The release last week of the first numbers from the 2010 Census underscores even more than usual the importance for all Americans, and especially Americans of color of heeding the nationwide redistricting process about to get under way. As the U.S. Census Bureau releases more data in February and March, state legislatures will begin redrawing the boundaries of their political districts – a process that will be heavily influenced by population shifts. The new Census numbers show the effect such shifts and growth in population can have.
For example, the new numbers show an acceleration of the shift in the growth of the population from the Northeast and Midwestern parts of the country to the Southeast and western regions. The list of states which have won or lost Congressional seats because of the population shifts tell the tale. Seven of those ten states that will lose one or two Congressional seats are in the Midwest or Northeast. The eight states that will gain seats are in the Southeast or the West; Texas, whose population grew by more than 20 percent, will gain 4 new representatives in Congress.
Overall, the American population grew by roughly 10 percent, from 285 million to more than 308 million. That growth was fueled by the increase of Latino Americans, from 36 million to 47 million. The Asian-American population grew from 11 million to 14 million, white Americans from 230 million to 244 million, and African Americans, from 36 million to 39 million.
To help African Americans and other minorities prepare for the redistricting process, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) has launched a redistricting preparedness initiative that aims to heighten awareness and encourage participation in the process. The Redrawing the Lines initiative includes a public education video and website that can be found at www.redrawingthelines.org. In addition, LDF has joined with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) to produce “The Impact of Redistricting in Your Community.” The booklet is a guide that aims to empower communities of color to play a meaningful role in upcoming local, state and congressional redistricting efforts.