One Moe

Lots of people are sitting around now slapping themselves in the forehead, maybe even slapping each other in the forehead and giving each other noogies trying to figure out why state Representative Domingo Garcia has jumped into an already pretty weird mayoral race in Dallas. So it wasn't enough with just the two stooges?

But Garcia may come out of this less stooge than the other two. Of the three, he's the one who wins even if he loses.

When it was first floated last month, the notion of a Garcia for Mayor campaign was met with a thunderous raising of eyebrows. Garcia, a former city council member, ran a distant third for mayor in 1995. He is late coming to this race. It seems last-minute.

But in just a few weeks a lot has happened to make him more viable. An impressive array of Latino leaders has come forward to say they will back him. Even more amazing is the lineup of serious people in black political leadership coming to Garcia's cause, including city Councilman Don Hill and black PAC proprietor and former council member Don Hicks.

That's got to be a bone-jarring shock for the campaign of Tom Dunning, the Dallas Citizens Council candidate who was counting on the South Dallas machine to deliver him the black vote. I'm even wondering if black political operative Kathy Nealy, whom the establishment has counted on to deliver Southern Dallas in previous elections, may have to give up her private box in the new downtown arena. Just kidding, of course.

Garcia has money--his own--and he has a serious base. Normally phlegmatic Hispanic leaders such as Adelfa Callejo were practically giddy last week over the possibility he might actually win or at least wind up in the runoff.

In order to understand their fervor, we need to take a little bird-fly around town. We'll settle down on the roof of Peoples Baptist Church at 3119 Pine Street in old South Dallas. If we turn around and around on our bird feet, the area we can see in a half-mile radius from here is 96.1 percent black and 3.1 percent Latino, according to the 2000 Census.

But let's 'copter up and look down with our bird eyes on a bigger circle, taking in a two-mile radius this time, so that we are now spying on an area from Fair Park in the north to Rochester Park in the south, with the river on the west and White Rock Creek on the east.

Hey, you see it, too, right? Way more Latinos. In fact, one in five of the folks we see from this height is Hispanic. The black populace in this broader view of old South Dallas is down to 77 percent.

If we fly up even a bit higher and look down on a five-mile radius, from old East Dallas down almost to Interstate 20, taking in a broad slice of Oak Cliff and far Southeast Dallas, guess what? There are now substantially more Hispanics than blacks in this area. It's 40.3 percent Latino and only 33 percent black.

Between 1990 and 2000, the Latino population of Dallas doubled, taking Latinos from 21 percent of the city total to 36 percent. In that same period the black population of the city slipped from 30 percent of the total to 26 percent.

The Black Lack in Dallas, far from being evidence of a failure, is almost certainly the result of one story that never gets told in mainstream media--the incredible success of the upwardly mobile black middle class. It's just that when they get mobile, they get out. It's the American way.

It's also a serious dilemma for the black people who remain. They just got to the table, and already they have to worry that their chairs will be lost to Hispanics or to whites who are supported by Hispanics. That already happened in the West Dallas city council race when Ed Oakley, a white guy, beat Dwaine Caraway, a high-profile black candidate.

Hispanic leaders, meanwhile, see their own people dominating in the numbers but shut out of the game where the goodies get divided up. The realpolitik on the ground today is a sentimental oil painting of what the city looked like 25 years ago: whites and blacks coming to their opposite sides of the river bearing gifts and trading goods, in search of an accommodation.

So, in the accommodation, where are the Mexican-Americans?

They're not in the painting.

Recently I sat in the audience and listened while John Trujillo, co-chair of the Latino Advisory Committee for the Dallas Independent School District, very politely inquired about the patronage that will follow quickly on the heels of the $1.37 billion bond issue going to the voters January 19. Trujillo had come to the microphone to ask a question of one of the citizen volunteers on the committee that drew up the list of projects for the bond program.

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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