Justice and Voting Rights
300 years ago, slavery was legal, women had limited rights and only rich white men who held land free of debt could hold this governmental office. If these laws still existed today, almost no one could hold the Freeholder office, not Black Americans, not Asian Americans, not Hispanic Americans, not American women. Even most white men could not because most men in New Jersey still have a mortgage on their homes. Under the original laws when the term Freeholder was chosen to describe the privilege to serve, 91% of the citizens of New Jersey could not serve as county Freeholder.
Hunterdon Residents Ineligible to Server as County Commissioner
Ineligible due to race: 46% of the population
Ineligible due to gender: 50% of the population
Ineligible due to lack of wealth: 67% of the population
|Population||% of Hunterdon Residents|
|Indebted Caucasian Men||18%|
|Eligible – Wealthy Caucasian Males||9%|
Over the centuries, we have had advancements. It’s a slow road to justice. Change comes in the smallest of incremental steps, sadly, unfairly. But at last our change is coming, bending towards justice and equity. In January, one of the last vestiges of this classist, sexist and racist governmental regime was ended, when we changed the name from Freeholder to Commissioner.
While in substance, the most egregious aspects ended decades ago, the name remained. The name was like a confederate statue in the town square, misguided at best, or tone deaf to the ongoing issues of classism, racism and sexism. At worst, it was statement of longing to return to injustice and inequity.
I believe Hunterdon aspires to be a true full democracy. We aspire to subjugate no one. We aspire to be better angels, to work to improve on our shortcomings, and advance our community. Sadly, some in our very community, do not have such aspirations. They would deny the existence of systemic racism, and even to foster it. They would actively work to subjugate women, or just be apathetic to such subjugation. And they would act to protect the unearned privileges of the classists and to create new ones for themselves alone. We can see this in our current county Commissioners. While they have taken the name Commissioners, instead Freeholders, they do not embody the ideals. Instead of working to expand participation in our democracy, they attend that “stop the steel” rally on January 6th, in order to deny the will and rights of all voters. They read Dr. Seuss just when some of its several racist sections are denounced, even by the publishers of Dr. Seuss. They fail to support women in need as these women fight to obtain parity, failing to properly support women’s crisis facilities. And they continue to exercise the unfair legal privileges that only they have.
I believe that changing the name from Freeholder to Commissioner was long overdue. I also believe that it is not enough to only change names. I believe that regular substantive improvements must be made too. That’s why I am running for county Commissioner. Only a county government that advances all classes, sexes and races is just and equitable. What’s more, such a just and equitable county is also healthier and wealthier. There are some who would turn back the arc of our social universe. I for one will be bending towards justice at each available turn, even at the small turns, like changing our name, and I will continue to fight to protect the rights and privileges that we have already earned and won.