What I represent is the fresh face of the New South," says
Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, one of the 16 new
black members elected to Congress in 1992. "But unfortunately,
that's too much for some of our good old boys to take."
She was talking about a September federal court decision that
said her district is unconstitutional because it was drawn for the
sole purpose of electing a black. She didn't acknowledge a fact
vividly illustrated by the November election: Some of the good old
boys had every reason to favor the creation of districts like hers.
The reason is that to ensure that blacks get elected to
Congress, you have to concentrate black voters in a few districts -
which in practice makes every other district perceptibly less
Democratic. It may come as a surprise to learn that after black
politicians, the strongest proponents of racial gerrymandering are
They don't see it as accidental that the race-conscious
reapportionment that occurred after the 1990 census, dictated by
the Voting Rights Act of 1982, was followed in due course by a GOP
takeover of the House. In the last two elections, the number of
black House members from McKinney's Georgia has risen to three from
one, but the number of Republicans has jumped to seven from one,
out of 11 in all. This year, the GOP won a majority of House races
in the South.
When blacks and Republicans worked together on reapportionment
to maximize minority representation, Republicans got the better
deal. "Look at the results," Benjamin Ginsberg, a lawyer for the
Republican National Committee, told The New York Times. "We'd be
nuts to want to see these districts abolished."
But those districts may indeed be abolished. Last year, the
Supreme Court threw out a serpentine North Carolina district that
was so "bizarre" in its shape that it could "be understood only as
an effort to segregate voters into separate voting districts
because of their race."
Since then, federal courts have struck down one
minority-dominated district in Louisiana, three in Texas and one in
The Supreme Court, however, left vague just how big a role race
may play in redistricting decisions. So the fate of black and
Hispanic districts remains in doubt. But the court decisions and
the election returns may compel blacks and Hispanics to ask if
their interests - or the nation's - are really served by political
arrangements that isolate minority voters in minority districts. …