The House of Injustice


This past weekend, a voting rights rally was held at Rev. Al Sharpton’s House of Justice to denounce federal magistrate Judge Roanne Mann’s congressional redistricting plan. Based on news reports and video excerpts I’ve seen, it seemed more like a political apartheid rally better suited to 1970s South Africa and Rhodesia.

The rally was billed as an effort to raise public awareness of the need to increase black and Latino representation in Congress. The future of Rep. Charlie Rangel’s historic Harlem district was the elephant in the room.

Speaker after speaker declared their support for congressman Rangel and political apartheid. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz said that Rangel’s district should continue to be represented by a black individual. Blacks and Hispanics should have their own districts was the theme sounded on Saturday.

That’s not the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. It’s not supposed to institutionalize racial segregation or create “legacy” districts.

On Saturday, Sen. Adriano Espaillat (an undeclared congressional candidate) declared that “crackers” were trying to keep minorities from moving forward in the city. As he spoke about “crackers,” the audience egged him on. While watching the videotape, it felt like an ugly moment.

For the sake of accuracy, readers should know that districts are usually “cracked” to dilute minority political participation in order to protect white incumbents. No such cracking occurs in Judge Mann’s redistricting proposal.

Imagine reaction to a similar rally in Borough Park where Orthodox Jews there have proposed a creating a predominantly Orthodox congressional district. What if they spoke of “schvartzers” wanting to “shtup” the Chasidim?

Or the outrage if residents of Howard Beach ranted against Magistrate Mann’s map which joined their neighborhood with the “moolies” in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Someone among those speakers should have exhibited Brooklyn City Councilman David Greenfield‘s courage to denounce a “ghetto” when the Senate Republicans proposed a “super Jewish” senate district.

State senator Adriano Espaillat declared that court’s remapping of the Rangel district to have a 55% Hispanic majority lays the groundwork for twenty years of “nuclear political war” between blacks and Latinos.

Nuclear war? Really!

When did these peacefully co-existing neighbors become Israel and Iran? This is electoral politics, not a life and death struggle where one party denies the other’s right to existence. This political panderer need to get a grip.

As I have written before, this effort to create a district capable of electing a “Dominican” to Congress is misguided and illegal. Racial and ethnic political rivalries (“the Puerto Ricans have two seats, the Dominicans should have one, too”) have no place in this discussion.

Magistrate Mann properly proposed to let the Rangel district continue its natural demographic trend. She could not magically make black residents appear out of thin air. She was appointed special master, not special “magician.”

Fair-minded New Yorkers know that redistricting is not a tool for rigging election outcomes favoring any race, national group, political party or incumbent official. In the absence of the state legislature’s action, the federal court – a long-time friend of minorities— was forced to weigh in.

We are free to express our disappointment. No one, especially elected officials, should be free to racially demagogue the efforts of Judge Mann.
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UPDATE: The NY Daily News editorialized (“Keith Wright and Adriano Espaillat play race card in district squabble“) against the racially divisive remarks at that House of Justice rally on Saturday.

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, FoxNews.com LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email MBenjamin9@optimum.net.
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5 Responses to The House of Injustice

  1. Dale Benjamin Drakeford says:

    I concur. The idea of a “legacy district” is appalling if not insulting the the very idea of a republic government. I am not surprised however. Local leaders are selfish bigots with little interest beyond their own. They take from the system, but service is lacking. I support a whole new structure with much less representation and strict term limits that extend to disqualification of immediate family members for at least the length of a term.

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  2. a Jew who saw your comment on politicker says:

    david greenfield is a kappo who would kill the jewish community for more power, the only other “orthodox “Jewish politician who has this trait is Silver. Greenfield didn’t want the Orthodox district because of his own political considerations. Greenfield has made many powerful enemies in the Orthodox community for putting his own political career above the community and speaking for the community against their wishes (see his endorcement of Fidler over Storobin going against the leading rabbis in America who forbade voting for a pro gay marriage candidate). If you decided to move to his district many Orthodox Jews would back you against him (and so would I despite our previous misunderstanding) and you may even have a better chance of beating him then he would of beating you.

