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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Rokita’s redistricting plan cuts out Black legislative seats and legislators

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Secretary of State Todd Rokita’s mad at me.

Rokita’s upset about my criticizing his reform redistricting efforts and livid that I’ve called out his failure to fully educate Hoosiers that racial and ethnic diversity must be considered when redistricting.

The Secretary of State’s also mad an op-ed he penned wasn’t in last week’s Recorder.

(You’ll find Rokita’s op-ed in this week’s paper).

Rokita’s view that you can’t consider race in redistricting isn’t backed up by the Voting Rights Act and current U.S. Supreme Court decisions. And after finally receiving the detailed population data of his plan, I can firmly declare that Secretary Rokita’s redistricting effort is openly hostile to African-American and minority political progress in Indiana!

Rokita’s “sample” plan sharply reduces African-Americans’ ability to elect legislators of their choice.

In Lake County, Rokita packs the county’s Blacks into three districts, including one that’s 93.7 percent minority. A sharp no-no under the Voting Rights Act.

In Marion County, Blacks would go from four to two, that’s right, just two minority-majority districts!

Eight years ago, the legislature created seven House districts where minorities were the majority and another that was 47 percent minority. Five of those districts were in Marion County.

Rokita’s plan keeps Lake County’s three minority-majority districts, though the minority percentage sharply increases. But Indiana’s largest Black community would have fewer minority-majority districts. Currently, 69.9 percent of African-Americans in Marion County live in a minority-majority district. Under Rokita’s plan only 58.2 percent of our community would.

By every standard, Secretary Rokita’s redistricting scheme, if it had been done after the 2000 Census, would have been detrimental to Black political progress in Indiana.

If Rokita’s scheme is implemented after the 2010 Census, it would be catastrophic!

Secretary Rokita’s all over TV decrying con artists ripping off Hoosiers. But I’m beginning to think that his efforts about redistricting aren’t about bettering our state; but an effort to con our state instead.

What I’m Hearing

in the Streets

We knew 2008 was a rough year in Indiana and our African-American community. But we didn’t understand the depth of economic pain until last week’s release of data from the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS).

The annual survey conducted by the Census Bureau, reported that unemployment and poverty increased while income and home ownership decreased in the Indianapolis African-American community last year.

Nearly one-in-seven African-Americans in this city were out of work last year. One-in-eight Blacks in the metro area were jobless. The ACS reports that last year two-in-five unemployed in the city/county (42.6 percent) were African-American.

It’s estimated that this year, one-in-six, or some 16.5 percent of the African-American workforce is unemployed. A staggering statistic and one with serious implications for the financial health of this city and metro.

With the number of unemployed up, the number of Blacks living below the federal poverty level increased.

The number of Blacks living below the poverty level in Indianapolis/Marion County climbed 7,166 or 15.3 percent last year; raising the Black poverty rate to 25.1 percent from 21.8 percent.

The highest Black poverty rate is in Center Township (40.9 percent). Other township Black poverty rates are Wayne (23.6 percent), Warren (25.8 percent) and Lawrence at 23.3 percent.

Greater affluence of Blacks in Indianapolis’ suburbs reduced the rate of increase of Blacks in poverty in the metro, to a gain of 10.9 percent. The metro’s Black poverty rate climbed to 23.5 percent from 21.3 percent.

One of the major shockers in the 2008 American Community Survey was the rapid decline in Black homeowners. We knew that the foreclosure crisis was impacting Black homeowners. But ACS now puts some cold numbers to the problem.

For Black homeownership to drop to 39.6 percent, when for years Indianapolis Black homeownership had been well above 40 percent is a searing shock. The ACS reported that the number of Black homeowners fell by 5,029 or 12.4 percent.

With unemployment and poverty up and homeownership down, it was no surprise that income in our community suffered.

African-American median household income in the state, metro and city fell between 2007 and 2008; in some cases the declines were pronounced.

Statewide, Black median household income fell $232 or 0.7 percent to $30,737 in 2008. In the Indianapolis metro, Black median household income fell $2,689 or 7.9 percent to $31,470; while falling $1,706 or 5.3 percent to $30,783 in Indianapolis/Marion County.

In the city/county, Black median household income declined in five townships (Center, Perry, Pike, Warren and Wayne) increasing only in Lawrence and Washington Townships.

The 2008 American Community Survey also documented the ravages of the Great Recession on all of Indiana.

Median household income in Indiana fell $1,364 from $49,330 in 2007 to $47,966 in 2008; a drop of 2.8 percent. Even though 32 other states saw their household incomes decline, Indiana’s 2.8 percent decline was the third greatest of any state.

The number of Hoosiers living below the poverty level also increased. The ACS documented that seven states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) had increases in the number and percentage of people in poverty between 2007 and 2008.

One ray of good news from the 2008 ACS is the number of African-Americans in Indianapolis and Indiana attending college is at record highs.

Statewide, 37,912 African-Americans are enrolled in college. Up 6,938 or 22.4 percent since 2000. In Indianapolis, 14,204 African-Americans are enrolled in college, up 3,566 or 33.5 percent in the decade.

And despite the urban legend in Black communities, far more Blacks in Indianapolis and Indiana are enrolled in college than are in prison or on parole in Indiana.

At the end of 2008, 15,273 Blacks were in incarcerated or on parole in Indiana. Compare that to the 37,912 Blacks in Indiana enrolled in college.

The 2008 American Community Survey surveys 4.5 million nationwide, including 101,072 persons statewide, 24,760 in the Indianapolis metro and 11,912 in the city/county. The data can be found at http://factfinder.census.gov.

And despite the dismal economic news, Sunday affluent African-Americans made a commitment to give back. The United Way’s Diversity Leadership Circle, chaired by St. Vincent’s Chief Financial Officer Marvin White, is committed to increasing the number of African-Americans who give substantially (at levels of $1,000 or more) to the annual United Way campaign.

They reaffirmed that commitment at a weekend reception honoring two pioneers of minority United Way involvement, attorney Fay Williams and Recorder Owner Bill Mays.

See ‘ya at the Classic and here next week!

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915.

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