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Quentin Whitwell, The Minority?

April 9, 2011

As the lone Republican on the seven-member Jackson city council Quentin Whitwell knows what it is like to be in the minority, but some funny dialogue ensued when council members began looking at redistricting in the city that has dropped more than 10,000 residents in the past 10 years. Further, the white population is now around just 19 percent.

The council currently has two whites on it: Whitwell and Margaret Barrett-Simon, who is a Democrat. As Barrett-Simon’s district has shifted to mostly black residents, she has continued to win re-election but speculation is that demographics have shifted enough for a strong challenge from an African-American.

As far as redistricting goes, the Clarion-Ledger states that the city must follow these policies: “The law requires ward lines be drawn so that the largest ward is no more than 10 percent larger than the smallest. There are other requirements, including keeping incumbents where possible, keeping intact communities with established ties of common interest (historical, racial, economic or religious, as examples), and ensuring fair representation of all minority groups.”

Council President Frank Blunston joked with Whitwell saying, “Mr. Whitwell, you’re a minority, aren’t you?” The Republican quickly responded with, “Yes, sir.”

This lead to questions on whether or not laws protecting minorities, designed for blacks when whites were the majority, are also meant for whites, when they are minority. Some say yes, some say now. We saw the Justice Department, under George W. Bush, pursue the first known reverse racism case against Ike Brown in Noxubee county in his attempt to prevent whites from voting. I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything like that under Attorney General Eric Holder.

As for the city council makeup when you punch the numbers, a seven-member council in a city that is 19 percent white will have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 whites on it. Translation: there’s not an easy equation for this situation. And, of course, in cities and counties throughout the state we very rarely get numbers that matchup identically with their demographics.

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