OPINION | Guess who’s Black?

Doxey Kamara, Intersections Editor

Will Embree

On the census, anyone who identifies as Black can fill in that bubble. In an ongoing Supreme Court case, Ardoin v. Robinson, Louisiana’s Republican secretary of state is attempting to change that. Claiming that the current legal definition of Black — one that includes all Black-identifying individuals — is “yet another independent legal error,” Louisiana officials are trying to restrict the definition of Black. 

Their proposed alternative would only count non-Latino individuals who check only “Black” or “Black” and “White” on the census. Others — people who are Black and also Asian, Hispanic or Latino, or Native, would not be counted as Black.

What makes a multiracial Black and white person more eligible for Blackness than a Black Latino?

Political convenience.

The more limited definition would allow Republicans to draw new maps for congressional voting districts and do so in a way that may otherwise violate the Voting Rights Act. Currently, the proposed redistricting in Louisiana would violate Section 2 of the act by giving a minority group less opportunity to participate in elections. By narrowing the official number of Black people in an area, redistricting could dampen the Black vote without outright violating the law. 

On a more personal level, this endeavor suggests that the state aims to assume control over the identities of its residents. The question, legally, has shifted from the question “are you?” to the statement “you are.” If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Ardoin and the Louisiana Republicans, the state would begin policing race again. Not only would Blackness be denied to multiracial Americans, but Black voters would be denied accurate representation in the census.

This effort to suppress the Black vote by playing word games is not a good-faith attempt, as suggested by its proponents, to “prevent state actors from artificially inflating the minority counts of their redistricting plans.” It is an attempt to disenfranchise minority groups by carefully choosing who is and is not a member.

In 2010, the U.S. census measured 9 million people in the U.S.’s multiracial population. Ten years later, in 2020, the multiracial population increased 276% to 33.8 million. Specifically excluding this rapidly growing group of Americans for the sake of redder redistricting is not just a bold move but one clearly made for the pursuit of more political power. Not only should it be widely condemned, but Americans should be concerned by it regardless of political party. Why should a political party determine what aspects of your identity are and are not valid?

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