Generally speaking, the most nefarious laws and policies don’t make themselves known; they have a way of hiding behind names that are either deliberately misleading doublespeak (“Citizens United,” “The Patriot Act)), alphanumeric codes, or silly-sounding gibberish that sounds like it should mean nothing. “Gerrymandering,” like the “Filibuster,” is one of the latter. Sure, they could have called it “Institutionalized Segregation,” “Racial-Political Profiling” or “Negation of Democracy.” But those things sound really, really bad; “Gerrymandering” just sounds so damn…CUTE. It sounds like something grandpa would do while feeding treats to a fat cat named Mr. Mittens.
And indeed, “gerrymandering” is something a cute, little, old man would do; specifically, a cute, little old man like Kimball Brace. Brace, like most delusional old men, has no idea that he’s literally swimming in the ocean of racism, mindlessly working toward the destruction of everything our forefathers built. He doesn’t see himself as an engineer of tyranny — the district lines he’s hired to draw around pockets of races and demographics are expressions of his inner artistic spirit.
Antonin Scalia said that racism was dead. Bruce proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that racism didn’t die — like most things of its generation, racism just sold out and got a well-paying job. For those of us in the real world, it’s hard to believe that the man who draws imaginary fences around populations of whites, Mexicans, Dominicans and blacks DOESN’T see himself as the modern Jim Crow. But the very fact that he doesn’t proves the problem: racism has become so thoroughly ingrained in our culture and institutions that it has become a frame of reference in itself.
We see the fact that only five seats in Congress are contested as an utter failure of our electoral system; those in power see it as five seats short of perfect. When Scalia says we no longer need laws to protect us from racism at the polls, he’s right — because the racism is a feature of the system itself. It’s a feature hidden in the science, and the art, of gerrymandering.