The effects of the 2012 redistricting of New York State are quickly being realized by communities upstate and down. Many New Yorkers are left wondering what happened. Where were those who promised to veto unfair lines?
In the New York state Assembly, “The People’s House,” where was the support for preserving and enhancing Black and Latino representation from the house’s immensely powerful leader, Speaker Sheldon Silver? Despite promises from a triad of leaders in Albany, the needs of our people took a backseat and the new lines were created to favor and protect white incumbents.
Communities of color will continue to be misrepresented in state and federal political platforms. This outcome speaks volumes to the lack of loyalty and concern much of the state’s leadership has for the Black and Latino members of the Legislature and their communities.
In spite of an influx of protests from groups, including the NAACP and the Dominican American National Roundtable, most in Albany were deaf to the concerns of minority groups. The redistricting process continued as the opinions and concerns of the Black, Puerto Rican, Latino and Asian Legislative Caucus, African-American county leaders from Manhattan and the Bronx and African-American incumbent members of Congress were ignored.
No objection was filed on behalf of the Assembly to the special master who determined the district lines, despite the voiced concerns of its members, testimonies conducted by the Legislative Task Force on Reapportionment and countless objections submitted by nonparty groups. Instead, Republican-drawn maps that polarize Black communities across New York state were sheepishly accepted.
This was the year to amend these glaring instances of under-representation. The retirement of Rep. Gary Ackerman offered a perfect place to start. The ability was there; what was lacking was political will. That is why we’re now fighting to preserve the historic Harlem seat, one protected by the Federal Voting Act of 1956. This is why we now have a primary against the dean of New York’s congressional delegation, who has spent over four decades fighting for his community in Washington.
Now, months later, the lines are set. Public hearings on the subject have ceased, protesters in the capital are humming a different tune and journalists are taking up new issues. With the election season upon us, as New Yorkers gear up to cast their votes, we must consider how much more meaningful their votes would be if the districts were drawn with their needs in mind. We cannot allow the retrogression of hard-fought Black and Latino representation for Black and Latino communities.