You guys may have heard me asking the question “why is the segregation so pervasive in Hickory?” Or this one: “why are Hickory’s minority populations so historically underrepresented?”
I haven’t found the full answer. It’s complicated. But I found part of it.
After African Americans won the right to vote, a whole slew of nasty little laws and provisions were put in place to disenfranchise them. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was enacted by Congress to get rid of the most obvious of these, like literacy tests. But at-large voting systems slipped through, although they came about during the era of Jim Crow laws and were meant to keep the power away from minorities.
We can’t even begin to fix our racial problems so long as our City Council system is voted on at-large. I know we do have a black man on council now, and he’s fighting a hard fight with honor, but he ran unopposed. It would have been hard for him to get elected opposite a white man in the general election, despite support from his ward, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT THE SYSTEM IS DESIGNED TO DO.
This system isn’t just keeping African Americans out of office…it also means that money can almost win the local elections, and the powers that be pump money to the folks they want to be elected. That’s why you might see the positive changes like the Bond as…lopsided.
I’ll be talking more about this as I research it more.
Southern Coalition for Social Justice: At-Large Voting
At-Large Elections and Minority-Group Representation: A Re-Examination of Historical and Contemporary Evidence
Facing South: Challenging the Racism of At-Large Systems
Tracking the Court Through a Political Thicket: AtLarge Election Systems and Minority Vote Dilution
To be clear: I do not think the current council is full of racist people. I believe the system is racist and people have been unfairly gaining advantage from it. No one currently serving created the system, but the responsible thing to do is to fix the issue so that we have fair representation.