Oak Cliff has a different kind of bad reputation in 2010

And it’s just like Dallas’s overall bad reputation. Everyone keeps telling me: We’re stuck up.

When I started writing hyper-local news about Oak Cliff less than two years ago, most people still were complaining about our bad reputation for high crime, random gunfire and bad schools.

Now, with a little success and media attention come the haters.

Overheard this week: “I would love to get more involved with Oak Cliff, but I’m not cool enough. I live in East Dallas; they can smell me. They know I’m not one of them.”

And a friend recently said he doesn’t like hanging out in Oak Cliff because “it’s a bunch of 30-something hipsters with big egos.”

Says another friend: “Oak Cliff is too clique-y. Some people never get past high school.”

Ouch. My 30-something hipster ego is a little bruised.
Living in Oak Cliff is like living in a really small town full of artists, creative people, urban-planning nerds and daring community activists. It is cool, in my opinion, but it’s still a small town. You can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you know. Everyone knows your business. And they’re all judging you.

That’s life. I eat at Taco Bell. People wear flip-flops outside the pool. The lady down the street doesn’t pick up her dog crap. We judge each other. And sometimes, we gossip.

There are cliques, yes, groups of like-minded people who are friends, and often, colleagues. You’ll see them riding up single-file, a parade of well-dressed people on expensive bicycles.

Are they stuck up? I don’t know. They have inside jokes and projects they’re all working on together. They like the same things: bikes, organic food, all local everything, handmade stuff, art, bands I’ve never heard of. They have history, community.

There is a sense of exclusivity, but it’s not based on the car you drive, your net income or whether your kids got into the Greenhill School. It’s based on ideals, and people who share them generally are accepted. Those who don’t, generally, are not.

Just as driving my 1998 Honda Prelude is not acceptable in Uptown, say, shunning Oak Cliff public schools in favor of North Dallas private ones could raise eyebrows here.

It’s not perfect. No one wants to be the subject of gossip. Especially if it’s because they don’t make their own locally grown organic baby food, or whatever, but choosing a community is about fitting in. And I think people come to Oak Cliff, where real estate is cheap, because they’re drawn to the creative, urban, hipster culture.

I wouldn’t live here without it.


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  • Curious?

    “I for one liked the Old OC”

    @oclocal

    What exactly did you like best? The higher crime? The lack of jobs (which is still an issue)? The higher dropout rates in the schools? The lack of integration? The greater disparity in income levels?

    I’ve been in OC longer than you, and I can tell you, I’m hearing a lot less gunshots now than I did 14 years ago. I’ll take the newer OC anyday.

  • Rachel Stone

    OC Local, I don’t like it when people say “the new Oak Cliff” either. It seems a little disrespectful to me.

  • oc local

    I’ve lived in OC for 14 years and there have been great changes during that time. The people who are long time residents are friendly, diverse, and accepting of others, but many of the new “hipsters” that keep getting mentioned in papers are not of the same character nor do they represent the majority. They chose OC to live in, but now they want to change it into something more akin to uptown or oak lawn. My question is, “why didn’t they just move there?” They bring with them their own slogan of the “new Oak Cliff.” I for one, liked and like the old OC and want to preserve that. If you really want to know what its like here, come on over and make the judgement for yourself and don’t rely on anyone else’s(including mine) opinion. We welcome you – just don’t try to change it into something else while you’re here.

  • I’m hip

    I’m in with the in crowd, I go where the in crowd goes.
    I’m in with the in crowd and I know what the in crowd knows.

  • Ed in the OC

    I have lived in Oak CLiff for 1

    Activity, Interest, Values

  • Exactly

    “Now, with a little success and media attention come the haters.”

    Rachel, I think it’s hysterical how you pointed this out, and the most recent comment just solidified your point…and even included a reference to the same link you made.

  • Everybody look at how enlightened I am

    Most white liberal hipsters I have encountered usually were quite careful to steer clear of non-whites, except under controlled conditions. Safe, middle class nonwhites are of course preferred, usually in a majority white setting. To be avoided are representatives of the vast majority of the non-whites, about 90% of them. The libs have usually found the money to isolate themselves in housing, schools for their children, areas of travel, etc. Watch what they do, not what they say. White liberals are all about “Hey everybody, look at me, look at what a do-gooder I am, look at how enlightened and tolerant I am, acknowledge my moral superiority!” They want lots of praise and publicity for being white liberals in a majority non-white area. Just look at the recent Dallas Observer cover story for proof.

  • oc dawg

    “Keep Oak Cliff Diverse” would be more to the point than “Keep Oak Cliff Real”. If you bleed the diversity out of this area, we’ll be left with another West Village or worse. Support local retailers; don’t lobby for corporate crap like Starbucks, chain bookstores, the Gap, or get sucked into wasteful ventures like a trolley that only goes to Bishop Arts or Presbyterian. There’s a lot more to OC beyond those neighborhoods.

  • gabriel

    Out of all the burbs and regions of N. Texas I’ve lived in (in my 39 years), Oak Cliff has been far and away the friendliest. Nowhere else did I have neighbors that actually know each other, get together and rally around neighborhood causes, and support their neighbors in times of need. This area is truly a gem.

  • advocate reader

    I agree with some of the points raised here, but your argument about “ideals” sort of falls flat. Placing importance on having a child at a certain private school or driving an expensive car is an ideal/value. It just so happens that you don’t agree with them. Your tone sort of implies that the criteria by which we judge others is more valid than their reasons for judging us: that’s a tough argument.
    I like living in N Oak Cliff much more than any other part of the city, but people are naturally drawn to live around others who share the same values. And in that regard, we’re not so different from Lakewood, Park Cities, North Dallas, or the suburbs. Why should we get offended if they have a negative view of us, when many in Oak Cliff very clearly have a negative view of them?

  • erik

    I have lived in oak cliff for let’s see… around 10 years. I have always felt that it was a great place and was supportive and promoted the people and things to do inside of it. I think all types that don’t judge are welcome in the OC, that includes even the most active members in the community. Remember we are all in it together, and what warmed me to the OC is the welcoming and sharing nature of the locals, not this “i am too cool to talk to you” mentality. If you walk up to me, I will chit chat with you as long as needed and fill you in with any local spots in the hood. I won’t agree with you on all of your opinions and will tell you not all the crap in the OC is all good. I just think it is a bad sign in any way you look at it if people are starting to taint oak cliff as “stuck up”.

  • Comment o’ the day goes to “Granny.”

    Grammar nerds unite!

    I have lived in Oak Lawn on & off since moving here in 1997, but spent a glorious year near Beckley & Colorado. I always refer to OC as “the real Dallas” because it’s decidely unpretentious – just full of good, artsy, community-oriented people working, shopping, living, running local businesses, etc. The only part of the city that could feasibly lure me out of “the Lawn” – which may happen if our prices keep climbing!

  • John Stolly

    Growing up here, and then moving back as an adult and living here for the last 27 years, it’s always had a “small-town” vibe that, at its heart, has not changed all that much. Yes, there’s now a restaurant in a building where I have had transmission work done, and all the recent attention is certainly of a different tone, but I have never seen any “snobby” attitudes here. It’s all about the crazy mix of people – that was evident to me again last Sunday, when over 300 people showed up at the Kessler Theater for the Fitzgerald family benefit.

  • john s

    Rachel and David:
    Sorry, but both possessives are accepted. Apostrophe with no ‘S’ following is not grammatically incorrect. The possessive of Dallas is dependent upon which style manual you consult. I prefer Dallas’ because it’s from the AP style manual. It’s also the standard for the City of Dallas.
    Dallas’s is usually credited to Chicago Style and there are exceptions to both, mostly having to do with what word follows. Your lesson for the day. 😀

  • Travis Rex

    As someone who grew up all over Oak Cliff, I have enjoyed watching the rebirth of that small section, which the author would have done well to point out is the case. The “bad reputation for high crime, random gunfire and bad schools” still exists, but at least now there are more people in that part of Oak Cliff generating positive vibes and helping to rejuvenate the area as a whole. At the end of the day, the individuals, the cliques, the “scenes”, don’t really matter. It is being able to see the change from urban decay to a better neighborhood that matters most.

  • Rico

    This is interesting, but still the newcomer anglo view of Oak Cliff. We’re still more like Laredo than we are Portland, Ore. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Rachel Stone

    Why, thank you. Grammar nerds unite!

  • Rachel, as a writer you won my affection in your first sentence by spelling our city’s possessive as “Dallas’s” rather than the more modernly expeditious but grammatically incorrect “Dallas'”! DS

  • Granny

    Nonsense! I’m 70 years old and my husband is 75. When we moved here 4 years ago, it was the 20th time we’d moved in our marriage. We chose to live here because Oak Cliff is totally cool. And fun. And downright friendly. Even to a couple of geezers who don’t ride bikes anymore because their eyesight is very bad.

    “Stuck-up” is Charlotte, North Carolina.

  • Beka

    I agree, Rachel. There will be cliques anywhere you go, but I have never lived anywhere that’s been more welcoming than Oak Cliff. We were set to move-in last fall the weekend of the homes tour. There were delays in closing so instead of moving that weekend, we went on the homes tour. Every person we met that day was so kind and encouraging and had all sorts of tips and advice for living in The Cliff. It’s been phenomenal.

  • mich

    The way I see it, people are feeling left out because Oak Cliff is a hot area to live in. They are jealous because they probably would not have set foot in the area before, because it was “Ohhh Oak Cliff”. We welcome any one to Oak Cliff. I haven’t met a snob in the area yet. I have lived here for 16 years and came from North Dallas. I meet people every day from all over the city and all over the world that now call Oak Cliff their home. We love it because people are not snobs, they are how Dallas used to be in the past, friendly and welcoming to all. Come on over and enjoy!

  • Jake

    I’d say we have more of a bunker mentality than we are stuck up. Stuck in a bunker we tend to rally around one another and we look suspiciously at outsiders. Once you start mingling a bit acceptance is easy to come by.

  • Hey, I love my east Dallas bubble. And I love OC because it’s NOT east Dallas. To each, his own – and HIGHFIVE to any piece of this metroplex that can sustain a unique, healthy culture of its own.