.

Opinion: What Martin Luther King Would Say as a Jersey Guy Today

Ridgewood mayor Paul Aronsohn reflects on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wonders how he'd view current societal issues in the Garden State.

The following was submitted by Ridgewood Mayor Paul Aronsohn and first ran in the Sunday edition of the Star-Ledger.

Imagine that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is still alive.

Imagine, for a moment, that he is still here on Earth … living, preaching, advocating and leading. Imagine that he is here to celebrate his 84th birthday before heading down to Washington tomorrow to witness the second inauguration of the first African-American president.

And imagine that he has followed the path taken by many prominent leaders — such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Richard Nixon — and decided to spend his later years living right here in New Jersey.

Something tells me King would have a lot to say. From civil rights to economic justice to war, he would likely have strong views on the full range of contemporary topics. Voter disenfranchisement. Disability rights. Fiscal cliffs. Income inequality. Health care reform. Sandy. Newtown. Afghanistan. Terrorism.

But King would likely spend much of his time talking about his new home state, because the honorary St. Peter’s College doctor of law had a special affinity for New Jersey. 

As such, he would tell friends that he moved to the Garden State because of its rich, diverse culture … its tradition of political moderation and social progressivism … and, of course, its wonderful shoreline. (King liked his summers.) Having resettled his family in Bergen County, he would be known for boasting of his adopted suburban community and for challenging his New York friends with his passionate defense of all things New Jersey.

But lately, he would focus his thoughts on the changes that have taken place the past few years — changes that have threatened that culture, undermined that moderation and progress, and devastated that shoreline. 

He would welcome the demographic shifts that have occurred over the years, leading to an even more ethnically and racially diverse population. But he would criticize decisions that have left our state Supreme Court without an African-American jurist, our congressional delegation without a woman and thousands of people with developmental disabilities without a place to call home. And he would express deep frustration and disappointment that his belovedNew Jersey has failed to do the right thing regarding one of the most significant civil rights issues of the day: marriage equality.

He would speak of the state’s rampant unemployment — one of the worst in the country, even before the recent hurricane put many out of business. He would talk about the increasing tax burden that is crushing middle-class families throughout the state … a tax burden caused by a 20 percent increase in property taxes, reductions in the earned income tax credit for the working poor and cuts in the Homestead Tax Rebate for seniors and people with disabilities. 

He would condemn the toxic political environment in Trenton. He would welcome the occasional bipartisanship, but challenge our elected leaders to set a more positive, more productive tone. In that spirit, he would urge the governor to refrain from his notorious public outbursts, name-calling and derogatory language. And while he would acknowledge the governor’s national ambitions, he would ask him to come back to the political center on issues ranging from global warming to reproductive health. 

He would talk endlessly about the need to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to give immediate aid to our brothers and sisters in nearby Little Ferry and Moonachie, whose towns and lives have been left in great disrepair. And he would question the motives and judgment of those congressional members who have opposed such assistance, begging them to reconsider their position in the name of all that is good and decent.

He would note with disbelief that the governor failed to make even a single reference to the Newtown massacre in his recent state of the state address, suggesting it was a missed opportunity to address the culture of violence that victimizes too many of our children.

Finally, King would emphasize the importance of this year’s gubernatorial election. He would implore his fellow New Jerseyans to take this election and their vote very seriously. He would note that the best way to right the wrongs of the past few years — the social stagnation, the economic injustice and the political polarization — is through the ballot box. As he famously explained, “Voting is the foundation stone for political action.”

Taken together, if King were alive and living in our great Garden State, he would be pleased, but concerned — pleased with the progress made over the years, concerned with recent decisions seemingly taking us in the wrong direction. He would challenge the collective conscience and collective wisdom of New Jersey’s political class to do better, to be better. He would remind us all of our common humanity.

And one last thing: If King were alive, something tells me that the avid basketball fan would express his profound disappointment with the Nets’ move to Brooklyn, noting that the Teaneck-born team should have stayed in its rightful home in Newark. After all, King had developed an increasingly close relationship with the Brick City, which had become a focus of his Poor People’s Campaign and that today bears many tributes to the great civil rights leader. 

Perhaps presciently, during his last visit to Newark on March 27, 1968 — just a week before his assassination — King reportedly noted to a couple of local journalists, “I’ll be coming back to New Jersey because there is a lot to be done.”

