At a rally to boost black and Latino representation in Congress, Espaillat cautions against redistricting 'crackers'
9:45 am Mar. 12, 20121
A prominent group of New York Democrats argued this weekend that Charlie Rangel's congressional district in Harlem needs to be preserved for an African-American successor while creating a new Latino congressional seat next door.
The group, appearing live on Al Sharpton's radio show while standing in his office on 145th Street on Saturday, said the congressional lines drawn by a judge increased the number of Latino residents in Rangel's district, which they said unfairly pit the two ethnic groups against one another.
The group wants to make sure "congressman Rangel's congressional district remains as much as it always has been in the future as it has been in the past," said New York State Democratic Party executive director Charlie King.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said Rangel's district "should continue in the future to be represented by a black individual."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said lawmakers needed to "create and protect" Rangels' seat, which is "the greatest seat" and "international."
Some of the remarks suggested that the redistricting process, as directed by the courts in the absence of competent execution by the legislature, was systematically discriminatory against the interests of minority voters.
The Manhattan Democratic County Chairman, Assemblyman Keith Wright, repeatedly referred to the judge who drew the congressional lines by her formal title, "special master," replacing the "er" sound with an "ah" and saying, "I don't like being told what to do by a special master."
Later, State Senator Adriano Espaillat of Washington Heights told the crowd about two practices that disenfranchise minorities during redistricting: "packing," which crams minority voters into one district to limit their influence, and "cracking" which divides ethnic strongholds into many districts, ensuring they can't unify behind any one candidate.
"So these crackers, that are here today," Espaillat said, to cheers from the crowd, "still around, crackers, that are here today, cracking districts all over the city of New York, cracking here and cracking there."
UPDATE: Wright objects to my characterization of his speech, saying in a statement:
"I have always taken pride in my enunciation, I speak the Queen's English and am appalled that some may think that an elected official from Harlem cannot speak with proper diction. In actuality, I have even toyed with the possibility of becoming a voice-over actor in a future career. At the National Action Network on Saturday, I spoke about the Special Master in charge of redistricting. At the meeting, I expressed my displeasure with the title of Special Master and as well as the proposed maps. In fact, I was a member of the Board of Overseers at Tufts University, until I successfully lobbied the members to change the racially charged title to the Board of Advisors, of which I am also a member. Certain terms are racially charged in our society and the inference made by some in the press that I was not properly enunciating the word 'master' is far from the truth. I would encourage you to view the video yourself to see my perfect, albeit loud, diction. The Daily News once went after my father, giving him the nickname of 'Turn 'em Loose Bruce' and I will save them the trouble by coming up with my own nickname, 'Right Speaking Wright'."