Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Christies

Republican governor of New Jersey and inexplicable presidential candidate Chris Christie on the land of opportunity (boldface mine):

We are who we are because the oppressed faced the unknown and came here to start a new life. It was so jarring for Chris Christie to talk yesterday about his American Dream story as an escape from a neighborhood, Vailsburg, that was becoming integrated.

The Christie family did not escape from English monarchs who insisted on a state religion. Not from revolutions in southern Europe. Not from the potato famine. Not from the czar. Not from pogroms or the Holocaust. Not from grinding poverty. The Christie family escaped from black families moving into the neighborhood–new neighbors whose ancestors were brought to this country as slaves in chains. The Christies did not face the unknown wilderness or the known hostility of earlier settlers. They faced the grass, the open space, the all-white neighborhoods, of Livingston, New Jersey.

I cannot speak for people of color but I can imagine the pain many must have felt when Christie told the adoring and mostly white crowd at Livingston High School, “I’m here in Livingston because all those years ago, my mother and father became the first of either of their families to leave the city of Newark to come here and make this home for us.”

Not Jamestown. Or Plymouth. Or Ellis Island. Livingston.

The Christies lived in Vailsburg, a leafy residential neighborhood that, with one exception, looks pretty much today the way it did 50 years ago when the Christies escaped. The one exception, of course, is that most of the people have black or brown skin….

But the Christies did not move from Newark because of what happened in 1967. They moved earlier, just as middle class African Americans began moving into Vailsburg. There was no need for fear then. Unless, of course, you feared the black stranger.

But we live in a post-racial America, so I’m sure this has no influence on Christie’s thinking whatsoever.

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1 Response to Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Christies

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