If it wasn’t so tragic it would be amusing; the attempts by “mainstream” print media to misinterpret history, to manipulate facts, to support their personal beliefs, and to pretend that equality exists in New York City between Black and White people, are absurd in the extreme.
Racism, whether systemic or institutional is immoral, inhumane and destructive of our society.
And the worse form of racism is when people in power, such as representatives of the press, allege “reverse racism” when Black leaders “speak out” or “act out” to prevent an injustice, such as; the diminution of Black Empowerment. In 2006, for press people to ask why Council member David Yassky shouldn’t run in the 11th Congressional District is disingenuous, at best, unless they provide a context. Only after you provide a brief history of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Movement that led to its passage, does that question have relevance.
“Reversed Racists” is the label that some recent editorials and columnists are attempting to pin on those of us who maintain that the 11th Congressional District, a “Voting Rights” district, should remain represented by a Black person, which is consistent with the intent of the Voting Rights Act. Well then, what do you call the members of the congress who enacted the law? And, what do you call President Lyndon Baines Johnson who crafted the bill and signed it into law? Let us be clear! The Voting Rights Act is about race! It is about sharing power with Blacks and other “minorities” that otherwise would not have had access, due to barriers created by a racist society. Remember, President Lyndon Baines Johnson was a southerner. He refused to sign a similar bill in 1962 or 1963. It was the intensity of the Civil Rights Movement by Black people and the pending destruction to the fabric of our society that persuaded the former President to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Incredibly, on June 20, 2006 there was a “Featured Article” on the Opinion Journal of the Wall Street Journal that essentially stated that because of the racial controversy surrounding the 11th Congressional District, the Congress of the United States should not pass the “Reauthorization” of the “Act”. The article further supported its argument by stating that Blacks are no longer disenfranchised. I believe the Blacks in Florida would vehemently disagree with that statement, and so do I. I was part of a group that challenged Mayor Koch’s redistricting plan for the New York City Council in 1981.
The United States Supreme Court agreed with our complaint and issued a ” cease and desist” order for the pending municipal elections until another redistricting plan could be drawn that would provide City Council districts that more closely represented the percentage of Black and Puerto Ricans within the city. In 1982, we waged a similar legal challenge against the state redistricting plan for congressional districts, and New York State Senate and Assembly districts. The then- Speaker of the New York State Assembly, the late Stanley Fink, joined our suit against the state.
Again, we were successful, and we participated in the drafting of a plan that created 2 additional congressional districts, 3 additional State Senate districts and 6 additional Assembly districts; all of which could be represented by “so-called” minorities.
Another misleading statement in this “Featured Article” suggested that Black officeholders are often elected with White “crossover” votes, therefore, “preclearance” of the Voting Rights Act is no longer necessary. Wrong! In the history of electoral voting in New York City, Mayor David N. Dinkins in 1989 was the only Black elected to public office with the assistance of White “crossover” votes. By the way, he didn’t get the White “cross-over” vote when he ran for reelection in 1993.
In the same Opinion Journal of the Wall Street Journal of June 20, 2006, there was also a feeble attempt to blame the Voting Rights Act for the inner-party competition between Democrats and Republicans. The fact that both parties misuse the Voting Rights Act to try and bolster “safe” districts for their party does not negate the intent of the “Act” to provide “power sharing” for the historically disenfranchised. Shame on both Democrats and Republicans, with a special shame on the Democratic Party, which has done very little to support the empowerment of their most loyal constituents, the Blacks. Democratic Party leaders can’t even find it in themselves to take a public position supporting the 11th Congressional District as a Voting Rights District, and that it should remain under Black representation.
I must admit it was a little disheartening at first, to witness “main stream” media completely ignore the fact that in three months Black leadership in Brooklyn pulled together approximately 2,000 Black people, which included a significant cross-section of political, religious and community leaders, in order to ratify an agenda. This agenda encompassed the primary issues they believed would lead to the improvement of life and strengthening of their pursuit of economic empowerment for Black people in Brooklyn.
Despite suggestions of racial equality that is inherent in most of the articles and editorials in “main- stream” New York City papers in reference to the 11th Congressional District, there is great disparity in the quality of life between Blacks and Whites. In New York City, Brooklyn, and I dare to say in the 11th Congressional District, a lot more Black infants die at birth than Whites, and life expectancy is much lower for Blacks than for Whites. The unemployment rate among Blacks is much higher than among Whites, the rate of poverty is much greater among Blacks than it is among Whites, a White high school graduate earns more money than a Black college graduate, most schools in the Black community are failing, not so in the White community. The highest rate of preventable diseases, including the infection rate of H.I.V. and AIDS, is far greater in the Black community than the White community, the incarceration of Black people completely dwarfs the incarceration rate of Whites and Black ownership of businesses hardly shows up on the scale when compared to that of the White community.
Obviously, the examples of the inequality and disparities in the standard of living between the Black and White community is almost unending. No one in their right mind should question Black leadership in Brooklyn for calling a convention to address these issues and to call for the preservation of a designated “Voting Rights” district.
The on-going struggle by Black people for justice, equality, and empowerment, have always had our detractors, and some of them have been Black; and some of our supporters have been White. In the main, our earthly quest for our rightful place can only be achieved through unified Black leadership that is organized with a plan. I believe that reasonable people who are able to be objective will understand and support the righteousness of this cause.
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