REV. DAVID JEFFERSON, SR., ESQ. GUEST EDITORIAL
For nearly 60 years, Blacks have been the most reliable Democratic voting block at the national, state, and local levels. Without this deep loyalty, Democratic successes at all these levels would be virtually non-existent. Nowhere is this more evident than in my own state of New Jersey. In 2017, 94% of the Black vote supported Governor Phil Murphy and delivered him a victory he would not have otherwise enjoyed.
I could go on. But I do not need to. We all know that without the Black vote, there is no real prospect of Democratic success. Sadly, we also know that far too often, after the Black community has delivered victory for Democrats, Democrats have not delivered for the Black community. In doing so, these politicians not only betray this loyal community, but compound the deep injustices it has suffered and prolong the suffering.
If we care about this important voting constituency, we need candidates who walk the walk; believe in their promises; and deliver, or at least fight to deliver, on those promises. Lip service and window dressing is not enough. In the words of Reverend Al Sharpton, “We are giving votes away too cheaply.”
In New Jersey, we have a governor who is a “poster-child” for the disingenuous politician talking the talk, but not walking the walk. To be elected, Governor Murphy loudly trumpeted his deep devotion to the Black community, to other minorities, and to women. Once elected, he forgot about us and immediately focused instead on his next political move and advancing his own personal prospects within the Democratic establishment on the national level.
This is not meant to be a personal attack on Governor Murphy. This is a message to the party that those who represent the party must be held accountable to those who support the party, namely Black voters.
The risk to the Democratic Party from exploitive, self-interested, and disingenuous politicians cannot be understated. Moreover, if Black legislators continue in their denial and silence for personal and political gain, they are equally to blame for the conditions of their own people. They need to ask themselves if selling out their community for a photo opportunity or a few state jobs for their family members is worth it. On the other hand, should they be making “Good Trouble” in the name of the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis and truly represent their constituents?
Our young people are looking for us to provide the kind of uncompromising leadership our iconic civil rights leaders such as Dr. King, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Medgar Evers, Dr. Leon Sullivan, and Fannie Lou Hammer exhibited throughout the 1960s. The unrequited hope on the part of Blacks made them vulnerable to Governor Murphy’s loud rhetoric and passionate promises about “fairness” and “equality” in 2017. He spoke from the pulpits of our most prominent Black churches. Surely, we all thought, no man would use that literally hallowed place in our most sacred and important institutions to lie to us to our faces. But he did.
Things have changed and as you know, after shedding tears for George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, and Breonna Taylor, many Black voters remain suspicious of their government institutions and many still await the fulfillment of the promises made for generations. After watching Governor Murphy for three years, he has failed to do anything of substance voluntarily for Blacks in New Jersey and has required constant reminders and often downright begging to do the right thing. Some of our elected officials have stood strong and challenged the administration. We need more to step up and speak out in the name of economic justice and parity for the Black community. We also need our community leaders to unite and support our elected officials as they get into “Good Trouble” and push forward a legislative agenda for a better tomorrow for Black people. We can do this!
Our moment in time is now and we cannot stand silent while expecting whites to join the chorus for social, racial, and economic justice. Lean into this moment before it is too late. History will remember those who courageously stood on the side of the underserved. I implore you to stand on their side.
Reverend Dr. David Jefferson, Sr., Esq.; Pastor, Metropolitan Baptist Church, Newark, NJ; Chair, National Action Network, New Jersey; Chair, New Jersey Black Economic Justice Coalition; Host Organizer, New Jersey Economic Town Halls; Legal Advisor to Blueprint Capital Advisors LLC