A lot has happened since video from a McKinney pool party rattled America’s conscience over a month ago. But new low-income housing and a Supreme Court decision could mean change is coming to the Dallas suburb.
In case you need a refresher, footage of a McKinney police officer forcibly pinning a fifteen-year-old girl to the ground briefly dominated the news cycle in early June. The shaky video was yet another viral example of escalated incidents between police officers and African Americans, the most recent being the dashcam video of Sandra Bland’s arrest.
But the video of Dajerria Becton and police officer Eric Casebolt revived another conversation about a legal dispute centered in McKinney — the city’s housing authority allegedly segregated the community through the way it distributed housing vouchers.
In 2009, the Inclusive Communities Project, a nonprofit in Dallas devoted to the “creation and maintenance of thriving racially and economically inclusive communities,” filed suit against the city’s housing authority, arguing that the distribution of low-income housing disproportionately ended up east of Highway 75, which the group called “racial steering.” The case pointed out that neighborhoods west of Highway 75 averaged 90 percent white, but those east of the highway averaged 49 percent.
The city and the nonprofit settled out of court, and as part of their terms new low-income housing is being built west of the highway. Most recently, the Millennium complex reserved 130 of its 164 units for low-income families. It has already accrued a waiting list of around 5,000 people, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The issue, however, is bigger than just McKinney. A few weeks after the pool party, the Supreme Court issued a ruling on another case brought by the ICP, this time against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. SCOTUS determined that housing policies that segregate or discriminate based on race, whether intentional or not, violate the Fair Housing Act.
The case, originally brought in 2008, alleged that the way Dallas apportioned its tax credits for low-income housing perpetuated class and racial segregation, bringing about a “disparate impact” on minority populations. The Housing Authority, the case argued, disproportionately gave out tax credits in low-income census tracts, but very few were given to areas with high-income populations. The result, ICP argued, was racial ghettoization. The Supreme Court’s ruling said that, even if it was unintentional, it was still illegal.
As a result, cities like Dallas and its suburbs — like McKinney — will have to ensure their housing policies don’t work against racial equality.
Such policies may have, in a grand sense, played a role in what happened at the pool party in June. After all, one bystander at the pool party told the kids to “go back to your Section 8 home” — a demand directly referencing the housing vouchers McKinney only seemed to offer on the other side of the highway.
The Craig Ranch subdivision, where the incident took place, is located in the western part of the city and made up of predominantly white residents. Yes, a video of an officer pinning a fifteen-year-old girl to the ground as she screams for her mother will certainly prompt conversation about racial motivations. But questions about other party attendees’ right to be there also sneaked into the dialog. As McKinney resident Bryan Gestner told Breitbart Texas:
“This isn’t about race. This is about outside kids invading our neighborhood and had no respect for authority or the residents here.”
But the 19-year-old organizer of the event, Tatiana Rhodes, was featured in a video released shortly after the incident saying she is a resident in the neighborhood. She went on to say that most of the kids attending the party also lived in the neighborhood, contrary to Gestner’s assumption.
It’s still unclear if, like Rhodes said, most of the teenagers lived in Craig Ranch. But it’s pretty evident that some of the residents had a pre-existing idea of what a Craig Ranch resident looks like and what a neighborhood “invader” looks like. And it’s hard not to wonder if these ideas of who belongs in a particular part of town stem from segregation perpetuated by local and state housing authorities.
Hopefully, the Supreme Court’s ruling will change those perceptions — and the problem.
(LM Otero | AP)