A Dare Going Down in Dallas

But Will Black Activists Wind Up Disappointed Again?

Two black Dallas women are calling on rich white liberals to step up and back their words with action. “White abolitionists died in the Civil War so that we could live as free men and women. … White freedom riders risked their lives at the hands of the KKK to end the racist Jim Crow Laws … Now, wealthy white liberals … profit by professing support for Black Lives Matter on social media … all the while failing to make any sacrifices themselves,” said Michele Washington, founder of Dallas Justice Now (DJN).

Earlier this summer, DJN had sent a letter titled “College Pledge” to residents of two wealthy Dallas neighborhoods. It read:

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. 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.

The sacrifice they asked recipients to make is to sign a pledge saying they will not send their children to elite universities so that there will be more spaces for students of color. This, they said, would help make the city more just. The letter concluded by directing them to a page on DJN's website where they could publicly sign the pledge or be exposed as a racist hypocrite. As part of taking the pledge, signers would click one of two buttons:

  • I am a racist hypocrite.
  • I agree.

Please note,” the pledge page states in highlighted yellow italics, “Dallas Justice Now will be publicly announcing the names of those who have and have not signed the pledge.

When I saw this in the news, I wanted to both applaud and hang my head in sorrow for them. I like the gutsy way they call out cheap #hashtags and shallow sign-posting that signal “allyship” but cost the “ally” virtually nothing. Ms. Washington said people posting support on social media but not taking action “are the problem. … If whites want to be our allies, they must make sacrifices.” She makes a fair point.

Jamila, also with DJN, agreed and was more genteel about it. “We are wanting to bridge gaps, and we just want to catch up,” she explained in a Facebook video. She wants her kids, and their kids after them, to be able to go to college so that they can build generational wealth, too. She comes across as believable.

I also think it’s commendable that Ms. Washington acknowledges historical white sacrifices for the sake of real justice for blacks. Antiracist purists committed to universal white supremacy might frown on that. Notably also, there have been no DJN threats of violence. Whether names and addresses get published (and what might ensue following that) remains to be seen. But for now, the whites in view have simply been invited to make a voluntary move.

Now for why I’m inclined to weep for them. I predict Michele Washington and Jamila will be disappointed in the response to their letter campaign. More sad, their entire appeal is predicated on the disempowering premise of black victimhood. And there’s more to black victimization than what can be found in antebellum slavery. Shelby Steele drew that out in his post-mortem analysis of the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The son of two Chicago civil rights activists, Steele has studied and thought about race all his life. Early in his career, he worked in poverty-beset East St. Louis as an agent of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty.” That was his first window into what he now calls “the enormously seductive power of post-60s liberalism,” and from the basepoint of Ferguson and St. Louis, he analyzes, not only its utter failure to help the black underclass, but its even more pernicious dependency-inducing effect. He explains how a new power dynamic took shape during that era:

"Back in the 60s, we blacks made a very bad deal with America. We demanded that America help us develop. But if this was logical, it was also naïve. It seduced us into putting our faith right back into the hands of the same white America that had oppressed us in the first place.

We began to live by a formula. America’s racial guilt was our power. White guilt became black power. Of course, there was a catch. To milk white guilt, we had to always be victims of white racism. White racism and black victimization became the heart and soul of liberal power in America."

Steele’s analysis is both heartfelt and penetrating. His reflections span decades of race dynamics and include insightful comparisons between the approaches and philosophical groundings of Dr. Martin Luther King and those of today’s Black Lives Matter. (Hint: they’re not the same thing – not even close.)

To their credit, the DJN activists are, in their own way and for the moment at least, peacefully calling on white liberals to live up to their professed standard. And their approach, for the moment at least, is roughly more comparable to King than BLM. I don’t want to see them disappointed, but while they wait, I recommend they (and you) check out Steele’s 2020 documentary, What Killed Michael Brown. White liberals staying out of elite universities actually might be helpful. But not because it opens up spaces for anyone else. See trailer below or click here to see the full film.

Related:

has a BS in Computer Science and worked in software development with IBM until she hopped off the career track to be a full-time mom. She lives in Indianapolis, IN, where she works as Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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