A letter mailed to Park Cities homes is causing a bit of a stir. It asks White Democrats to pledge not to send their children to Ivy League schools or any of the U.S. News & World Report top 50 colleges as a way to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and to give kids of color a better chance of attending a good school. The letter was sent by an organization called Dallas Justice Now.
I think this whole thing is a hoax. Call it astroturf. Call it trolling. Whatever you like. But this is not a real thing. Everyone needs to take a breath and relax.
First I’m going to quote from the letter. Then I’m going to give you the reasons I think it’s bogus. Here’s how the letter begins:
“We are writing to you because we understand you are white and live within the Highland Park Independent School District and thus benefit from enormous privileges taken at the expense of communities of color. You live in the whitest and wealthiest neighborhood in Dallas, whether you know it or not, you earned or inherited your money through oppressing people of color. However, it is also our understanding that you are a Democrat and supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, which makes you one of our white allies and puts you in a position to help correct these cruel injustices. We need you to step up and back up your words with action and truly sacrifice to make our segregated city more just.
“We are asking you to pledge that your children will not apply or attend any Ivy League School or U.S. News & World Report Top 50 School. If you do not have children under 18 then we ask you to pledge to hold your white privileged friends, family, and neighbors with children to this standard.”
OK, now let’s go through the reasons to believe this is tomfoolery designed to get a certain segment of Park Cities folks all up in arms:
1. The letter itself. Come on, people. Does that make any sense? I mean, I guess it could make sense the same way it makes sense when PETA does outrageous stuff just because they know the outrageous stuff will get media attention. But no one here actually wants anyone to make such a pledge.
2. The Facebook video. On the Dallas Justice Now Facebook page, there’s a July 14 video of a purported “pop up meet and greet” in Klyde Warren Park. There aren’t any people in the video, just a woman’s voice and a shot of the sad sign-up table that you see at the top of this post. Everything about this feels fake, including the signage. Notice where the word “Justice” was written on a different piece of paper, then cut out and affixed to the handwritten “Dallas Justice Now” sheet. A 10-year-old could do better.
3. The lies. Dallas City Wire is a — what should I call it? — nontraditional news source that has been linked to a national network of sites that a New York Times investigation alleged is a pay-to-pay scheme. Dallas City Wire has published something about this College Pledge letter. I hate to link to it, but here’s their story (which got picked up by the Daily Mail, so now this is an INTERNATIONAL STORY). Dallas City Wire quotes the founder of Dallas Justice Now, a woman named Michele Washington. She says that Dallas Justice Now is forming an advisory committee and that it will include a Texas A&M professor named Troy Harden, director of the Race and Ethnic Studies Institute. Contacted by D Magazine, Harden wrote in an email that he is not on any such advisory council. Also, we can’t find Michele Washington. An email given for her on a Dallas Justice Now press release hasn’t produced a reply. And the phone number listed on the bottom of that College Pledge letter is not a working number.
4. The screwy business address. Also listed at the bottom of that College Pledge letter is a physical address at a co-working space in The Epic. It’s called Spaces. I went over there today with a letter in hand addressed to Dallas Justice Now. I didn’t get the impression that Spaces is fully leased. Just guessing. Point being: when I told the receptionist I was there to deliver a letter to Dallas Justice Now, I would have expected her to recognize the name of one of her tenants if that tenant were real. She didn’t recognize the name and fetched a superior for me. That superior didn’t recognize the name Dallas Justice Now. I said their mailing address indicated the Dallas Justice Now office was in the Spaces seventh-floor suite and that it perhaps used office No. 7001. The superior went through a locked door to see who was in office No. 7001. She returned, took the letter from me, and said she’d deliver it.
“Is there a Michele Washington back there?” I asked
“I can’t tell you that,” the superior said.
“I just want to know if there’s a company called Dallas Justice Now that offices here,” I said.
“I can’t tell you that,” the superior said.
“But there’s a human back there in the office?”
“There is a human,” the Spaces superior said as she put my letter in a drawer at the front desk.
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of all that. Spaces is a pretty space, though. And if you are an operation that actually exists and you don’t want anyone to find you, Spaces appears to be a good space. They run a tight ship.
5. The URL breadcrumb trail. You can ignore the above four reasons I think this thing is bogus. Just look at this investigation into the URL used by Dallas Justice Now. I wish the folks who did that work had chosen to call themselves something other than Dallas Antifascists, but they’ve turned up pretty conclusive evidence that Dallas Justice Now is a right-wing operation executed by a firm with Republican clients all over the country. Their work was captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. It’s all there in all its sloppiness.
In conclusion, if one of your friends or family members shares this College Pledge junk with you on social media, point them to this post. Tell them to relax. And if your kid makes it into one of the top 50 schools in the country, congratulations! By all means, send her there. Hopefully her academic journey will lead her to the truth about this country of ours, both where we’ve achieved greatness and how often we’ve fallen utterly, pathetically, and unforgivably short of our cherished ideals.
Update (3:34) Reddit is also coming to the conclusion that this is a hoax. And so is a local woman who came under attack for doing some clever sleuthing. After she donated money to find out who was behind Dallas Justice Now, the group put out a press release that brought up a DWI she got six years ago. She broke it all down on Facebook.