Thursday, May 21, 2009

Whistling Dixie in South Florida...Part 2

UPDATE: Seems they may be taking the easy way out: "Confederate flag may end Homestead parade"
More from "NAACP, Homestead in dispute over Confederate flag." (again, all emphasis mine). Despite the "unique "small-town" atmosphere with all the urban amenities" description on the town's website, Homestead is primarily an agricultural community. It has the dubious distinction of having suffered the second costliest Atlantic hurricane in U.S. history as a result of Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that devastated the area on August 24, 1992. The town is still recovering and rebuilding. Situated about 30 minutes southwest of Miami proper and directly northeast of the notorious, "18-mile stretch" leading down the Keys to Key West, it is the second oldest city in Miami-Dade County. It boasts a lively tossed salad of immigrants from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador and Honduras with a relative sprinkling of everybody else thrown in for good measure. Republican, Lynda Bell is the first female mayor in the city's history.

''And the city of Homestead went one step further and decided to dissolve their part of the Human Relations Board,''he said.

Last month, the city council disbanded the Homestead/Florida City Human Relations Board, which was created in September 2002 after black city workers in Homestead complained of discrimination. It aimed to resolve issues involving race, immigration, police profiling, employment and housing.

The advisory board took up the issue of the flag display for six months, but did not come to a resolution with the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the chamber. The veterans group proposed flying less controversial Confederate flags at a Homestead public workshop, Bell said. But the board rejected that, ''insisting instead that the Sons of Confederate Veterans be banned entirely from all future parades,'' Bell said.

She said the changes to the human relations board, which she suggested, were implemented to make the board more reflective of the city. Hispanics make up about 60 percent of Homestead's population.

The fact that the Human Relations Board was not formed until 2002 to address racial discrimination and then disbanded only seven years later is an indication of how "Deep South" the city really is. With such an expeditious and miraculous cure for those pesky racism issues, the city ought to bottle that remedy and peddle it to the rest of the country. But I digress. The revamping of the Board follows a pattern of institutionalized racism commonly practiced where these kinds of boards, intended to address discrimination, are concerned. I've seen it firsthand. Back in 2002, an attorney with whom I worked to establish an independent Citizen's Review Board of the police department in Key West, aptly described the predictable stages of opposition. It was so dead-on, I wrote about it in one of my weekly columns in April that year. He broke it down like this (feel free to substitute city/county/federal government for police and just plain "board" for civilian oversight/review - it works):
  1. The "over our dead bodies" stage, during which the police proclaim they will never accept any type of civilian oversight under any circumstances;
  2. The "magical conversion" stage, when it becomes politically inevitable that civilian review will be adopted. At this point, former police supporters suddenly become civilian review experts and propose the weakest models;
  3. The "post-partum" resistance" stage, when the newly established review board must fight police opposition to its budget, authority, access to information, etc.
He went on to say, "Expect minor lip service to be given to civilian review coupled with recommendations for the weakest civilian review board possible." Such was the fate of the Homestead Human Relations Board - I am certain. Another tactic that has worked amazingly well to dilute the voice of the Black community across the state is redistricting (read gerrymandering). In my June 14, 2002 column, "Could Key West go the way of congressional redistricting?" I wrote:

Consideration of the three alternatives for Key West voting districts, submitted by the Redistricting and Charter Revision Commission, was tabled last month and will be revisited in July. In the brief interval between now and then, Key West's minority voters would do well to look to the mainland, paying close attention to the legal battles surrounding Florida's new Republican-drawn congressional district maps.

Democrats, as we speak, are in U.S. District Court in Miami trying to convince three federal judges that the new district maps violate the Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was enacted to ensure that the minority vote is fairly represented. Additionally, suit has been filed in state court by Carrie Meek of Miami, Alcee Hastings of Fort Lauderdale and Corrine Brown of Jacksonville.

Florida's three black congressional representatives, the first elected since Reconstruction, contend the congressional redistricting plan as proposed will result in a substantial dilution of the black vote in their current districts. And in a June 5 Miami Herald article, Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University testifying on behalf of the redistricting challengers, agreed saying, "Several versions of races that produced black winners under old boundaries would result in toss-ups or outright defeats for black candidates now."

