Dallas County, population 2.5 million, now officially stands for "monetary and substantial reparations" for black Americans' suffering, after the County Commission summarily approved a resolution by its only black member that the white commissioners never bothered to read.
The dramatic and apparently unintentional move came Tuesday, after black commissioner John Wiley Price introduced a Juneteenth resolution celebrating the end of slavery in America. The resolution passed unanimously, according to the Dallas Morning News:
The "Juneteenth Resolution," commemorating the day slaves in Texas learned of their freedom, seemed from its description to be just another routine proclamation. Others approved on Tuesday expressed support for Men's Health Month — it's June — the American Kidney Fund, and an employee in the tax office who's been on the job for 25 years.
But Price's resolution went beyond taking note of Juneteenth; it included a long list of injustices endured by blacks, from slavery to Jim Crow to predatory lending practices. Then, in its final paragraph, it declared that the suffering of African-Americans should be "satisfied with monetary and substantial reparations."
Price read the entire document aloud at the meeting. But that happens with every resolution, and the commissioners didn't seem to be listening with a critical ear. With no discussion, Price's resolution was approved by voice vote.
The commissioners are "not necessarily used to reading through, trying to figure out whether there's anything controversial in" these voice-vote resolutions, Matthew Watkins, the Morning News reporter who was present at the meeting, told KXAS-TV in the video above. Watkins added that, just listening to the resolution read aloud, "I didn't understand the ramifications myself."
Some of the commissioners apparently got buyer's remorse an hour after the vote. One Republican changed his "yes" vote to an "abstention," complaining that he was hoodwinked:
"I do not support reparations, and I do not support one of the statements he made, which was that the United States was derelict in his promise to African Americans," Cantrell told the Dallas Observer. "I think Commissioner Price went too far, and I can't support that."
"I had no opportunity to review it, to see what was in the resolution," he added. "As Commissioner Price was reading this I was trying to find a copy because it sounded like he was going way over what he typically does."
Price, for his part, said it was an unintended mistake that his fellow commissioners hadn't received written copies of the resolution for the vote. He added that he'd been inspired to introduce the proposal after reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' epic case for black reparations in last month's Atlantic, another composition by a prominent black man that many white people with opinions couldn't be bothered to read.