We can’t leave race out of redistricting
Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who is currently running to replace retiring Richard Shelby in the U.S. Senate, has done that time and time again. Most recently, Brooks said the redistricting process should leave “skin pigmentation” out of it.
Brooks’ comments came after a three-judge federal panel ruled that Alabama’s legislature must redraw its congressional maps to include two majority-minority districts. The U.S. Supreme Court has since issued a stay on the maps and will hear the case in fall 2022.
The map passed by the Alabama state legislature included just one majority-minority congressional district among seven, despite Blacks making up nearly 27% and minorities exceeding 34% of Alabama’s population, according to the 2020 Census.
“These liberal activist judges have tried to segregate us based on race, and I find that abominable,” Brooks said. “We’ve got to put the skin pigmentation issue behind us.”
Brooks also called using race as a factor in drawing maps “antiquated.” But Alabama’s history demonstrates the need for rules that protect the voting rights of people of color. These protections were once part of the Voting Rights Act — until a 2013 Supreme Court case, Shelby County v. Holder, removed a key provision of the law that required states with a history of discrimination to get new maps and voting restrictions cleared by the federal government before going into effect.
As a media strategist tasked with working with grassroots organizations advocating for marginalized and disenfranchised Americans, I am well aware that voting rights in America are under attack, with no tactic having the power to alter election results as much as redistricting can.
Members of our grassroots partners and our team at Alabama Values Progress have been working to educate the public on bills in Alabama, stage protests, hold public briefings, contact legislators and advocate for bills strengthening democracy by making the voting process more accessible, while pushing back on bills that seek to further discriminate against marginalized communities.
We learned in the 2020 Census that Alabama’s population is becoming more diverse. Yet white males, who make up approximately 33% of the state’s population, hold some 80% of elected offices across the state. By contrast, there are only 18 women who hold office in either chamber of Alabama’s legislature, even though they make up 51.7% of the state’s population.
Across the country, states are attempting to suppress the votes of communities of color through redistricting. In Texas, where there were 4 million new residents between 2010 and 2020 with 95% of them being persons of color, state Republicans approved new maps that keep the number of majority-minority districts the same.
In Georgia, which has seen a similar demographic shift, the number of these districts was also unchanged, despite a provision in the Voting Rights Act that mandates that new districts be drawn whenever an area’s population of color rises above 50%.
Through my work with Alabama Values Progress, I know there’s power in collective action, and a growing number of us are working toward a common goal: fair representation for all in Alabama and elsewhere. Everyone should be able to vote, and we won’t stop until we achieve that goal.
— Kendra Love is a media strategist with Alabama Values Progress. She spent nearly 20 years in the newspaper industry and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication. This column was produced for Progressive Perspectives, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.