A Race Tale To Two Cities

I spent some years of my boyhood in Dallas, Texas. And this summer's events in both Dallas and the Twin Cities brought on both a flood of memories (of Dallas) and a few epiphanies about our so-called North Country utopia.

I lived in Dallas in '61, 62, and part of '63, from ages 9-11, during the years of the civil rights conflicts. Most of our neighbors in the all white suburb of Irving were friendly. But some of them forbade their kids to play with me. I was, to these few a nine-year old "N--- lovin' Yankee, or a "Kennedy Communist." (Imagine a Kennedy as a communist).

Dallas was then a city segregated by law. It was also the hometown of the richest man in the world, H. L. Hunt, an oil baron who bought radio and television time with a show called "Life Line," which spewed daily invective against liberals (especially President Kennedy), Catholics, the NAACP, and the United Nations. If a Dallas citizen supported a liberal cause or supported any organization committed to civil rights, he stood the chance of being called "red" (communist) or "pink" (socialist), and may even lose his job. (I know this from my father's worries over his employment at Great Western Producers Oil).

I might not have noticed all the tension and paranoia in Dallas had it not been for my activist mother, who had a personal animus for Ted Dealy, the publisher of the Dallas Morning News. She used to call that newspaper, write letters protesting its editorials, letters that were never published. She nearly flipped her wig after the civil rights March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. King made his "Free at Last" speech. The next morning's Dallas News' editorial referred to observing "pickaninnies squatting beneath the Lincoln Memorial." Mom tried to reach Dealey on the phone, hoping to cuss him out, but no luck. She then called the other Dallas newspaper and spent a half hour commiserating with Editor A.C. Green, of the Dallas Times Herald, who was later a mentor to journalist Molly Ivins.

We moved back to Minnesota in September of 1963. My mother considered our return to St. Paul as our Exodus. You didn't have to read lunatic editorials in the local newspapers. The Selby Dale and Rondo neighborhoods looked like paradise compared to the Dallas neighborhood called "The Bottoms," a shantytown with unpaved streets and tarpaper shacks, not unlike South Africa's Soweto. Black bodies were regularly fished out of the nearby Trinity River, and there was much talk that the all-white police were often involved in these disappearances.

Then came November, when we learned that JFK planned to visit Dallas. My mother got out her pack of Pall Malls, lighted one, exhaled, and then said with a worried tone in her voice, "Why would he go to Dallas? Look how they treated Adlai Stevenson (Stevenson, who was our UN representative, famous for his confronting the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was harangued and spit on by anti-UN crazies) I'm afraid they'll kill him."

But things have changed in the U.S. in the ensuing years--some for the worse, some for the better. While I watched television coverage of the shooting of Philando Castile and the subsequent murder of six cops from the Dallas Police Department, I found myself gobsmacked by the changes I saw in the city of Dallas. The chief of the Dallas Police is black, as well as a fair proportion of the officers. I saw more than one black woman cop. I saw black marchers supporting their bereaved police, commenting on their heroism. The following day, the news screened a crowd of Black Lives Matter marchers make peace with, and then embrace, with Christian charity, a group of white, confederate flag flying counter protestors. Dorothy, we're not in Dallas anymore.

But the Twin Cities needs a good look in the mirror. Our lovely cities sport one of the largest gaps between whites and blacks--in income, education, and health--found in the nation. The median household income for black Minnesotans in 2014 was $27, 000, compared to $67, 000. For whites. And we've heard the stories from our black citizens about the social hypocrisy of our their white counterparts. "Minnesota Nice is Minnesota Ice," is among the favorite slogans one hears about our region.

I know, I know, officer Janez was Hispanic. He pulled over Castile allegedly because he "looked" like someone who robbed a nearby gas station. Maybe he got out of the car with his gun drawn. Maybe Castile, seeing that weapon actually did reach for his pistol, though I doubt that. And it's easy to surmise that Janez panicked. You can make all the excuses we want--about Mr. Castile and Jamar Clark. But let's own up to the profiling. Let us reach out to those who have been wronged. Let us make restitution.

I'm an unabashed supporter of Black Lives Matter. And I was fairly disgusted by the Minneapolis cops who walked out because the Minnesota Lynx--the only champion professional athletes in this northern baliwack, by the way--wore warm up jerseys supporting Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matters is not the problem, and had nothing to do with the crazy killer in Dallas.

Let us be a little more like--I'll go ahead and say it-- the good folks in the city of Dallas.