- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2002

It's business as usual for the nation's bean counters. September 11 abruptly changed the world for most Americans. The terrorist attacks were rightly considered an assault on the values nearly all Americans cherish. Racial fault lines seemed to disappear amid flag waving and patriotic music.
In the background, however, quota mongers continue to sing their tired old song. As states redraw congressional districts in accordance with the results of the 2000 census, these unrepentant bean counters charge racism when the new boundaries don't conform to their particular notion of "diversity." Politicians who voted to approve the revamped districts, even if minorities themselves, are accused of complicity in wicked schemes to perpetuate white hegemony.
Case in point: In Los Angeles, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund seeks to invalidate two of California's new congressional districts. MALDEF filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 1 charging that the new districts would intentionally dilute overall Latino voting power in violation of the Voting Rights Act. MALDEF contends that the new districts were designed to ensure the continued election of Anglo representatives. The proof? Instead of hard evidence, MALDEF falls back on statistics and suppositions: the districts, it says, contain insufficient numbers of Latinos to elect "one of their own" so to speak.
In a press release announcing the lawsuit, MALDEF explains that the "congressional district maps fracture the geographically compact Latino community in the San Fernando Valley, intentionally placing adjacent heavily Latino area into two separate districts, thus leaving Latinos to cast ineffective votes as minority dissenters."
MALDEF's claim makes a certain amount of perverse sense, if you accept their premise that skin color is destiny. In other words, minorities can't possibly be elected without substantial support from other minorities, who robotically vote for anyone of like skin color.
In the 1990s, this theory spawned the creation of majority black and majority Hispanic districts, often drawn in strange shapes to achieve the "right numbers." The Supreme Court has since declared such blatant "racial gerrymandering" illegal but left room for more modest efforts to achieve the "right numbers." Nevertheless, the rationale for such shenanigans seems particularly outdated. There are countless examples of minorities being elected with substantial support from whites, and vice-versa.
Moreover, all but three of California's 26 Latino state legislators even voted for the redistricting plan that MALDEF seeks to overturn. Nevertheless, MALDEF sees discriminatory intent behind the new boundaries for districts now represented by Reps. Howard Berman and Bob Filner.
Both are Democrats. Mr. Berman seems a particularly odd target for Latino civil rights advocates. The 10-term incumbent is known for his support of liberal causes, such as legislation to protect farm workers and loosen immigration laws the kind of stuff which MALDEF presumably favors. Besides, Mr. Berman has been re-elected with strong Latino support, even when he defended his seat against a challenge from another Latino. In response to the lawsuit, Mr. Berman told the Los Angeles Times, "I guess for MALDEF it's more about skin color and ethnicity than the philosophy and quality of representation."
This is not an only in California story. Nationwide, the judiciary is weighing other challenges to new districts and several cases reportedly could end up before the United States Supreme Court. Outside the legal arena, some politicians play a similar race card. Rep. William Clay Jr. recently attacked his fellow Missouri Democrats for supporting new legislative boundaries that create insufficient numbers of black-majority districts. White Democrats, he lamented, have been "leading the charge" to illegally dilute the voting power of minorities.
If anything, the new boundaries would dilute the power of politicians and advocacy groups who rely on outdated theories of racial solidarity.
Shouldn't folks who now proclaim "United We Stand" renounce schemes that would divide Americans by race the moment they enter the voting booth? Or post-September 11, have things not changed so much, after all?

Evan Gahr is an adjunct scholar at the Center for Equal Opportunity.

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