Charles Rangel’s New District Lights a Fuse Between Blacks and Latinos

Charles Rangel’s New District Lights a Fuse Between Blacks and Latinos

Black political leaders struggle to hold onto Charles Rangel's historically Black congressional district.

Published February 29, 2012

You don’t stay in office as long as New York Rep. Charles Rangel has without building up a loyal posse that always has your back. So, while other lawmakers around the country were sweating redistricting every ten years, Rangel was as cool as his Savile Row style. According to longtime Assemblyman Denny Farrell, The New York Observer reports, when it was time to draw new congressional district lines, they’d do Rangel’s district first and everyone else had to wait until he gave the thumbs up. But this year the final word may be coming from a judge.

 

Rangel’s Harlem district has for decades been the power base for many of New York’s most influential African-American leaders. But times are changing and so is the district, which over the past ten years has been fading from Black to more white and brown. The raspy-voiced lawmaker’s allies in the state’s assembly are proposing a majority-Black district that could reach into other parts of the city that Rangel would represent until he retires and then pass down to another African-American. But Latinos, a growing population, are arguing that it’s their turn and a new district should be drawn that would favor them. The ultimate decision could be made in court.

 

So, where does that leave Rangel, a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus? According to New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rangel is such an iconic figure that he’ll be safe, but he may not be able to leave his legacy to another African-American.

 

“The question is whether it passes the Voting Rights Act [test] so it can remain a minority — and preferably an African-American — seat,” Meeks said, and “whether we’ll lose a future CBC member.”

 

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(Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Written by Joyce Jones

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