Democrats charge in a June 9 Herald article that the GOP has diluted Hastings' mostly black district by adding thousands of white voters, many of them residents of the Century Village condominium in Pembroke Pines.

"I'm more than happy to represent Century Village, but it will drown out the black vote," Hastings said.

Minority voters in the affected districts can expect no intervention from the U.S. Justice Department. On June 7, it concluded that the newly drawn boundaries are in compliance with the federal voting rights law.

Given all the facts above, one might wonder how the Justice Department reached that conclusion. Simple. Republicans said it was necessary in order to provide a third congressional seat in South Florida for Hispanics who are also a "protected" group, thereby satisfying Justice Department requirements. Never mind three black districts would all but disappear.

Pitting each of these minority's interests against one another, keeps the old divide and conquer routine alive and well and keeps the powers-that-be, the powers-that-be.

So, why do minority Key West voters need to pay attention? Because it appears that the exact same thing could be in the offing for Key West but the results appear more racial than partisan, particularly with the "three-district, three-at-large" and the "six-residential districts with at-large voting" proposals.

As I understand it, the first proposal would not likely ensure the election of a minority commissioner in any district since blacks and Hispanics in the three proposed districts only represent roughly one quarter of the voting population based on the 2000 Census figures. This plan could pose a problem for the city in terms of Justice Department approval.

The second proposal could also pose similar Justice Department problems given the breakdown of the numbers of blacks and Hispanics versus whites. It is questionable, though not impossible, that a minority candidate, successful in their residential district, could or would win an election citywide.

Keeping in mind that blacks and Hispanics share "protected" status, a district drawn to increase the chances of a minority representative does not necessarily have to focus exclusively on blacks. If that district incorporates Hispanic voters in the minority as well, it may be possible to achieve a high enough minority percentage to satisfy the Justice Department, as has occurred with the congressional redistricting.

Since the Supervisor of Elections has pointed out that current district lines are flawed because they were initially drawn across census block boundaries, the status quo proposal changes somewhat. But, it appears that it is still the best thing going as far as minority representation is concerned.

All registered voters have an obligation to fully understand what is on the table, so when the meeting rolls around in July, Old City Hall should be packed to the rafters.

The NAACP notwithstanding, it seems Mayor Bell, with her "more reflective of the community" comment, stands poised to use the same totally legal, voice-silencing tactics to effect changes to Homestead's Human Relations Board a similar maneuver often used by the Changeling to muffle the, "No Justice, No Peace," normally heard anytime someone mentions what he's NOT done for the Black community.)

''This board will be structured more like the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board,'' she wrote in her e-mail. ''At the end of the day, I would think that everyone, including the NAACP, would be delighted and pleased that this Mayor and Council is working to be responsive to the entire community.'' Former Homestead Mayor Roscoe Warren and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson pledged to use a softer approach -- diplomacy behind the scenes -- to work with Bell and the council to resolve the dispute. ''I'm confident we will work it out,'' said Warren, Homestead's first black mayor, who started the board in 2002. ``You don't want to elevate this [dispute] to the state and national level.''

Meanwhile, Curry hinted at a possible boycott of chamber businesses at a time when most industries have been hit by the recession. He also set his sights on the November elections. Curry pledged that the NAACP would register new voters and raise the issue of the flag if council members did not ban it from future parades. Five of the seven council members will be up for reelection in November, including the mayor.

''Someone is going to be a casualty,'' Curry said.

As has been the case in these modern days of "movements," the NAACP appears more reactive than proactive on both the Board and the flag issue. It'll be real interesting to see just how effective all the proposed back-room dealing, boycotting and registering of new voters will be. I wouldn't hold my breath.


Cinie said...

