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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Shackleford: Blurring the lines

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When I say “blurring the lines,” I am not referring to a famous song. Instead, I am referring to redistricting. If this is your first time hearing the word, you are in for a ride. The process of redistricting is when data is collected and that data is used to draw districts.

The type of districts are traditionally related to politics or education. The data is collected in various forms, mainly the U.S. census every 10 years. Therefore, when those people were knocking at your doors and disturbing your favorite episode of “Wheel of Fortune” or “Bridgerton,” they were doing so in the name of the census. Often, Black and brown people are incredibly apprehensive when giving out such precious information about our homes, but in the case of the census, it is necessary.

I know you recall the campaigns encouraging you to return your census survey because that data collected helps allocate funding and resources to our communities, and more importantly, it gives the necessary parties the information needed to re-draw the maps.

Now, when I say maps, I am referring to your political or educational districts. If you have not noticed, I keep repeating this knowledge because I need us to understand how important the next few months will be. Redistricting leads to gerrymandering, and gerrymandering is dangerous for Black, brown and other marginalized communities.

Gerrymandering is the process of drawing the maps and intentionally benefitting a particular political party, group, class or race of people. Gerrymandering could also lead to redlining because when you intentionally manipulate the boundaries of a district to exclude communities, the communities are then excluded from resources. We are well aware as a nation of how the slightest numerical change in a zip code could influence your quality of life for generations to come.

As a member of the Indiana General Assembly, it is my duty to fight for our community. For I am not just a legislator, I am a Black woman. We recessed the legislative session until the data is collected and the maps are drawn for Indiana during August. In September, we will reconvene and vote on the information that is presented to us. However, I cannot lie; I know that we are in for a fight against classism, racism and exclusion. As your representative, I would like you to know that I cannot fight alone. We, as the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, cannot fight alone. We will need that same advocacy and passion you used to push House Bill 1006 to ensure these districts are drawn fairly.

There are more than 100 redlined cities in our nation; those communities are overwhelmingly Black and brown. It is our cities that are cut off and left with no political advantage, no dog in the race to say the least. It is time that we change this.

I look forward to reconvening and fighting with you for our community. Please contact my office at H98@in.gov for more redistricting information and ways you can help.

State Rep. Robin Shackleford represents Indiana House District 98, is Indiana Black Legislative Caucus chair, POWER Women Caucus vice chair and Public Health Committee ranking minority member. Contact her at H98@iga.in.gov.

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