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HURT: Racism lives in D.C.’s heart when it comes to redistricting

- - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Welcome to your nation's capital, the last entrenched bastion of pure racism left in America.

Sure, you still can find two-bit racists elsewhere.

There is the small-town cop who eyes a black guy riding through his all-white town a little too closely. And there are skinheads who somehow claim to be more pure in the eyes of God, despite all the after-factory add-ons their bodies have required such as giant tattoos and staples in their faces.

Then, of course, there are the race peddlers who travel their circuit and enflame every slight and every misunderstanding into another example of evil, rampant racism that can only be rectified by a large cash payout.

But truthfully, nobody takes any of these people all that seriously anymore.

Across America, whites, blacks and everybody else are pretty much too busy talking about the price of gasoline and all these crazy storms.

But here in Washington, D.C., the first city to hear of Martin Luther King's dream of a nation where people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, it is different.

In this city, in the world of national politics, among Democrats and Republicans, race is king.

Every political shop has demographers to categorize every American by the hue of their skin and then to decide what political message they should hear and whether every effort should be made to discourage and discount their vote in the next election.

Here, racial profiling is not some subconscious undercurrent that skews good intentions. It is the guiding principle.

Never is this racism more pronounced than at the end of every decade when the federal government — even as it claims to be the nation's moral gyroscope on all things racial — requires that political districts be redrawn based almost entirely upon racial considerations.

No colorblindness here; only color coding.

Politicians gather behind closed doors with their demographers and negotiate what would make the best new districts for their party — and, of course, for themselves. You can hear them say, "Son, I'll give your all these blacks from mah district if you give me all them whites you got there in yoaws."

Because self-interest trumps any principle in this town, the black politician gladly obliges and once again sails to smooth victory in his racially gerrymandered district. The only loser — other than Justice herself — are the poor voters who might benefit from a little competition.

These hustlers even have a name for it. They call it "cracking and packing."

Of course, if you let such a consideration determine whether you cross a street, buy a house or send your kid to a school, these very same people would have another name for it: "unreformed racism."

This galling hypocrisy came into particularly sharp focus as we learned the unfortunate news that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour would not run for president. Few people would have offered a sharper contrast to our current president than Mr. Barbour.

For you racists here in Washington, we are not talking about their skin color, their accents or the textures of their hair. We are talking about their diametrically opposed views about the proper role of the federal government in our lives. President Obama sides with the federal government while Mr. Barbour sides with individual freedom.

Here in Washington, many Republicans could be heard sighing in relief that the next election won't "relive the old race battles of the civil rights era."

As if the rest of America is stuck in same racist time warp that still grips this crowd.

But then again, by the time these hucksters got done polling, strategizing, defining and running a race between Mr. Obama and Mr. Barbour, they probably would have reduced it to little more than a racial beatdown worthy of a McDonald's bathroom.

Charles Hurt's column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at charleshurt@live.com.