White Rampage

In the controversy over police Chief Terrell Bolton, our first black police chief, we need to keep in mind the danger of riot. The white people in the Bachman Lake area are on a pretty short fuse.

If they ever pop their corks, they will be joined by a lot of black people and Latinos--all of the honest, decent individuals, families, and businesses whose part of town Dallas City Hall has been trying to turn into a corrupt red-light district and open-air drug market for the last 10 years.

Chief Bolton is accused of ordering cops to back off enforcement of the law at a Bachman Lake-area sex club in 1993. Behind this nasty scene, all kinds of axes are being ground, and none of the people accusing the chief deserves to be trusted any more than he does. In fact, if you listen very closely to what his accusers say, you will notice that none of them ever really claims to know anything. Unfortunately, Bolton has responded to the accusations with the kind of full-court stonewall that tends to make the stonewaller look really bad, at least in a public-relations sense.

The owner of the sex club called Caligula was granted immunity by federal prosecutors in the trial of City Councilman Al Lipscomb last year after telling them he had paid Lipscomb a $7,700 bribe.

This is an issue again because a police lieutenant and a former secretary to Bolton have surfaced to accuse Bolton of lying about his role back then in running protection for the sex club. The lieutenant, who admitted meeting with the club owner, told the media at the time of the Lipscomb trial that he couldn't remember who had ordered him to go. Now he remembers.

The attacks on Bolton are being treated as a straight racial issue by black leadership. Their perception is that embittered white cops whom Bolton fired, abetted by The Dallas Morning News, are determined to dig and dig until they find some kind of little legal gotcha on him.

But if you talk to people in the neighborhood where city officials have been running an unofficial red-light district for the last 10 years, their hatred of City Hall is very multiracial. They think Bolton is a crook, if not in the legal sense of the word then certainly in the ticked-off moral and political sense; they think the mayor is one of those, too; and they think the rich white North Dallas council members who have refused to help them are just weasels. The process by which their neighborhood is being devastated, they sincerely believe, is a conspiracy of ruthless underworld sleazeballs, white power-wielders with no respect for urban neighborhoods, and an Uncle Tom black leadership that thinks progress is getting a better price for its votes.

The most radical stuff, however, comes from Bolton himself. Bolton told The Dallas Morning News last week he was concerned that continued investigation of him might cause a race riot. City Councilman Don Hill didn't go that far, but he did tell the News he was going to organize "large rallies" in Bolton's defense.

Bolton and Hill know exactly what they're doing when they talk about race riots and rallies, of course. Dallas has always been the North American Capital of Scared-Silly White Folks. Instead of those phony horned-cow sculptures they have downtown by City Hall--like this was ever a cowboy town--the city should be represented instead by a gigantic 10-story white plastic statue of Don Knotts having a heart attack in a seersucker suit.

For as long as anyone can remember, a black person only had to say "Boo!" in this town, let alone "riot" or "rally," and several hundred more palefaces would break into a squealing gallop for the Park Cities.

On the one hand, it's just what racist white people deserve. The threat of riot plays perfectly into their inchoate fear of black people and their dunderhead preconceptions of how black people think. On the other hand, the threat of riot in Dallas is so pathetically empty. Doesn't anybody ever notice that?

Black leadership here just hasn't conducted itself in a way that would give it that kind of political juice on the street. The great social cataclysms of history, after all, are not often inspired by walking-around money.

Example: The black community of Dallas suffered one of its most difficult tests in memory last year when Lipscomb was convicted on 65 federal counts of conspiracy and bribery. Long before the trial took place, black leadership went around to all the usual white scaredy-cats downtown and threatened them with the End Times if they didn't find some way to call the feds off Al.

Never happened. The scaredy-cats tried to get the feds to cave but couldn't. The very biggest demonstration anybody was able to muster for Lipscomb was 100 people, mainly gray-beards and ladies in high heels, good people all, the kind of solid blue-collar and middle-class crowd you'd love to run into if you were selling long-term care insurance.

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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