessed to taking $450,000 in bribes to screw the kids out of their bus rides. The white guy in the deal got $3 million.
They had to make the white guy rich. All they had to do for Caraway was fix his car, give him bus rides and poker chips and hand him a fistful of dollars once in a while.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
That’s the system that Gates, Callahan and Rawlings are defending, and they’re using the race card to do it. Man. Takes some figuring, does it not? I think my decoder ring is melting or something.
Let’s imagine you’re on a junket to New York and you’re the deputy mayor pro tem of Dallas. You tell somebody you’re an elected official back home. They ask what office you hold.
“I am the deputy mayor pro tem of Dallas, Texas.”
So what do they say? “Oh, I’m sorry?” “Maybe next time?” “Do you get to bowl for free?”