    The Jewish communites request to be in one district is based on communities of interest and the fact that we are one of the biggest (not in size but in negative consequences of said status) minority communities in the country. The fact is that they are the minority that leads all the country in hate crimes per capita, but are not considered a minority for all things of affirmative action (lose definition, ex voting rights acts). We are getting discriminated against twice one for for being in the majority at the same time that they’re being discriminated against for plain old anti semitisim.

    Unlike all other minorities we’re not interested in electing one of our own (and many people would prefer to specifically not want to elect one of our own) but someone who would represent us. The fact is that due to different factors this city almost regularly has pre determined elections that are based on unfair lines, incumbency and the fact that most of the city would vote democrat/(or incumbent or racial candidate(this goes for white’s, black, Asian and Latinos )) even if they agreed with the Republican (or the opposing candidate in the other cases) on every single issue and the democrat on none.

    These are the facts in this city and they’re not changing any time soon (you change this and I’ll agree with you 100%)

    the facts that the Jewish community can’t truly influence the politicians that represent them is due to the facts that we are split (previously more then any other community in the country) and nullified (like they did so cleverly in this Anti Semitic map). We strongly disagree with Nalder and Clarke on almost every single issue but under this map they will be guaranteed a seat despite the fact that we want them out. both those congressman can theoretically vote to set up a Concentration camp in Brooklyn for Orthodox Jews and with those lines there’s a very good chance they’ll keep there seat. Were not interested in electing one of our own as witnessed in the Weprin race or a Republican as witnessed by the fact that in Kew Garden Hills there were EDs that voted at 75% rates for both Republican congressman Bob Turner and Democrat assemblyman Michael Simanowitz in the same election. These current lines in Brooklyn are designed only to destroy our vote and therefore should be declared unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. There is no logical explanation for why Borough Park and Greewnich Village should be in the same district they are arguably the least similar neighborhoods in the country and the fact that there are almost no people in the district from Southern Manhattan till Borough Park makes this district the least compact district in the country and combing both point together the most gerrymandered.

    There are only 4 logical reasons (Kappo Greenfield’s official reason wasn’t logical by any measure of the word) why district 10 would be ever made and some of them officially aren’t a factor in this decision
    1. complete ignorance of the areas that were mapped out. In which case this whole map should be thrown and be done by someone who actually knows what they’re doing.
    2. incumbency protection. Which about which Injustice Mann said “However, for the reasons stated below, the Court did not consider incumbency in the drafting process.”
    3. Partisanship (Kappo greenfield’s reason) though this can’t be true because Injustice Mann wrote this “Recommended Plan was prepared according to neutral principles, pursuant to a process aimed at ensuring both the reality and appearance of judicial impartiality.”
    4. she’s a vile anti Semite piece of garbage who would most likely kill us if she got the chance. which means that the court should throw her map out and we should start looking to find ways to impeach her.

    in regards to the so called violation of the establishment clause (just for the record, a law that forces a kosher deli to be closed on Sunday is not a violation of the establishment clause according to the still binding decision of the anti semetic Warren Court ) since even in the super Orthodox jewish Senate district if there was a Catholic running against a Orthodox Jew and we liked the Catholic better then the Orthodox Jew on the issues then there would be only a slight disadvantage to the Catholic and depending on the issue at hand even an advantage as witnessed in the Weprin-Turner race.

    The facts are the Orthodox and Russian Jewish votes (not just talking about the corrupt hasidic blocks) is the only demographic vote in the city that doesn’t care about the party, religion, or race of the person in question of either of the candidates and just the issues. and therefore in order for issues to truly be considered we demand our own district. If you want to to prove me wrong you can always move to Brooklyn and run against Greenfield next year.

