The moderator, Mr. Bowers, is a well respected and long term demographer. His assignment at the meeting was to educate everyone on State law and DOJ requirements regarding redistricting. He was very professional and presented the information clearly in a manner that was easily understandable to all. The problem for GE&P arose, not from the manner of presentation, but from the content of the information related. It was this information that we found basically offensive.
Mr. Bowers distributed a fact sheet that contained the redistricting requirements in order of priority. He emphasized that the first three items on the list were of utmost importance and were absolutely essential to formulating a successful plan that would pass DOJ muster. These three items concerned only one issue, guaranteeing that there will be two minority Districts in BC that are capable of reelecting the incumbent. The LAST item, in terms of priority on this list was PUBLIC INPUT.
As we see them, these requirements present a few insurmountable problems for those charged with formulating the redistricting plan to coincide with all the applicable laws:
1. The Black population of BC, according to the 2000 census, was 26.6% of the total population. According to the 2010 census, the Black population of BC had diminished to 25.4% of the total.
2. A sizable percentage of this 25.4% of our Black population has dispersed from the traditionally rural "Black communities" and has relocated into other parts of the County. Many of these citizens have relocated into the "general population" of the urban incorporated areas. They have opted, understandably so, to settle in subdivisions and communities that are not referred to as populated by a certain race. They have chosen to live in areas where they are referred to as simply "a good neighbor" with no reference to race. Being as this voluntary dispersement is so random and widespread, it is impossible for any redistricting effort to "segregate" these families into a particular district.
3. There has been an influx of "Newbies" in BC over the last 10 years. Many of these new citizens have moved into the rural parts of the County. The addition of these new citizens, mostly whites, has affected the ratio of white to black in population counts in areas that were, at one time, predominately black.
This is one segment of the redistricting issue that GE&P finds totally confusing. We thought the goal of this county is to create a homogenized society where race, religion, or national origin is never an issue. We thought the whole idea revolved around not considering the color of one's skin but the content of one's character.
At the workshop, one member of County Council who opted to refer to himself as "a minority" stated that "if this plan succeeds, come next election, there won't be any minorities on County Council". He was referring to the proposed plan's ratio of black to white voters in his District. Another member of Council questioned the validity of this statement by reminding everyone that Tim Scott won his bid for Congress in District 1, facing a voting population that is 80% white. The "minority" Councilman replied, "Yea, but those are Republicans". When presented with the possibility that he had suggested that white Republicans would happily elect a Black candidate but white Democrats would not, the "minority" Councilman became irate and vehemently denied that he had implied any such thing.
From all the information gathered from the workshop, GE&P deduced that State law and the requirements of the DOJ are aimed at guaranteeing the election of a Black candidate in 2 of our Council Districts. The "minority" incumbents seem to be more concerned with the election of a candidate of a certain political party or, moreover, a certain political ideology.
GE&P will repeat our long-time position on this issue. We detest the 1930ish practices of denying any person their Constitutional rights, no matter their skin color. We actively support equal opportunity for every citizen. We support "One man, one vote". We support open and fair elections. We believe any person should be allowed to stand for the elected office of their choosing. But, we, also, believe the race baiting resulting from the restrictions imposed by the DOJ is disgusting. The good people of SC have risen above the reprehensible problems of the past that required intervention by the DOJ. The election of Tim Scott is the proof of that statement.
After reviewing all the SC laws and DOJ requirements on this subject and taking into consideration the geography and population disbursement of BC, along with the "minority" Councilmen's goals, GE&P can envision no workable solution to this conundrum. So stop trying to divide Berkeley County by race. Stop the race-baiting. The only way to make any redistricting plan adhere to all the existing SC laws and DOJ regulations, considering the numbers we have to work with, is to go back to segregated neighborhoods and districts and GE&P wants no part of that kind of social regression.
We, the majority of black and white citizens of BC, have advanced beyond that. We, the majority of black and white citizens of BC, look upon each other as neighbors and allies not as adversaries and enemies. We, the majority of black and white citizens of BC, truly resent a small minority of the population who continues to try to convince us otherwise. It is past time for this ever shrinking group of people to stop the divisive rhetoric and join the rest of us who are trying to make BC the best place in the world to live.