Could Blacks Lose Their Detroit Congressional Seats?

Redistricting is putting two traditionally Black congressional seats in Detroit in jeopardy.

Less than a year after there was rampant press around the fact that Washington, D.C., once the "Chocolate City," had lost its Black majority, here comes more news about another former Black powerhouse losing its African-American luster. This time it’s Detroit, the once bustling Motor City that, in recent years, has become synonymous with the post-industrial urban blight plaguing many places in America.

Because about 25 percent of Detroit’s residents have fled the city since the year 2000, redistricting has pushed the city’s two congressional districts outward, meaning they now include white suburbs in their realms. With those white suburbs have come white Democratic challengers who are looking to oust Detroit’s longstanding Black congress people — John Conyers, Jr., who has served since 1965, and Hansen Clarke, who has served since 2003. For the first time in years, Detroit might send zero Black representatives to Congress.

Reports Bloomberg Businessweek:

"It's a more than 50 percent likelihood it will happen," said Eric Foster, 40, a political consultant in Troy, Michigan, whose clients are mostly Democrats. He said many black voters who moved from Detroit to suburbs care more about economic issues than about keeping blacks in office.

Why does it matter if there are no Blacks representing Detroit in Congress? It matters because, unlike Michigan, which has a Black population of only 14 percent, Detroit’s Black population is a whopping 83 percent, according to the 2010 census.

If whites do in fact replace Black candidates, nobody’s saying that they won’t do a great job of representing Detroit. Conyers' main opponent is a state senator, Glenn Anderson, who says he respects Conyers' service but doesn’t believe he’s done enough for Detroit’s economy, which is in a lot of trouble. "He deserves credit for what he did for civil rights 30 or 40 years ago," Anderson told Businessweek. "That’s not what we’re talking about now."

Though that's not what Anderson is talking about now, only time will tell if that’s what Black voters think. Something tells me Conyers' history of civil rights work matters far more to them than Anderson.


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(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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