Tuesday, June 28, 2011

North Carolina NAACP -- count your blessings! GOP is more generous than Democrats!

The Republican-controlled General Assembly's redistricting map produces more majority-black districts, for the House and the Senate, than the Democratic-controlled General Assembly created 10 years ago. And although most blacks are glad to hear about the additional 15 House districts and nine Senate districts, there's one organization that's not happy at all — the NAACP.

North Carolina NAACP President William Barber has expressed opposition to the GOP plan, even though it's clearly in favor of the black community. Apparently, Barber is so used to challenging Republicans that he can't stop criticizing them long enough to see that African-Americans will now have more representation in Raleigh.

"To believe the ultra-conservative, extremist majority in the N.C. legislature is suddenly deeply concerned about upholding the civil rights and political power of African-American and minorities and therefore wants us to accept their plan sight unseen is absurd," Barber said in a press release.

Well you can see it, Mr. Barber. And I don't think the black community is complaining. Are you going to urge the Democrats in the legislature to oppose it? Or are you going to organize a march against it in Raleigh? That would be interesting to see.

Other members of the NAACP are already testing the bounds of their credibility. During a public meeting last Friday, Ben Griffin, a member of the NAACP from New Hanover County, said, "This will make it harder, not easier, for minorities to have their interests represented."

More black districts make it harder for minorities to have their interests represented? Maybe in some alternate universe that Griffin is familiar with, but not here on Earth. When you hear ridiculous arguments like this, it almost makes you wonder if the NAACP cares for fair representation for blacks.

If Barber cares about his credibility at all, he'll support the GOP plan. And if he cares about truly expanding the political influence of the black community, he'd use this situation as a springboard to open a dialogue with the Republican Party.

This is an opportunity for Barber to strengthen the political clout of African-Americans. Will he take it? Or will he keep it cornered in the Democratic camp? We'll see.

And the Democrats' response to the new districts is very interesting, too. Obviously, charges of racism won't carry any weight. So they're accusing the GOP of creating more African-American districts so that they can draw the remaining districts for themselves.

Maybe the Democrats can't bear the thought of being openly out-performed on the race issue. If the number of minority districts remained the same, they'd charge the GOP with unfairness. And if the number were fewer, they'd certainly charge the GOP with racism. I'm beginning to think the Democrats are at a loss with how to respond and this is the best they can do.

Here in Forsyth County, there are some people lamenting the loss of Democratic Sen. Linda Garrou. Garrou, who represents the 32nd District, has been redrawn into the 31st District. The 31st, which is represented by Republican Sen. Pete Brunstetter, includes the county area, and its voters are mainly Republicans.

I think those people have lost sight of the most important thing. The important thing is that the people are fairly represented in Raleigh, not whether incumbents keep their seats. The voters are supposed to chose their representatives, not the other way around. The seat belongs to the people.

After redistricting, incumbents sometimes find themselves drawn out their district. Or they're placed in a situation where they have to run against another incumbent from their own party. That's the way it goes. And this time, the GOP is drawing the lines.

And finally, I'm really looking forward to the day when race is no longer a factor in redrawing lines. The fact that so many people believe that there must be districts with African-American majorities proves that many people believe that all African-Americans think alike.

And that's not true. There are black liberals, conservatives, moderates and everything in between. And yes, most black people vote Democratic. But that's not because black people think alike. A big reason for it is cultural conformity, not ideological agreement.

Drawing boundaries that ensure African-American majorities is one of the residual effects of the Jim Crow era. Many people are still sensitive to a time of institutional disenfranchisement. Therefore, any significant demographic change in the districts would certainly bring accusations of racism.

But when organizations such as the NAACP play racial and partisan games, it's going to take much longer for society to get to a place where race will not be a factor in redistricting.


Ken Raymond of Forsyth County is active in Republican Party politics.