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If only we were purple. . .
Jonathan Pait
August 13, 2001

Senator Ralph Anderson of Senate District 7 says that he will have a “very, very, very difficult” fight for re-election in 2004 if the current redistricting plan stands. The plan will alter the current makeup of the district creating a 55.12 percent white to 44.88 percent black ratio. Obviously, there is a political battle going on here. Forget the politics for a moment and take another look at this story.

Before you read any further, take a moment to read this article in The Greenville News.

The article, by Dan Hoover, begins “A reapportionment plan that imperils the Upstate’s lone black senator. . .” Did you ask yourself, “Why?” Why would reapportionment hurt Sen. Anderson’s chances at reelection? The article implies that it is due to the fact that “District 7 would drop from a virtual 50-50 black-white split to more than 55 percent white.” So, of course, the “lone black senator” would be on the hot seat.

Just a second, there is something else that is not pointed out the article—at least not with the same clarity. Not only is Sen. Anderson the “lone black senator” in the Upstate, he is also the “lone Democrat senator” in Greenville County. Perhaps Senator Anderson’s uphill battle (if indeed it materializes) is not due to the color of peoples’ skin, but to the nature of their politics.

Those concerned about Sen. Anderson’s seat make the age-old assumption that, at least in Greenville County, the blacks are going to vote Democrat and the whites are going to go Republican. Granted, conventional wisdom gives credence to this assumption and Dan Hoover should not be faulted for his reasoning in that regard. However, isn’t that sad?

Just for a moment, let’s pretend we are all purple. District 7 in all other ways is the same—but the population is purple. How would this article then read? “A reapportionment plan that imperils Greenville County’s lone Democrat senator, will be debated this week when the Republican-held Legislature returns to Columbia.” What then would truly imperil his seat? Would it be the ideas that drive people’s choices? Could it be the political affiliations they maintain with like-minded members of the community?

How is it that our skin color determines our political ideals? Is it impossible for a black person to be a Republican? Can a white person in Greenville County be a Democrat? More specifically to our purpose here, why can’t Ralph Anderson be elected in a district that has a majority white population? Come to think of it, he has. The current district breaks down 50.22 percent white to 49.78 percent black.

Ralph Anderson is a good man. He was a voice of reason in the recent fight over the flag over the State House dome. Certainly, he can reach out to both segments of his district’s population to win the votes needed for reelection. However, if he should not win—it will not be because there are not enough black people in his district. It will be because there aren’t enough Democrats.

If we were all purple, come 2004, it would be obvious.

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