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  • White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001
  • David O'Donald Cullen
White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841–2001. By Michael Phillips. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006. Pp. 300. Acknowledgments, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 029271274. $19.95, paper.)

An ambitious work, White Metropolis deserves attention from historians interested in the history of Texas, urban studies, and southern culture. Phillips examines the city of Dallas through the lens of whiteness studies juxtaposed against United States frontier mythology as presented in the pioneering works of Richard Slotkin. In seven chapters Phillips integrates the political and economic development of Dallas within the changing cultural demographics of the city. He provides a description of the [End Page 425] complicated political alliances that resulted from a power structure determined by the politics of whiteness.

In his prologue, Phillips prepares the reader for what he argues is a case study of white identity politics. He notes that most historians of the city ignored the ideological conflicts created by the interplay of race, gender, and class. In fact, Phillips points out that Dallas leaders deliberately sought to remove from the city's memory any notion that significant conflict of any sort ever troubled Dallas. Their creation myth of the city suggests that Dallas had no practical reason to exist as it was not located near a major river or on rich agricultural land. The origins and success of Dallas was a result, therefore, of "macho will" (p. 3) by a handful of white Anglo-Saxon businessmen who created a consensus that only they knew what was good and proper for the city. This leadership sustained their position of power by creating a series of shifting alliances with different ethnic and religious groups over the next one hundred and fifty years.

The basis of these alliances was the acceptance of Dallas as a city defined by a particular brand of whiteness that demanded allegiance to white racial superiority, corporate capitalism and the tenets of Social Darwinism. These articles of faith were the keys to membership within the exclusive club of the Dallas elite. In other words, "Whiteness was most clearly defined by what it was not: it was not black, communal, or socialist" (p. 12). Thus, Dallas leaders feared most the emergence of a unified color-blind working class partnership that challenged the political and economic ideologies of the city.

To avoid the development of such a partnership, Dallas leaders held out the promise of membership within their club by offering a whiteness card to groups who otherwise might not normally qualify: specifically, Mexican-Americans and Jewish immigrants. Phillips makes a persuasive argument about the success of such an offer to the Tejano community in his chapter, "White Like Me." Most disturbing is the story of Pete Garcia, who assisted in the bombing of a South Dallas neighborhood in 1950 and 1951 in order to prevent African Americans from becoming his neighbors.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter of the book is Philips's discussion of the osmosis of the Jewish community into Dallas protestant leadership groups through pre-millennial dispensationalism. Phillips argues that Jews, normally seen as the "Other," became acceptable to Dallas leaders because of the work of Cyrus Ingerson Scofield and his best selling Scofield Reference Bible. Scofield's dispensationalism "gave modern Jews a pivotal role in God's plan of salvation" (p. 51), thus, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants no longer had to fear the presence of Jews within their communities. Phillips argues that Scofield paved the way for Dallas Jews to become white as long as they, of course, adhered to the political and economic consensus of the city's leaders. Phillips's examples of those who accepted this agreement were department store pioneers Philip Sanger and Stanley Marcus.

Foreshadowing a challenge to his thesis, Phillips closes the book with an afterword that acknowledges there are critics of whiteness studies. His best argument against these critics is his case study of Dallas as an example of white identity politics in action.

David O'Donald Cullen
Collin County Community College
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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 425-426
Launched on MUSE
2007-03-28
Open Access
No
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