Vostra Guida January 23, 2013 at 01:30 PM
A little history lesson (Part 6): June 12, 1929 First Lady Lou Hoover invites wife of U.S. Rep. Oscar De Priest (R-IL), an African-American, to tea at the White House, sparking protests by Democrats across the country. August 17, 1937 Republicans organize opposition to former Ku Klux Klansman and Democrat U.S. Senator Hugo Black, appointed to U.S. Supreme Court by FDR; his Klan background was hidden until after confirmation. June 24, 1940 Republican Party platform calls for integration of the armed forces; for the balance of his terms in office, FDR refuses to order it. September 30, 1953 Earl Warren, California’s three-term Republican Governor and 1948 Republican vice presidential nominee, nominated to be Chief Justice; wrote landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. November 25, 1955 Eisenhower administration bans racial segregation of interstate bus travel. March 12, 1956 Ninety-seven Democrats in Congress condemn Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and pledge to continue segregation. June 5, 1956 Republican federal judge Frank Johnson rules in favor of Rosa Parks in decision striking down “blacks in the back of the bus” law. September 9, 1957 President Dwight Eisenhower signs Republican Party’s 1957 Civil Rights Act.
Vostra Guida January 23, 2013 at 01:36 PM
A little history lesson (Part 7): September 24, 1957 Sparking criticism from Democrats such as Senators John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, President Dwight Eisenhower deploys the 82nd Airborne Division to Little Rock, AR to force Democrat Governor Orval Faubus to integrate public schools. May 6, 1960 President Dwight Eisenhower signs Republicans’ Civil Rights Act of 1960, overcoming 125-hour, around-the-clock filibuster by 18 Senate Democrats. May 2, 1963 Republicans condemn Democrat sheriff of Birmingham, AL for arresting over 2,000 African-American schoolchildren marching for their civil rights. September 29, 1963 Gov. George Wallace (D-AL) defies order by U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson, appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower, to integrate Tuskegee High School. June 9, 1964 Republicans condemn 14-hour filibuster against 1964 Civil Rights Act by U.S. Senator and former Ku Klux Klansman Robert Byrd (D-WV). Byrd served as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate until 2010 when he died.
Vostra Guida January 23, 2013 at 01:37 PM
A little history lesson (Part 8): June 10, 1964 Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) criticizes Democrat filibuster against 1964 Civil Rights Act, calls on Democrats to stop opposing racial equality. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was introduced and approved by a staggering majority of Republicans in the Senate. The Act was opposed by most southern Democrat senators, several of whom were proud segregationists—one of them being Al Gore Sr. Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson relied on Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader from Illinois, to get the Act passed. August 4, 1965 Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) overcomes Democrat attempts to block 1965 Voting Rights Act; 94% of Senate Republicans vote for landmark civil right legislation, while 27% of Democrats oppose. Voting Rights Act of 1965, abolishing literacy tests and other measures devised by Democrats to prevent African-Americans from voting, signed into law; higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats vote in favor. August 10, 1988 President Ronald Reagan signs Civil Liberties Act of 1988, compensating Japanese-Americans for deprivation of civil rights and property during World War II internment ordered by FDR February 19, 1976 President Gerald Ford formally rescinds President Franklin Roosevelt’s notorious Executive Order authorizing internment of over 120,000 Japanese-Americans during WWII.
Vostra Guida January 23, 2013 at 01:43 PM
A little history lesson (Part 9): September 15, 1981 President Ronald Reagan establishes the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to increase African-American participation in federal education programs. June 29, 1982 President Ronald Reagan signs 25-year extension of 1965 Voting Rights Act. August 10, 1988 President Ronald Reagan signs Civil Liberties Act of 1988, compensating Japanese-Americans for deprivation of civil rights and property during World War II internment ordered by FDR. November 21, 1991 President George H. W. Bush signs Civil Rights Act of 1991 to strengthen federal civil rights legislation. August 20, 1996 Bill authored by U.S. Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY) to prohibit racial discrimination in adoptions, part of Republicans’ Contract With America, becomes law. So, I agree with Mr. Aronsohn, elections are important ... vote wisely.
Vostra Guida January 23, 2013 at 06:24 PM
The above history lesson was excerpted from http://www.black-and-right.com/the-democrat-race-lie/

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »