Tom Leppert, Dick Davis, and Bill Seay are the three mayors of the four most prestigious neighborhoods in Dallas: Preston Hollow, Greenway Parks, University Park, and Highland Park. These neighborhoods—still, in 2010—are almost entirely lily white. In Dallas, usually we talk about race and the poor. It’s time to talk about race and the rich. Race is the one thing that could derail Dallas from becoming the nation’s No. 1 center of corporate headquarters.
In 2009, New York had 94 Fortune 500 companies, California had 98, and Texas had 118, of which 46 are in North Texas. If a relocation decision is based purely on costs, taxes, convenience, and labor, Dallas wins hands down. But as we found with Boeing, other factors can come into play. Would a CEO move to downtown Dallas if his top executives only felt comfortable living in Trophy Club or Grapevine? Why not go to Atlanta instead?
It’s time to face some serious questions. Why don’t successful upper-income black families live in the most affluent neighborhoods nearest downtown Dallas? If it is because they don’t feel comfortable raising their families there, why don’t they?
I pose these questions not just to our mayors but also to our churches. I’ll address this directly to the pastors: Mark Craig, Ron Scates, Don Zimmerman, Miller Cunningham, Scott Sager, Robert Dannals, Doug Skinner, and Leighton Bearden. When you look out at your congregations on Sunday morning, why are they mainly seas of white faces? I’ve been to T.D. Jakes’ Potter House on a Sunday morning, and the place looks like a kaleidoscope of America. If whites feel comfortable in his pews, why don’t blacks feel comfortable in yours?
What about the country clubs? The right to private association is fundamental to a free society. But it doesn’t come with a God-ordained right to a property-tax exemption. If the Dallas Country Club and Brook Hollow Golf Club don’t want black members, that’s fine with me. But it doesn’t mean I have to pay for it. The Dallas Country Club is privileged to sit on 118 very valuable acres that are now tax-exempt as real property. Every homeowner in Highland Park, including me, pays higher property taxes for school and town services because the country club pays none. Will the Texas Legislature address this inequity in the property code that requires homeowners to subsidize racial discrimination? Dan Branch, will you tackle this issue? John Carona, will you? Bill Seay, will you back them up? Will you, Dick Davis? Tom Leppert, you resigned from the Dallas Country Club when you ran for mayor. Why should someone have to do that? Why should a great club be such an embarrassment to its city?
To me, the issue of these neighborhoods seems a matter of simple intelligence. Why should a city—or a society within a city—continue a practice that hurts it? We know the history of racism here. We don’t need to rehash it. But neither do we need to indulge its legacy. Nobody is doing anybody any favors here. Successful black, Hispanic, and Asian executives don’t need us. We need them.
Dallas is on the cusp of becoming one of the great cities of the world. The only people who can prevent that are reading this page right now. If we—you and I—don’t demonstrate that we are open, encouraging, welcoming, and even downright excited to bring every single kind of intelligent human being to Dallas to work and raise his family and succeed, we will have thrown away a historic opportunity.
Messrs. Seay, Davis, and Leppert, the ball is in your court.
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