Pennsylvania ends racial bias in politics

By Victoria LaVelle

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Pennsylvania’s Delaware County U.S. congressional district boundaries have been redrawn in time for the May 15 primary, as a result of a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling. Image courtesy of The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania

In a landmark decision, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court struck down the congressional districting maps and declared them to be “clearly, plainly, and palpably unconstitutional.”

Pennsylvania’s high court had examined the state’s 18 congressional districts and concluded that the maps geographical lines were artistically drawn by state Republicans lawmakers to favor their own political majority, otherwise known as “gerrymandering.”

The benchmark 5-2 vote was immediately met with scrutiny and concern from many of the state’s Republican legislators.

Despite a court order, which granted Republican lawmakers the duty and privilege to remap their own districts again, some Republicans called for the impeachment of all five Democrats on the states Supreme Court who deemed the previous maps unconstitutional.

The federal government stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.

Because the previously rejected congressional district boundaries have always been drawn to comply with the U.S. Constitution, some Republicans have argued that the issue is obsolete.

Pennsylvania’s Republican lawmakers have filed a lawsuit to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next month in an attempt to block recent alterations to the state’s congressional remapping. Harrisburg’s Republicans are concerned the recent changes will create confusion for Pennsylvania voters accustomed to the previously assigned districts and who may be unaware that all of Delaware County is now District 5, according to Michael Rader, chief of staff for Pennsylvania State Senator Tom McGarrigle. (R., Chester, Delaware) who represents the 26th District.

It’s a standard practice for congressional districts to be redrawn every 10 years as data from the U.S. Census report becomes readily available and examined by state lawmakers.

The main objective is to gather census statistics regarding registered voters and political affiliations every decade to redraw new district lines and extend borders to maintain a level and equally balanced political playing field for both Republicans and Democrats alike.

However, in the past three election cycles Republicans have won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 U.S. congressional seats despite Pennsylvania’s nearly equal numbers of Democrat and Republican voters alike.

Delaware County was dwarfed into three separate congressional districts by the states Republican legislators in 2011. Consequently, the irregular shaped districting gained the national spotlight and became known as the most gerrymandered district in the nation’s history.

Gerrymandering has occurred for different agendas and in many forms. A common practice in the 60’s known as “racial gerrymandering” was utilized as a process that spread minority voters thin, spanning them across as many districts as possible.

At the height of the civil rights movement, racial gerrymandering was embraced by southern state legislatures to severely limit the power of the black vote. Few in numbers, the odds were deliberately stacked against them.

The courts prohibited the racially biased practice in 1965 and ordered states to remap districting unbiased to African-American voters wanting to elect candidates of their choice.

In hindsight, the court’s goodwill solution that granted African-Americans voters a more balanced political power is now being utilized to deprive them of it. The increasing number of congressional districts nationwide being “over packed” beyond the threshold with minority voters skyrocketed after the 2011 census-redistricting.

As the 2018 midterm elections approach, Democrats are sounding the alarm over an alarming defect that lies in the geographic lines drawn around congressional districts enabling state legislatures to blueprint their own precincts. In broader terms, states are granting politicians permission to cherry pick their own voters, instead of the process being the other way around.

American Democracy means “we the people” selecting our politicians and not vice-versa as it currently stands in the bulk of the nation’s Congressional districts. Gerrymandering undermines the vision layout by the founding fathers, and violates the rights slated in the U.S. Constitution

Dubbed as a “great communicator,” even the iconic former President Ronald Reagan denounced the practice of gerrymandering and advocated for fair and equal redistricting and elections nationwide during both of his presidential terms.

Bipartisan politics are key to the success of American democracy. Our elected officials who win elections are more likely to get things accomplished if they are held accountable as lawmakers by their constituents.

So the state legislators responsible for drawing new boundaries should follow the same process as that which determines how they are elected.

District lines for state officials are clear and clean cut because they are drawn on a bi-partisan method. The legislative power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which includes 50 members elected to the state Senate and 203 members to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Pennsylvania Senate districts are referred to as state legislative districts. Article II, Section 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution mandates that these districts be drawn by a five-member commission. Four of these are the majority and minority leaders of the PA House and Senate. These four then select a fifth member to serve as the commission chair. If the four cannot agree, then the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoints a chair.

Under these guidelines, state officials are elected by the people which is the way democracy is meant to be. This method of redistricting should serve as the golden standard and protégé for any future congressional districting plans.

Pennsylvania State Senate District 26 in Delaware County is regarded as one of the state’s most honorable seats held by McGarrigle. Elected into the state legislature in 2014, he has withstood years of success despite gains from Democratic voter registration due to strong constituent service records and the strong backing from local unions.

Rader explained that McGarrigle is open to improving the complex redistricting efforts following each census.

“Though the new congressional maps don’t pertain to McGarrigle’s election,” Rader said. “Any and all matters that pertain to the best interests of Senator McGarrigle’s constituents is his priority.”

Since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, the political divide in the nation has deepened. Trumps entire campaign shouted strong messages that accused our general elections of being corrupt and rigged, yet look who’s sitting at the realm promoting the continued practice of gerrymandering today.

