African Americans and the Politics of Congressional Redistricting

African Americans and the Politics of Congressional Redistricting

African Americans and the Politics of Congressional Redistricting

African Americans and the Politics of Congressional Redistricting

Synopsis

Majority black districts are necessary to ensure the equitable representation of African Americans. These districts are under attack today by conservative scholars and a conservative United States Supreme Court. Critics of race-conscious congressional districting argue that blacks can win election from majority white districts. Factors such as continued racial segregation, the existence of racial bloc voting by whites, and lack of minority success absent race-conscious remedies, however, provide strong evidence that the case for majority black districts remains compelling. This book provides a detailed analysis of the politics of racial redistricting, a topic of particular concern in light of recent federal court cases, and is divided into two parts.

Part one examines the historical exclusion of blacks from the American political process and the politics behind congressional redistricting. Investigation of the politics behind redistricting, focusing on partisan maneuvering, assesses whose interests were being served. In particular, the book chronicles the legislative action (creation of majority black districts) in North Carolina and around the South.

Part two shifts the focus to the myriad legal battles that ensued as a result of the newly created districts in North Carolina and around the South. Majority black districts are being dismantled by the Supreme Court because of criticism of their shape and because race was considered a predominant factor in their design. Irregularly shaped majority white districts have not been accused of violating districting principles. Furthermore, the fact that blacks were not elected to national office in large numbers prior to the creation ofmajority black districts indicates the continuing need for race-conscious districting as a temporary solution to a complex problem.

Excerpt

I believe that representation strikes at the core of democracy. The number of African Americans in the U.S. Congress is at 39. This is due, in large part, to the creation of 13 majority black districts prior to the 1992 elections. As a result of these new districts, black representation jumped from 26 to 39, a 50 percent increase. Of these 13 newly created majority black districts, 12 were located in the South. All elected blacks to Congress in the 1992 elections. However, a conservative U.S. Supreme Court has attacked the interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, which led to the creation of these congressional districts. Others have argued that we have moved beyond race to a “color-blind” society. I share that lofty goal, but we have not yet reached that point. Majority black districts are still necessary in the South to ensure black representation in the U.S. Congress. They are a temporary solution to a complex problem. Due to continued residential segregation patterns, the existence of racially polarized voting, and lack of minority success absent race-conscious remedies, the case for majority black districts remains compelling.

Many political observers have stated that the creation of majority black districts around the South in the early 1990s resulted in bizarrely shaped districts because legislators had to go where black voters lived in order to draw the districts. What has been overlooked is that the irregularly shaped districts are not unique to majority black districts. Oddly shaped majority white districts have been a part of America's political landscape for quite some time. Furthermore, many of the majority black districts created throughout the South in the 1990s were a result of partisan gerrymandering by state legislators in their efforts to protect incumbents.

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