The 9th District
John Branston is right to say that Memphis "was no racial utopia in the events leading up to the creation of the 9th District" (City Beat, October 1st issue). However, it is important that voters are not left with the misimpression that the 9th District was "set aside" to elect an African American. In fact, the opposite is true.
As a staff member for Harold Ford Sr. and Harold Ford Jr., I helped draw the new lines for the 9th Congressional District after the 1990 and 2000 censuses, and race was never considered. According to census figures at the time, the 9th District became more heavily populated with African Americans as more white constituents moved out of the city. If anything, the district became more balanced racially after both redistricting rounds.
While the 9th District has been majority African-American for some time, it was not the result of any intentional efforts to ensure minority representation, as was the case in 1990, when the Justice Department ordered 13 states to redraw their congressional districts to make them "majority-minority" districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act. Tennessee was not one of those states.
Harold Ford Sr., Harold Ford Jr., and Steve Cohen were all elected and re-elected with sizable bipartisan, biracial majorities based on their effective representation. Cohen's opponent and his surrogates have tried to perpetuate the myth that the 9th District was "set aside so that blacks could have representation." Such a race-based appeal is not only divisive, it is patently false.
Litter, Cell phones, and Frayser
Re: Bruce VanWyngarden's column on litter in Memphis (Editor's Note, October 1st issue): I think another big Memphis problem is its bad drivers. One of the biggest contributors to that problem is people driving while using cell phones. Tennessee has a law, but it is ambiguous at best.
The United Kingdom has outlawed all cell-phone use while driving. The government funded a study that found some surprising facts: Hands-free phones are more distracting to drivers than hand-held, so they outlawed both. They made the fine 750 pounds, approximately $1,200.
Drive around Memphis for a couple of hours and see how many people are on the phone behind the wheel. Then imagine how quickly the city could be back in the black by fining scofflaws. You might think that I am making these suggestions tongue in cheek, but the last time I was in England, the insurance companies were petitioning Parliament to repeal the law. They were having to lower their premiums because drivers were having so many fewer wrecks.
Regarding the last word in the first line of last week's Editor's Note: I know that "Frayser" is pronounced the way VanWyngarden spelled it, but the folks who live there don't recognize the difference between their pronunciation and its spelling. I gave up pronouncing it correctly when I realized I was vastly outnumbered.
Editor's note: I blame the Frazier marathon on the USA Network last weekend.
So Long, Dalai
Charles Gillihan's letter about the Dalai Lama (October 1st issue) espouses typical cultural ignorance from someone who has gathered his worldviews secondhand. If one really wants to brag about their own Calvinistic philosophies or the inherent evil of mankind, go ahead. I, for one, find such an outlook to be a reflection on the person touting it.
It is also a reflection on the writer to assert that the Dalai Lama, of all people, has "arbitrary" or questionable moral outlooks. We don't all have to be saved Christians or even believers in God(s) to know right from wrong. Such an assertion is, ironically for Gillihan, a fallacy.
Gillihan's letter started with offensive statements and ended without a clear direction. His assertion that forgiveness is always coupled with restitution is false. In fact, part of being a mature adult is having the ability to forgive without expecting restitution.
I haven't been this disgusted at someone's willingness to proclaim their own bigotries in a long time. And we wonder why we have a hard time keeping young, educated people in our city.
Anjali M. Jones