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Are Asians Now “The Other White Meat”?

ALPERN AT LARGE - If the title of this piece offends you, imagine how much this LA City Council Redistricting travesty should offend you, me or any other person with a sense of moral decency and common sense.  Call it race consciousness, call it racial obsessiveness, call it racial awareness, call it whatever you want … but don’t forget to include the term “racism” in describing the circus that this City Council redistricting effort has become.
“Racism” and a thinly-veiled bloodsport that involves members of the City Council vying for power by treating Angeleno constituents as pathetic, less-than-human pawns and promoting district maps that any elementary school student would conclude is obvious gerrymandering. (Link)

And please spare me, and everyone else decrying this travesty of a redistricting process, the lecture on the Federal Voting Rights Act that was passed in the 1960’s to protect the rights of underrepresented minorities.

This LA City Council redistricting process has created a map that has Bernard Parks’ CD8 district redrawn into an arbitrary snakelike fiefdom that is anything but protecting voters’ rights.  Instead, it’s a curious collection of neighborhoods drawn into a diluted, powerless entity that has an illogical geography from the Mid-City to the eastern half of Westchester.

To the credit of both Councilmember Parks and CD11 Councilmember Bill Rosendahl (from whose district the eastern half of Westchester gets sundered into this redrawn CD8), the two men shared the wrath of the hundreds (perhaps up to 2000 people, by my rough count) of Westchester residents who crowded into a City Council redistricting meeting last Thursday night.

Before the meeting, Councilmember Parks raised the right question to me when he queried whether Westchester residents were informed earlier in the redistricting process that they might have their decades-old community cut in twain as a result of this process.  The councilmember also raised another key question:  just who made this map, and for what end?

It needs to be said that the state of California just came out with a redistricting map of its Assembly and State Senate seats that was meant to end arbitrary and snake-like districts to focus on keeping communities together.  So for the City Council of LA to come up with more than a few jaw-dropping snaking and curlicued districts is a marked slap in the face of a voting electorate who wants nothing more than logical, reasonable, and fair district boundaries at all governmental levels.

My greatest fear is this is just a power-play among a few misbehaving City Councilmembers hoping to reward some of their colleagues and punish others, and if this fear should become reality then I hope that appropriate legal action is taken—particularly if this redistricting is being done in the name of civil rights.

But more importantly, (arguably, most importantly), has the Federal Voting Rights Act been hijacked by those willing to engage in such disgusting power politics?  Isn’t the Federal Voting Rights Act open to serious reinterpretation by local and even federal legal jurisdictions after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to recognize multiracial voting blocs in 2009? (Link)

It’s NOT 1965, it’s 2012.  It’s become very easy to question how the once-necessary, always-noble, but possibly-outdated effort of fighting the historic underrepresentation of black and Latino voters is still being fought as if it were still 1965 (particularly if black and Latino politicians are now fighting each other to gain power through redistricting).

White politicians certainly have a decrepit history of redrawing districts to disempower black and Latino voters, but decades after the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, is an equally-appropriate question whether black politicians also have a history of disempowering Latino voters?  

From South LA to Compton, the population is increasingly Latino and decreasingly black as a percentage of the population … so would redistricting in 2012 legally “strive” to create one more Latino, and one fewer black, City Council seat?

The answer, of course, should be a resounding NO, and the need and time has come for our political “experts” and “leaders” to now rethink whether THEY are the “old guard”, the “outdated”, and “racist fossils of the past era”.  

Antonio Villaraigosa was NOT voted in as mayor of LA merely because he was Latino, and Barack Obama was NOT voted in as president of the US merely because he was black, any more than Jerry Brown was voted in as governor of California because he was old, bald or white.  They were all voted in by a majority of voters—both white and nonwhite, Democrat and Republican, young and old—because they had the right message at the right time.  

Which brings me back to the unpleasant-yet-timely title of this piece, one that references the horrible double-standard that has been assigned to another minority that certainly has its own history of discrimination and voter disenfranchisement—Asians.  And judging by the way Koreatown is being treated by the redistricting process, Asians remain disenfranchised. (Link)

I can’t forget the Asian-American male medical student who described the lumping of himself and other high-achieving students of his gender/ethnicity as the “worst kind of animal” with respect to medical school.  I also can’t forget my African-American patient who made it clear that he wanted his kids to compete in school against the Asian kids who were making all the grade curves and leading the competition in getting into a good college.

I can’t forget the Japanese-American relocation camps, or the mistreatment of Chinese- and other Asian-Americans in LA, any more than Jewish Americans like myself were once discriminated against because they were “non-white”.

And for some reason, Asians and Jews are now “white” with respect to civil rights protections (or lack thereof), and perhaps even in the public eye—and which now calls into question the purposes and goals of these protections in the year 2012.

Neither Asians nor blacks nor whites nor Latinos are “meat” to be hunted or tossed around by political predators who seek trophies for their personal egos or gain.  They are all individuals with first and last names, with families and neighborhoods, and who should be redistricted and otherwise treated with the dignities afforded all voters and taxpayers.

And is Martin Luther King Day so far in our rear-view mirrors that we’ve forgotten that whole “judging people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin” thing?

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) who previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and who currently is Vice Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He is also a dermatologist with a two-decade history of treating all people of all skin colors and ethnic backgrounds, and who long ago concluded that they’re all pretty much the same.  The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

Tags: Ken Alpern, Asians, Latinos, Blacks, African Americans, Los Angeles, Redistricting, City Council, Bernard Parks, Bill Rosendahl

Vol 10 Issue 11
Pub: Feb 7, 2012