“Hope Republicans in the Great State of Pennsylvania challenge the newly issued Congressional Map,” Trump tweeted. “All the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary. Your original 2011 map was correct! Don’t let the Dems take elections away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!”

Despite Trump’s tweets, the wave of Democratic candidates running for seats in the U.S. Senate and Congress is at an all-time historic high.

Knowing that the election process is being “unrigged” is a reason for everyone to get out there and vote on Nov. 6th.

Contact Victoria Lavelle at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

 

Bleeding green while crying tears of joy

By Shannon Reardon

Super Bowl LII

Being an Eagles fan isn’t a choice, it’s a right of passage that is transferred down through our bloodlines, and the bond that holds the city of Philadelphia together.

Part of the Philadelphia Eagles spirit comes from the preseason hope that “this will be our year,” though it never is.

Except for this year.

This year started the same as all those that preceded it, overly excitable fans filling the lower level of Lincoln Financial Field on two hot August days to watch the full team participate in Training Camp.

After Training Camp, fans had to wait until week three for the Birds to play at home against the New York Giants.

Just like every other home game for the season, the parking lots were filled with the smell of charcoal grilled hot dogs, the echoes of E-A-G-L-E-S chants from various tailgates, and the colors green, black, and white as far as the eye could see by 9 a.m.

I tailgate with a group that is unlike any other. They call themselves “4th and Jawn,” a weekly podcast group that report solely on the Eagles.

We do things the same as everyone else, drinking and talking about football, with the added bonus of beer bong baptisms for newcomers or anyone who is looking to drink in the name of Carson Wentz, Howie Roseman, and Doug Pederson.

As the season progressed this year, the usual feeling of disappointment never reached us.

Sure, we suffered some devastating player losses with Darren Sprouls, Jason Peters, Carson Wentz, and other key players, but the “next man up” mentality carried us through the season.

I’ll be the first person to admit that I did not think that post season was even in the cards for us. I pictured us as having eight wins at best.

But this was our year.

It was a year filled with excitement, then tears, trepidation, and, finally, tears of joy.

Watching the Super Bowl, I was again so sure that the Eagles were bound to lose, but I was there along for the ride.

Man, was I wrong.

Nick Foles stepped up to the plate, the eyes of the country on him, knowing he was our second string quarterback, and he gave The Patriots the Philly Special: he sent Tom Brady home ringless.

Things in our house erupted, my stepdad couldn’t control his excitment as he kept yelling, “What?”

I sat just staring in disbelief.

Did we really just win the Super Bowl?

It took 52 Super Bowls for The Eagles to win a Championship. They finally brought the Lombardi Trophy home to Philly, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I’ve never been more proud of a group of men, and for our city, who desperately needed a win to show the true tenacious spirit of Philadelphians.

Contact Shannon Reardon at communitarian@mail.dccc. edu

Nothing to fear but… myself?

By Andrew Henry

I am a black man. Yet sometimes I notice myself walking more towards the edge of the sidewalk when another black man walks by.

Why am I afraid of members of my own race?

In addition to the media’s demonizing portrayal of black men, I experienced something when I was younger that made a lasting impact.

I grew up in Chester, Pa, a city known for its vicious murder rate. According to the news most people doing the killings were black. I was terrified of the city I lived in.

In the third grade my mother had an old “friend” move in with us. That year I got into trouble at school. The teacher said that I hit her. My word didn’t really matter at that point.

To teach me a lesson about being “big and bad” my mother’s friend took me on a ride deeper into Chester.

We pulled up to a house where two young black boys were tossing a football back and forth. My mother’s friend told me to get out of the car and go hang out with them. See how tough I was against a couple of Chester kids.

Without knowing anything about their family lives, their names, or any anything else, I thought they were “tough” because they were black and from Chester.

I cried, and screamed, and begged for him to take me home. That may have been the very moment that plunged me into the deep-rooted fear of my own people that still resonates within me, even today.

Fortunately, in high school, I was invited to join a group called the Black Students Union.

Suddenly, I was fully immersed into my own culture that for so long seemed distant from me.

I became president by my senior year. I gained a level of confidence speaking to and interacting with people of color. BSU saved me from myself.

Albert Einstein wrote: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Black people are not thugs or monsters, but if America continues to label us as such, how can we think that we can be anything but?

Contact Andrew Henry at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

‘Do you speak African?’

By Comfort Queh

If I could receive a dollar for every time I’ve been approached with the question, “Do you speak African?” my college education would be paid off, with dollars left to splurge however I choose.

Being from a different country, it’s clear to say that topics regarding my nationality are usually the first question people ask me when they hear my thick accent.

The conversation usually starts with, “What part of Africa are you from?” When I respond, “West Africa, Liberia to be specific,” the question that usually follows is, “Do you speak African?”

Somehow this question always tenses me up inside. I want to respond, “No idiot, do you speak American?”

But I take a deep breath, relax, and respond, “No, African is not a language.”

In most cases, when I reply to this question, people usually respond with light laughter and are taken aback, almost as if they are ashamed and recognize the ignorance of the question.