Deb, this is a complicated issue for me, a Northern girl, so I imagine it would be even more complicated for somebody raised in the South. Though, to be truthful, just about everybody in Chicago can trace their history directly to some Southern state, we have our own unique brand of racial history to contend with. All that being said, I have to admit that my first reaction to the Confederate flag is always viscerally negative and jarring on a level I find hard to articulate.
As far as redistricting, I think my hometown, Chicago, wrote the book on that. In fact, I read somewhere that Obama benefited greatly by expanding his district to include the wealthier, whiter neighborhoods while he was in the Illinois senate.

ea said...

It is the same old story that repeats itself: a remedy made to address a past wrong get warped into something it, ostensibly at least, was not intended to be.

One of the problems I have with the confederate flag is that it is used by hate groups as a symbol, so what it represents depends on the eye of the beholder and who is waving it.

Deb said...

Hey Cinie! Gir-r-r-l, I feel you. And you're right - everybody in the North can trace their history directly to some Southern state as a result of "The Great Migration," though some will not admit it. My NY cousins hated coming "Down South" in the Summer. They saw us as ass-backward, country folk who could not possibly know as much as they.

Again, I feel you on that "unique brand of racial history to contend with." Once I graduated from my Alabama HBCU, I came to DC in the late 70's. I experienced it - which is why I always tell folk, "I'm glad to be from the South. At least there, I know exactly where the white people stand - because they tell you. I can deal with that. It's that undercover shit where they smile in your face while they're stabbin' you that I can't get with."

As I said in Part I, I get the visceral. But watching those 2 kids with that damn flag, definitely moved me. I don't know what I will do, or where I will go with that realization - but as I move along this journey, I can't ignore that I've felt it.

And I just found your observation about redistrictin and the Changelng so sad and damn hilarious - "I read somewhere that Obama benefited greatly by expanding his district to include the wealthier, whiter neighborhoods while he was in the Illinois senate."

While he was seeking out the wealthier and white neighborhoods while he was in the Illinois senate, Alcee Hastings, one of the first Black representatives since Reconstruction said, "I'm more than happy to represent Century Village, but it will drown out the black vote."

Century Village is some old, not-Black money. But Hastings, despite his own till-dipping - allegedly, understands the Black experience in America. He, unlike the Changeling, is one of my "KINFOLK!"

Cinie said...

Deb, it was Ray Lizza's New Yorker piece, which in and of itself is fascinating in hindsight. Here's a bit:

In truth, Rush had little to worry about; Obama was already on a different political path. Like every other Democratic legislator who entered the inner sanctum, Obama began working on his “ideal map.” Corrigan remembers two things about the district that he and Obama drew. First, it retained Obama’s Hyde Park base—he had managed to beat Rush in Hyde Park—then swooped upward along the lakefront and toward downtown. By the end of the final redistricting process, his new district bore little resemblance to his old one. Rather than jutting far to the west, like a long thin dagger, into a swath of poor black neighborhoods of bungalow homes, Obama’s map now shot north, encompassing about half of the Loop, whose southern portion was beginning to be transformed by developers like Tony Rezko, and stretched far up Michigan Avenue and into the Gold Coast, covering much of the city’s economic heart, its main retail thoroughfares, and its finest museums, parks, skyscrapers, and lakefront apartment buildings. African-Americans still were a majority, and the map contained some of the poorest sections of Chicago, but Obama’s new district was wealthier, whiter, more Jewish, less blue-collar, and better educated. It also included one of the highest concentrations of Republicans in Chicago.

Deb said...

ea...I know right??? I see it all the time. And what pisses me off, is people try to act like that's not the case!

"One of the problems I have with the confederate flag is that it is used by hate groups as a symbol, so what it represents depends on the eye of the beholder and who is waving it."

That's exactly the "limbo, of sorts" in which I find myself, because I get that hate groups have taken the flag and used it as a bullwhip for so long, that's the only way it's seen. It's going to take me more time I know, but I'm workin' on it.

Deb said...

Cinie...Chile, "we are of the same mind" as my grandmother used to say! When Lizza's piece came out, I wrote this, "What I really found interesting and connective to the cover, in my little pea-brain, is the piece inside - "Making It, How Chicago shaped Obama" - by Ryan Lizza." Here's a link to the post:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...