An Inclusive Litany

7/2/93

North Carolina's 12th Congressional District features a narrow filament of land 160 miles long connecting two areas in which African Americans are concentrated. In a 5-to-4 vote, the Supreme Court invalidated such blatant racial gerrymandering practices, which the court had already banned when they are designed to harm rather than help minority interests. The New York Times editorial board characterized the decision as "a full-scale assault on the Voting Rights Act."

[Ed.: In another slim vote years later in 2001, the Supreme Court accepted the validity of such strangely drawn congressional districts if racial representation was arguably not their primary determining factor—similar reasoning used to defend affirmative action in university admissions. Ironically, the Congressional Black Caucus has not been the biggest beneficiary of racial gerrymandering; that distinction goes to Republicans, who have recently enjoyed dramatic new popularity among southern voters. By herding African Americans into a single congressional district, which would undoubtedly result in a Democratic representative, Republicans had more chance or being elected in surrounding districts that had been relatively cleansed of African Americans.]

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