South Oak Cliff cage fights: Another black eye to the ‘Oak Cliff’ name

If you missed the big story on the cage fights that took place at South Oak Cliff High School between 2003 and 2005, you must have been under a rock last week. After the DMN broke the story Thursday (and added to the package with an editorial, a piece from columnist Jacquielynn Floyd, and a sidebar on former SOC principal Donald Moten, plus another story Friday), the news was picked up by the likes of the Associated Press, MSNBC, the New York Times and too many other media to mention.

I don’t want to spend time here elaborating on the cage fights themselves; you’ve no doubt been saturated with that kind of information already. (If by some chance you haven’t, feel free to click on any of the links above to find commentary from not only journalists but also hundreds of people who weighed in on the story.) Instead, I want to point out something that struck me as this news about South Oak Cliff High School became not only the talk of our city, but a conversation piece around the world.

It has to do with something Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia, who represents our neighborhood on the Dallas city council, mentioned to me last fall. Read more after the jump:

I was talking with Garcia about the different initaitves she was working on in Oak Cliff, and one that she mentioned was "fighting the perception of crime." When I asked her about that word, "perception", she pointed out a statistic that I often have heard other people cite: The crime stats in Garcia’s District 1 (and other parts of Oak Cliff, too) are comparable to crime stats in places like Lakewood/East Dallas, Lake Highlands or Preston Hollow.

The differerence, Garcia told me, is that when the media report on a crime in Preston Hollow, they don’t often say it took place in Preston Hollow, but instead at the intersection of Preston and Forest. But if a crime takes place in Oak Cliff, that is pointed out in the story. And since such a large swath of Dallas is defined as "Oak Cliff", the perception is that all of Oak Cliff is crime-ridden.

It’s an interesting observation, and a good point. So when the news broke last week about the South Oak Cliff cage fights, that conversation replayed in my head. In this case, there is no way a journalist can report the story without naming the high school where the fights took place. But, I thought, it’s unfortunate that the high school has "Oak Cliff" in its name. The wider world to which the news spread probably won’t think twice about it, linking the story with Dallas instead of Oak Cliff.

But for Dallasites who live outside our neighborhood, it’s one more reason to steer clear, or at least one more reason to speak the Oak Cliff "oh". (If you’re not sure what that is, more on Back Talk Oak Cliff tomorrow.)


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