This week, Hickory is one of three locations scheduled for hearings on redistricting in North Carolina. While the current redistricting plan can be aptly analyzed as a partisan power grab by the General Assembly’s Republican majority, its purpose and its effects are far more devastating. It is an immoral effort to dilute and silence the voices of people of color, low-income North Carolinians, and other marginalized communities, so that the General Assembly can continue its war on education and the environment, and against Black and brown folks, women, LGBTQ+ people, and the poor.
Ten years ago, the dismantling of the 1965 Voting Rights Act paved the way for racialized gerrymandering in this state, and this week’s redistricting hearings are a direct result. Unfazed by the 2016 ruling that NC’s voter maps “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision,” along with subsequent rulings that new NC maps have been unconstitutionally gerrymandered, the NC General Assembly is hellbent on suppressing the voices of those who will challenge its hold on power.
In his 2020 address to the U.S. House of Representatives, lifelong North Carolinian and civil rights leader Rev. William J. Barber II said this: “Voters in North Carolina and across the South are caught in a voter suppression thunderstorm… and have had to depend on costly, protracted, and difficult litigation to ensure our most fundamental rights.” The situation is no different in 2023.
The current redistricting effort is one more chapter in the “Southern Strategy,” a plan to keep voters of different races and cultures apart (particularly low-income voters), because the state legislative leaders know that when we come together, we are what Martin Luther King, Jr., called a “new and unsettling force.”