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    • Thanks for your feedback. You’ll recall that 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled against an Orthodox Jewish congressional district in UJO v Carey. And that was the Warren Court, which was conservative and Republican controlled. I don’t foresee your argument winning with the Roberts Court today, either. Statistics prove that the Orthodox community is able to exert political influence in across every district where they are voters/residents (legalization of same-sex marriage, notwithstanding). Sometimes they are able to elect the candidates of their preference or times their preferred candidate loses (but that’s the essence of democracy).

      Regarding your bias crime assertion, I haven’t found the per capita statistic you cite. But according to the DOJ/FBI 2009 Hate Crimes Statistics, of the 6604 hate crime incidents 1132 Jews were victims (931 incidents). NYC led all cities in NYS with 139 bias incidents against Jews (283 incidents statewide; 172 incidents in NYS cities). [See http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2009/victims.html%5D

      As you know, bias incidents/hate crimes do not factor into VRA cases. You would need to prove that the government orchestrates bias attacks against Jews. And that those attacks are intended to discourage Orthodox Jewish political participation. We know that is untrue in fact.

      Calling those with whom you disagree “anti-Semitic” does not aid your argument. I disagree with African Americans who see racial bias in every decision, ruling or action that don’t favor blacks. I believe that reasonable people can agree to disagree without calling our opponents names.

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      • a Jew who saw your comment on politicker says:

        thanks for your response I truly appreciate the fact that you responded and that you wrote what you did in the NYP.

        In UJO v Carey, From what I read on that case the UJO never argued Jews were a minority but that that a white majority shouldn’t be split to give a minority voice.
        The decision was only that a white majority can be split based on the states interest in granting minority groups there legislatures. I’m arguing that Jews are by every single definition of the word a minority.

        “And that was the Warren Court, which was conservative and Republican controlled”
        Don’t think I care about the fact that it’s a Republican court. Me and many Jews don’t like either party very strongly and though obviously to a much lower extent (this parable is for the point not to compare either party to either side) this is comparable to asking a jew in Poland in July of 1941 who they want to win the war the Soviets or the Nazi’s there preferred answer would be they would like both side’s to be destroyed.

        “Statistics prove that the Orthodox community is able to exert political influence in across every district where they are voters/residents (legalization of same-sex marriage, notwithstanding). ”

        the only reason that is true though is that despite government impediments that trump every other group the fact that the Orthodox community is the most unique voting demographic in the country (where probably the only demographic in the country that could vote democrat and Republican in the same election at rates that if it was any other area would be called a very partisan area (75% for a democrat or Republican and sometimes even 90%+ rates would easily be called partisan)) that helps influence elections in very minor ways that any group in this country could also do if they were able to vote in unison with out caring about things like party, race, or religion ext. and voting strictly on the issues. In fact many corrupt (like kappo Greenfield) Jewish politicians and politico’s have argued many times and sometimes successfully that we should vote for front runner in a given election because we’re a minority and our vote is basically meaningless. Therefore if we don’t vote for the winner and vote based on our interests and Values then we won’t even get the very little that our Representative actually do for us. I’ll be shocked if any other demographic group ever had editorials that told people to vote for the winner despite the fact we disagree with them on everything. The reason that happens is because the jewish community is the community that is hit from both sides more then any other community. Our influence in elections is just based upon the fact that we do things that every other group doesn’t do for the token representation we get that other groups don’t do even when they are much less discriminated against. I repeat what I told you earlier the neighborhood in the country that under the old lines that has the most Congressional districts is Orthodox (2 more then it’s next closest competitor) despite us being way less then 1% of the overall country’s population and the same neighborhood had NY State the most Assembly districts, and the largest Orthodox neighborhood outside of Israel had the most state senate distict in NY State. The probability of that just happening with out discrimination is about the same as me running into you in the middle of a hurricane in the middle of the Sahara Dessert. Your argument really says we should be penalized for fighting for what ever we could politically under governmental discrimination and in order to end it we should just willingly be discriminated against and not try to alleviate the destruction of our rights and then we can make the case that we are being discriminated against. If any other minority group did what we did they would also be able to influence elections in very minor ways despite the lesser discrimination against them.

