The Reverend Gerald Britt Jr. of Central Dallas Ministries (now called "CitySquare" for some unfathomable reason) had an op-ed in The Dallas Morning News yesterday that made my heart ache.
Britt, a good guy deeply dedicated to southern Dallas, recited all the recent population numbers that show an immense outflow of black families from southern Dallas to more affluent suburban neighborhoods.
For perfectly understandable reasons, he interprets this as a bad thing. He's like any guy writing about his own town and his own neighbors and friends. Nobody likes to see everybody leaving.
But then he comes to this awful conclusion -- a sadly common theme from black southern Dallas leadership. He says the trend should be reversed -- a terrible idea -- and that it's the job of the "business community" (read, the money) to do something about it.
"The new mayor and City Council can reverse this trend," Britt writes, "with an unapologetic commitment to a significant and strategic pro-growth agenda for southern Dallas. Efforts to attract major businesses to our city's core, increase downtown housing and add to cultural and entertainment opportunities will fall short if the southern Dallas piece isn't the centerpiece."
The outflow of black families from southern Dallas is all about upward mobility -- a marvelous thing for those families and a wonderful fruition of the Great American Promise. Nothing has endorsed the truth of American democracy more than the dramatic success of black people since the lifting of the barriers of segregation.
But why on earth would successful black families want to keep their kids around the dysfunctional morass of South Dallas?
You want a real wake-up call, take in a city council meeting some day in suburban Lancaster. Their city council is very diverse, lots of black members, and it makes our council look like a really bad day in student government.
The idea that "business" is going to come in with "investment" and fix everything is absolutely ludicrous. Why would that happen?
Richard Allen, the guy behind the Inland Port, found out why all that land in southern Dallas is so cheap and undeveloped. It's because you can't do business there without going through John Wiley Price.
That's not business' responsibility or job to fix. Business doesn't go places to help people. It goes places to make money.
The danger in Britt's thinking -- I know he doesn't mean this, but it's implied in what he says -- is that it sets up southern Dallas to be exploited and made a fool of again by the Citizens Council. We do have a mayoral contest on.
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The insinuation is that big old money-pockets, the Citizens Council, will come down and spread the wealth around if the people of southern Dallas will just vote for the right dude.
And, yeah. They'll spread it around. They'll give some to the preachers (not Britt, who is nowhere close to that kind of stuff). They'll throw some business to the preachers' wives who sell real estate. And things will stay just like they are.
That's a trick. Always has been. Always will be.
Success comes from the inside out. It just does not move in the other direction.