A day before the Dallas City Council gathered to discuss again what to do about those Confederate monuments, the Rev. Dr. Michael Waters was sitting across a table from Tim, Zac, and me at the Old Monk. He was wearing a dashiki over a priest’s collar, with shredded jeans that confused Tim and his old man sensibilities. He wore a hat that bore the word “WOKE.” He drank water and asked us to call him Mike. And we had a lively discussion about this city and the decisions and systems—among them, redlining and the highway network—that have fueled segregation here along racial and economic lines, making this a city of high wealth and higher poverty.
Waters has been one of the most outspoken proponents of addressing these issues — in particular, removing our Confederate statues. They’re relics, honorariums to a cause that never was. Waters mentions all the meetings and discussions about race that occurred throughout this city after the July 7 downtown shootings. He viewed the decision about whether to remove the monuments as Dallas’ first true test that it had finally decided to reckon with its racist history. You know the story. It took a long while to get Robert E. Lee pulled off his plinth, and the five statues of old Confederate generals still stand near City Hall and the convention center, where we welcome business people from other parts of this country and the world. Some welcome. On Wednesday’s council briefing, there was talk of recontexualization, but it seemed the time had finally come for the Council to agree to remove them.
Senior Editor Zac Crain profiled Waters in the December issue of this magazine. It’s an important read about an important person in an important moment. We’ve been trying to get him on the podcast since, but he’s a busy man. We rectified that this week. It’s one of the most interesting chats you’ll hear about the city of Dallas, with one of the city’s finest and most passionate orators.
“Dallas has broken my heart so many times,” Waters said. “It is insane to me that it’s still a question about whether to remove these racist monuments.”
Show notes after the jump.
1. Here is the episode we had with Chris Hamilton, whose dad gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions on his grandchildren’s behalf to mayoral candidate and Councilman Scott Griggs.
2. Here is the website for the church where Waters is pastor, Joy Tabernacle AME.
3. Here is more information about the AME Church’s founder, Bishop Richard Allen.
4. Where you can get W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk.
5. The individual whom Tim references at SMU’s Perkins Chapel, the homilist he really liked but whose name he couldn’t remember, that is Monsignor Milam Joseph.
6. Here is the website for the Lone Star Justice Alliance, where Waters’ wife, Yulise, works with the Second Chance Community Program.
7. Here is Waters speaking before the U.S. House in 2017.
8. Waters called us “the most woke publication in Dallas.” We have written extensively about redlining in this city, as well as the damage done to neighborhoods by the highways.
9. Here is the United Way study that Waters mentions, about how half of Dallas households can’t afford the basics.
10. More info on the fight to get Oak Lawn Park’s name changed to Stanley Marcus Park.
11. Look at how Amber Guyger, the fired Dallas police officer and killer of Botham Shem Jean, changed her appearance during her most recent court date.
12. Now is a good time to re-read this 2016 profile of Parkland’s Dr. Brian Williams, who is also the head of Dallas’ Police Citizen Review Board.
13. More info on when the city seized properties near Fair Park to pave over them. “All that is required is to eliminate the problem from sight. If the poor Negroes in their shacks cannot be seen, all the guilt feeling revealed above will disappear, or at least be removed from primary consideration.”
14. Take a trip back to 1987, when Jim Schutze wrote about the bombings of black properties throughout Dallas during the civil rights era.
15. In 1910, Allen Brooks was hanged at the intersection of Main and Akard streets downtown.
16. We’ll leave with this clip from Arsenio Hall’s final show.