        “Statistics prove that the Orthodox community is able to exert political influence in across every district where they are voters/residents (legalization of same-sex marriage, notwithstanding)”
        you may have missed my point the fact that we could have our own elected officials vote against it is because Kevin Parker, Daniel Squadron, Martin Dilan, Helen Weinstein, Rhoda Jacobs, Ellen Jaffe ext. for example could care less about the Orthodox vote despite the fact that they all have areas that should have a district that includes the Orthodox community together and doesn’t split them in parts. In addition
        many other issues we care (many of which make us one issue voters) about are completely ignored by most of our so called representatives, (eg. school vouchers which most of our politicians oppose but has almost unanimous support amongst our community, Yevette Clark’s voting for the Goldstone report, Nadler’s leading the gay crusade in congress and making fun of the Orthodox community to the gay media interview for our opposing it ext.) . Our influence (Turner was an anomaly mostly because it was a special election) is only related to things in races where we’re stuck with 2 people we despise (and if we truthfully we would rather have both politicians lose and have that seat be unrepresented) and may be able to influence the election to get a few token crums that are worthless compared to the things we truly want and need that they deny us. To many Jews voting for gay marriage would be akin to the Representative of a black area (that will win without black support) voting against the civil rights act of 1964. The fact that we cant even get our “representatives” to represent us on a issue that can easily turn around 75% of the Orthodox community into 1 issue voters shows that we our politically disenfranchised.

        “As you know, bias incidents/hate crimes do not factor into VRA cases. You would need to prove that the government orchestrates bias attacks against Jews. And that those attacks are intended to discourage Orthodox Jewish political participation. We know that is untrue in fact.”
        1. bias incidents/hate crimes do prove that there is a wide spread discrimantion.
        2. the facts speak for themselves that we are historically (the past few redistricting cycles) divided more then
        3. why else would they make us the most gerrymandered area in the country?
        4. many young Orthodox jews are not registered to vote because our vote makes no true difference
        5. In the 2010 elections the Orthodox community had one of the lowest turnout for registered voter rates in the state. (the Turner race was different because it was a special elections where the non jewish turnout was so low that we were able to make a big difference)

        “Calling those with whom you disagree “anti-Semitic” does not aid your argument.”

        now may be the good time to correct the record but I truly felt (if you look for it in what I wrote you may see it) that you were not a definitively anti semite but someone who may be one but also may be uniformed about the reality of the situation (which is the reason why I went on to your blog and responded to you) based on your not really having any Orthodox Jews in your district and most likely trusting stupid and biased media.

        ” I disagree with African Americans who see racial bias in every decision, ruling or action that don’t favor blacks. I believe that reasonable people can agree to disagree without calling our opponents names.”
        the facts are like I told you above that under the 2000 redistricting lines Orthodox Jews were the leading demographic in the neighborhood that had the most Congressional, Assembly and Senate districts. Once is a accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a conspiracy.

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  3. a Jew who saw your comment on politicker says:

    just for the record you said this earlier
    “The VRA is still needed as a protection of everyone’s voting rights and ability to effectively participate in the political process. Many more black candidates for public office must run in areas outside of the black and minority community. And that’s the larger point that I intended to champion.”

    just for the record if Alan West would move to Brooklyn and run in the majority Jewish Congressional district that was suggested there is a very good chance he would win no matter who ran against him. And I repeat if you would run in some very Orthodox Assembly districts for example against Helen Weinstein you would easily win big in the Orthodox areas (if you knew how to campaign there) and there’s a good chance you would do much better in the Orthodox part then in the African American part.

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