Thursday, June 17, 2021

Paved A Way: "Dallas Doesn't Give a Damn About its History"


I've begun reading "Paved A Way: Infrastructure, Policy and Racism in an American City" by Collin Yarbrough. The city referenced in the title is Dallas, Texas. Instead of reading it all the way through and then writing a short review (my usual practice), I've decided to blog as I go, using whatever parts of the book catch my attention.

A good place to start is with this quote in the opening chapter:

Robert Lee Thornton, Dallas’s former mayor, once said, "Dallas doesn’t give a damn about its history; it only cares about the future."
Paved A Way

I don't think Dallas is unique in this. All cities, all mayors, exhibit this attitude to some degree. And its opposite. In Dallas, just try to tear down a monument to slavery (aka Confederate "heroes") and you'll uncover plenty of history lovers in Dallas.

The City of Richardson has much less history to preserve, but I've seen little evidence of any big difference from Dallas in this regard. Take the recent Main Street renovation. Richardson talks a good game. "We have a vision of a downtown that looks contemporary, but still has an ode to the past," Mayor Paul Voelker said in the City's newspaper Richardson Today. But the main goal appears to have been, not historical preservation, but to cram more traffic through downtown. Regarding the storefronts on Main Street, developer Manasseh Durkin, who is partnering with the City on redevelopment of the area, said, "The city originally wanted to tear a lot of it down" to widen Main Street." Maybe Richardson's leaders just have more polish than Dallas's Mayor Thornton did.

All excerpts of "Paved A Way":
Paved A Way: "Dallas Doesn't Give a Damn About its History"
Paved A Way: Extermination as Government Policy
Paved A Way: The Battle of Village Creek
Paved A Way: Redlining
Paved A Way: Boulevards and Parks
Paved A Way: Freedman's Cemetery
Paved A Way: Deep Ellum
Paved A Way: Little Mexico
Paved A Way: Tenth Street
Paved A Way: Shingle Mountain
The End


glbeach said...

Good content, Mark. With respect to the comments of Mayors, none of them has any way to change the past, only a hope to shape the future. Without question, Dallas has a lot of baggage based on it's past. Richardson, not being the metropolis Dallas is, has not had the 'opportunity' to err quite as much.

I'm not certain what an acceptable answer is with respect to the racism of the past; I'm inclined to believe it is something like the "Truth and Reconciliation" commission as set up in South Africa after the end of apartheid. Unfortunately, Texas as a whole seems to have chosen a path of pretending our honest, truthful, history does not exist. When the state outlaws the discussion of races and racism in school, it smacks of having something to hide. The only way to clean this up is to discuss, admit, and resolve not to make the same mistakes again.

Along these same lines - all the discussion of the centenary of the burning of "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Ok. would make you think that was the only center of African American success. But even minor research reveals there was the "Red Summer" of 1919 where African American centers of commerce across the U.S. were destroyed by white supremacists. The further separation and destruction of the African American communities is simply an extension of that racist mindset, in my opinion.

Mark Steger said...

Gary Beach, thanks for your thoughts. The wall of racism will come down one brick at a time.