Archived Story

Along racial lines

Published 10:23am Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1963.

When Dr. King spoke these words nearly 50 years ago, it was undoubtedly the signature moment of the American Civil Rights movement, the fight for black Americans to receive fairness, opportunity and equal rights under the law.

One can only imagine how he would have felt today, in light of the Virginia Senate’s efforts to carve out another minority-majority district, about the direction the movement is moving in.

The newly proposed 25th Senate District, which stretches 150 miles from Franklin west to Danville, was designed to provide a voting district that is comprised of a black voting majority. Never mind the fact that, by all appearances, Republicans took the opportunity to strengthen their future re-election efforts by redrawing district lines to their benefit, and used the new 25th district’s 56 percent black majority as a bone to pacify opponents.

The real question is does rigging electoral districts to benefit anyone, especially minorities, have a place in today’s political landscape?

Sen. John Watkins, R-Chesterfield, said of the new 25th “stretching across Southside Virginia, it will provide the opportunity for rural African-Americans in Virginia to elect their own representative to the Senate.”

According to Watkins and his colleagues, “their own” means a person who shares the same color skin. To Dr. King, “their own” meant a person who shared the same beliefs and ideals.

Some would argue that politically engineered voting districts, ones with artificial boundaries so specific demographic groups can elect one of “their own,” are necessary to advance the goal of racial equality under the law. To Dr. King, true racial equality meant that, one day, we would be able to erase these imaginary boundaries.

  • Liberty With Responsibility

    I used to work with a black female colleague. We used to talk politics. I made the mistake one day of referring to her assumed voting and political thoughts as like that of Jesse Jackson and the prevailing “black” voting pattern. She was rightfully offended at my assumption, and corrected me forcefully, saying “Jesse Jackson doesn’t speak for me, and I don’t vote the way he encourages.” I was shocked, but in a good way, as I had found a good American who votes her OWN mind, and refuses to be taken for granted, as to the color of her skin. I’ll never forget that.

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  • Makalani

    RE: “To Dr. King, true racial equality meant that, one day, we would be able to erase these imaginary boundaries.”

    In a ‘perfect world’ — this effort at “political affirmative action” would not be necessary because Black folx would be fairly represented based on their percentage of the population.

    But as we all know — we live in an ‘imperfect world’ where for various reasons — our society is still a long way from implementing Dr. King’s ideal for racial equality. Given human nature — it’s very doubtful that our society will ever — completely — “be able to erase these imaginary boundaries!”

    Until then — it’s okay to use political machinations to “level the playing field” to deal with the ‘realities’ that exist in our society — not the ‘ideals’ — even if the motives — as in this situation — are suspect.

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