Clearly, we can agree that such a question is ignorant, but it’s still being asked. So, this is for all those individuals that have ever asked the question, and for those who may be thinking of asking it, please allow me to educate you on Africa, so you no longer make the mistake of asking, “Do you speak African?”

Africans are people who are native to or inhabitants of the continent of Africa. So, lesson one: Africa is a continent, the second-largest to be specific. I’m sure I was taught that in school, so were you.

Second lesson: Africa has many countries, each with its own language. In fact, Africa is estimated to have about 1,000 to 2,000 languages, according to the Harvard Department of African and African-American Studies. The languages that Africans speak are extremely diverse and broken into four categories based on their family and the part of the country they are from.

Niger-Congo refers to languages spoken in Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa. Niger-Congo is also the largest out of the four families of languages. The next large group of language is Afro-Asiatic, which includes the Northern region of Africa.

The third group is Nilo-Saharan which includes the Eastern and North Eastern regions of Africa. The last and the least spoken language group is Khoisan, which is mostly found in Southern Africa. This is said to be the oldest language of all.

Now brace yourself for the most important lesson: Some, if not most, Africans speak English. Although my English may not be considered as polished as the English spoken in America, I was still able to communicate with Americans when I moved here.

In Monrovia, Liberia, the country that I’m from, the main language that we speak is English. Some people are surprised when I share this information because they are expecting some other exotic or cultural language. So in an effort to not dash their hopes, I also share with them that depending on which tribe an individual comes from, the dialect may differ.

Listen, I know theoretically, “There are no stupid questions,” but clearly stupidity is a behavior that shows a lack of good judgment.

The good news is you are able to change your behavior. That will include remembering that African is not a language. If you are still confused about this, just remember you’re only two fingers away from your cell-phone to search “Do you speak African?”

It’s better to be embarrassed by Google than to be embarrassed in front of ME.

Contact Comfort Queh at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

Stop playing the victim card

By Joshua Patton

Turn on your phone. Go to Facebook, Twitter, or CNN, and you will hear, see, or read about the concept of victim blaming.

In most cases, it is women that are targeted as being at fault when they are raped, sexually assaulted, or worse, told that they should have been more responsible, dressed more appropriately, or perhaps not have been so drunk.

This is truly appalling.

Thankfully, society has begun calling itself out on the concept of excusing the perpetrator in favor of wagging their finger at the victim.

But this is where the line fades to gray. When I hear the words “victim blaming,” I can’t help but think on some level that it is a ploy. Not in cases I’ve mentioned, or towards individuals, but towards society’s own tendency to paint itself as a victim.

The truth is, being a true victim is a terrible experience. No one should ever feel that his fate is at the mercy of another person, but this is where the similarities end.

Today, too many people, the same who claim to oppose victim blaming, still prefer to portray their own lives as the consequence of others’ cruelty or injustice. They claim to be victims.

This is a brilliant scheme, but one that is truly unhealthy, and ultimately self-defeating. The truth is, when people paint themselves as a victim, they give up their own self-determination.

The sad reality is that life is easier to live as a victim.

It’s easier to gather sympathy when you claim that others are keeping you down. It’s easier to give yourself excuses for never trying, but this transforms from a legitimate argument to a way of living.

If you constantly claim that you are a victim, you will eventually develop a persecution complex, and in that, you will lose a piece of your dignity.

It seems ridiculous.

Of course nobody believes that they have absolutely no control over their own destiny. Of course, there is always a will to succeed. But where the pervasive victim mindset becomes truly problematic, is when it shifts to the blaming of others, and today, that takes the form of privilege.

Consider the common concept of “white privilege.” I was born white, but I no longer feel comfortable in my own skin. I’m not alleging reverse racism; that’s not what I’m here to argue.

I am here to argue for the situation of my life.

Put simply, I don’t like when others tear me down, whether it’s to my face, or indirectly. But what I can’t stand is the idea that someone else would assume my life has been easy because I am white. That someone would ever come to my face and tell me that I’ve never experienced discrimination, or bullying, or intolerance because I’m white, and white people have all the privilege in the world.

I bought my first car, a smooth red Firebird, by working a minimum wage job for two summers. I was fired from another well-paying job because I wanted to return to school, and I’ve had the police at my home more times that I care to admit growing up.

However, where the similarities between myself and those that claim to be victims end, is that to me, these aren’t negative things in my life. They’re positive. They weren’t good or pleasant at the time, but they made me who I am, and they have given me the will to move forward.

These instances, however bad, have shaped my life and my being. Without them, I may not have enrolled in college, gained self-esteem, or become the driven person that I am today.

What I want to say to those that are the victims of an unjust society is this: You’re right. Society is unjust, more so to racial minorities, religious minorities, and women.

It is a rigged system. So, fight your fight, and win your battles.

What I ask is, do not let your hatred of an unjust system blind you to those beside you who are struggling with their own battles, and trying to win their own fights, just because they might stand one rung higher than you on the grand social ladder.

Don’t blame your fellow victims.

Contact Joshua Patton at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu