A racial equity advocacy group is circulating an open letter that accuses a prominent law partner of excluding black applicants from joining a social media group that was allegedly created to keep people of color from moving into white neighborhoods, such as Highland Park.
“Highland Park is not 0.3% black because of rednecks in pickup trucks with confederate flags or seething white supremacists with tiki torches as evil as both groups are,” the letter states. “Instead, it is a white-only neighborhood because of a more subtle and far more pernicious type of racism. Just look at the Park Cities Chatter Facebook group available exclusively to Park Cities residents. Park Cities Chatter exists to give white privileged people a forum to assist other white privileged people to further their privilege and keep out people of color. As a result, Park Cities Chatter is a clear tool of white supremacy.”
Dallas Justice Now (DJN) alleges that the Facebook group, Park Cities Chatter, is managed by David Genender, who is a partner at the Dallas office of Baker Botts law firm, and his wife, Amy.
“It’s a closed group which appears to only accept white members where the most privileged white people in the city discuss how to further their privilege which comes at the expense of communities of color,” alleged Ndure Cain, DJN co-president.
DJN volunteers reportedly have attempted to join Park Cities Chatter, which has 6,500 members, with no success.
“We have asked Park Cities Chatter on numerous occasions to open up their membership rolls and prove they have people of color as members,” Cain told Dallas Express. “If they have nothing to hide, let people of color inside!”
Mr. Genender did not respond to requests for comment.
“The Park Cities Chatter group is, in our belief, a tool of white supremacy,” Cain said in an interview. “Neighborhood groups like Park Cities Chatter were formed, though initially not on social media, after the Fair Housing Act prohibited racial discrimination in housing. White residents still wanted to keep black people out of their neighborhoods both out of hate and a misguided fear that our mere presence would lower their property values. Park Cities Chatter is a continuation of that tradition.”
DJN further questions the authenticity of Baker Botts’ diversity credentials, alleging that they are ‘pay to play.’
“We are in touch with their diversity and inclusion partners, whom Baker Botts claims have given the firm great accolades,” Cain said. “Caren Ulrich, CEO of Diversity Lab, has said Diversity Lab is now investigating Baker Botts diversity policies in light of our concerns. Corporate America cannot have it both ways; they cannot say they support diversity, then only use it as window dressing.”
Diversity Lab did not respond to requests for comment; however, the former publisher of Multicultural Law Magazine denied the ‘pay to play’ allegation.
“We used to give out surveys for law firms to rank their diversity but because it was so bad, we stopped,” said L.P. Green, who is based in Atlanta. “We stopped recognizing law firms for diversity years ago for the reason that the data was getting worse. With Savoy Magazine, because there are so few black partners at law firms, we do like to champion the ones that are there and that are doing well in order to help them get exposure and get more business. We do recognize top black lawyers still to this day but it’s not a certification or anything like that.”
Out of 37 partners at Baker Botts Dallas, only one partner appears to be black, according to Dallas Justice Now, and among 49 associates, only one is black, which is just 2 percent. In contrast, black people make up 25 percent of the population in Dallas.
“We hope that, as one of our nation’s most expensive and powerful law firms, that they will crack down on the troubling actions by their senior partners like David Genender,” Cain said. “We also hope that they will take seriously their obligations to represent the community they serve with a diverse talent pool while also not actively embracing cases and clients who disenfranchise communities of color. Unless they do all three, we consider the Baker Botts law firm to itself be a tool of white supremacy.”
When reached by telephone, Baker Botts Partner in charge of the Dallas office, Luke Weedon said, “I have no comment. Thank you.”
In addition, DJN accuses Mr. Genender of defending toxic mold claims that disproportionately impact and harm African American tenants.
“In light of his association with the troubling Park Cities Chatter group, his actions defending environmental racism, and the abysmal lack of representation of people of color at Baker Botts, as an activist I really see a very negative picture of the law firm,” Cain said.
Genender represented Connecticut General Life Insurance, the former owner of the Saratoga Springs Apartments in Addison, in litigation with residents suffering from toxic mold contamination, according to DJN.
“Residents at the complex suffered for years from toxic mold, causing severe medical consequences and alleged with substantial evidence that management neglected and refused to address the problem,” Cain said. “By representing the management company against claims of toxic mold by tenants, David Genender is a conspirator in the systemic problem of environmental racism.”
“As a top law partner defending against toxic mold claims, David Genender is a key part of the problem of environmental racism,” Cain said. “This work kills my people every year.”
Baker Botts has reportedly failed to engage with DJN despite multiple FedEx letters and emails sent to their managing partners in Dallas and Palo Alto, California.
“‘Good ole boy’ networks of privilege are the new white supremacy and, in many cases, far more damaging to people of color than men in white hoods,” Cain added. “They know they can no longer tell us to use a separate drinking fountain in the park—instead, they keep us from ever being near the park. They know they cannot officially segregate our schools, instead, they keep us far away from their schools in Highland Park in failing Dallas Independent School District schools.”
John Martin, Baker Botts managing partner in Palo Alto, did not respond to requests for comment.