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Christie: We Should Have Put African-American’s Civil Rights To A Vote

Jim Burroway

January 26th, 2012

In response to the outcry to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a statewide referendum putting the marriage rights of same-sex couples up for a vote, Gov. Christie has doubled down against criticisms against putting the rights of minorities at the mercy of the majority:

“The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.”

This is the rest of the quote: “It was our political institutions that were holding things back. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily so special about this particular issue that it must be handled by a Legislature. Why would that be?…I don’t understand how anybody could argue with letting the people decide this issue.”

Seriously? Seriously?

Does he really think that holding a referendum on civil rights in 1964 in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas — or in Massachusetts or Michigan — would have put an end to official desegregation? Does he even think that Southern African-Americans themselves would have even been allowed to vote on this referendum? Does he honestly believe that the white citizens of Selma, Greensboro, Atlanta, Birmingham, Little Rock and Mobile would have voted to allow African-Americans to sit at their lunch counters or next to them in theaters, let alone work in their front offices and department stores? Is Christie completely unaware of the racial segregation that was legally enforced in his own state of New Jersey?

Actually, I’m beginning to think that he is fully aware of what such a referendum would have produced. He’s right in one sense: I’m sure there were a lot of people who would have been perfectly happy to hold a referendum on Black civil rights in 1964. And there would be many more people today who would be ashamed of how their parents and grandparents voted in Christie’s referendum.

Update: I love BTB readers. A commenter points out that Christie’s suggestion was already tried in California in 1964:

We did have a vote on civil rights, in California, in 1964. Prop. 14 would have put in the state constitution a provision that would void all local and state ordinances on racial discrimination in housing, and replace it with a property owner’s right to refuse to lease, sell or rent property on any basis.

The initiative passed by a 2-1 majority in Nov. 1964, even with a liberal Democratic ticket sweeping the state. It took the U.S. Supreme Court to void it.

QED.

So yeah, you don’t even have to guess at how Christie’s suggestion would work out.

Comments

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Lindoro Almaviva
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

well, there is one good thing on this quote: I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights

It is nice to see that someone finally slipped and called it what it is and acknowledged what we have been saying all along. Marriage is a civil right and these self procl;aimed “marriage defenders” want nothing more than putting the civil rights of people for a popular vote.

There we have it, confirmation in writting and i hope that this is used ad nausea in every piece of pro equality campaign.

Richard Rush
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

I try to be fair, and thus cling to the belief that some Republicans are not CRAZY, and I really thought that Governor Christie was part of that ever-shrinking rarefied group. I was wrong. Increasingly, it really does seem that virtually the entire Republican party is comprised of
Christian Religionists And Zany Yahoos.

Lindoro Almaviva
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

I wonder if he is still in the short list for a VP run in any realistic list (obviously, he still might be in GreenGrinh’s)

Jack
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

What is especially shocking about Christie’s comment is that in the South prior to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, for the most part only whites had the right to vote.

So in Christie’s view, civil rights for black Americans would have had to wait for a majority of white voters to approve them.

That would have been a long wait indeed. In states such as SC, AL, MS, and AR, it is imaginable that those referenda would remain unratified TO THIS DAY.

Ryan
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Holy cow! Whenever conservatives say in regards to gay marriage, “let the people decide” the answer is *always* “you wouldn’t let the people vote on other Civil Rights” and then the response is *always* “yeah…well, this isn’t the same thing”.

Until now. Christie says that he would, in fact, let people vote on other Civil Rights. That’s amazing. He took the crazy indefensible example pro-quality people use and…defended it. I knew he had a reputation for putting his foot in it, but this is truly beyond the pale.

coram nobis
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

We did have a vote on civil rights, in California, in 1964. Prop. 14 would have put in the state constitution a provision that would void all local and state ordinances on racial discrimination in housing, and replace it with a property owner’s right to refuse to lease, sell or rent property on any basis.

The initiative passed by a 2-1 majority in Nov. 1964, even with a liberal Democratic ticket sweeping the state. It took the U.S. Supreme Court to void it.

QED.

Lucrece
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

The privilege shows.

It’s like when he got mad at a woman for asking him how he could make cuts to public education when he sends his children to private schools, and his response to her was “I don’t tell you where to send your kids, so don’t bother me about mine. It’s none of your business.”

Wealthy fats slobs can be so predictable.

Jim
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

you keep using the word “think” in conjunction with chris christy…this is wrong

Mark F.
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

“We did have a vote on civil rights, in California, in 1964. Prop. 14 would have put in the state constitution a provision that would void all local and state ordinances on racial discrimination in housing, and replace it with a property owner’s right to refuse to lease, sell or rent property on any basis.”

And the voters were absolutely right to pass it, as it just applied to private property owners. Barry Goldwater, who was no racist, opposed civil rights laws for the same reason, but did not think the government should discriminate. (He supported integration in the military and the National Guard)

Let the personal abuse begin.

Mark F.
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Jim, You are probaly aware that business owners in the South were required to segregate. I agree that was wrong. But so is forced integration.

I can virtually guarantee that almost no major businesses would discriminate against blacks at this point in time. Can you imagine Wal-Mart doing that? Of course, they would not. Sure, you might have a few “whites only” mom and pop businesses, but so what?

Jack
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Looks like maybe Chris Christie is commenting under the name “Mark F.” Must be his Grindr handle.

Barry Goldwater may not have been a racist but he certainly was a racist’s best friend when it came to the “right” to discriminate.

Mark F.
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Jack,

Surely you are aware of the libertarian position. If you don’t agree to it, fine.

Actually, I would personally boycott any racist business and urge others to do the same. How is that being a racists best friend?

Of course there is a right to discriminate. It’s called personal freedom.

And it’s fine by me if the NJ Legislature passes gay marriage. I believe the government should not discriminate by law.

Mark F.
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

I suppose I’m also an alcoholic’s “best friend” since I oppose alcohol prohibition. And I must be the Mormon Churce’s “best friend” because I believe in religious freedom.

Blake
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Mark F., you can’t virtually guaranty anything about a reality which does not exist. I can imagine Wal-Mart doing whatever is profitable (or perceived to be profitable); including racially discriminating in states where the status quo was such.

TampaZeke
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Between the NOM-bots and the Christies it’s SO frickin refreshing to have our opponents making our case so clearly and powerfully for us.

Our oppressors could not have done a better job of promoting gay rights and marriage equality than they did during the Washington State hearings or in Christie’s rants.

I think the time has come for HRC and the rest of the national gay organizations to finally do something that will actually move our agenda forward and I can’t think of a better way than to give lots of money and lots of air time to the Christies and Gallaghers and Browns and LaBarbaras and Perkins and Robertsons and Hutchersons of the world. We’ve finally reached a point in this country where people are wising up right at the same time that Anti-Gay Inc. has completely jumped the shark!

Fun times!

Jim Burroway
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Let the personal abuse begin.

This is classic trolling behavior: Make a deliberately provocative comment (as opposed to simply stating his property-rights opinion), and openly inviting eveyone to flame him so he can become the focus of the thread — and set himself up as a martyr. And then following that with three comments in rapid succession specifically bating other commenters by name into attacking him, all within a 13 minute span. As I said, classic trolling behavior.

Trolling behavior is not allowed. Mark F. will be placed on moderation. If he wants to discuss, he can discuss, and we will approve those comments. But he cannot troll.

coram nobis
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Might want to read REITMAN v. MULKEY, 387 U.S. 369 (1967) (you can google the text, Findlaw had it among others) invalidating Prop. 14. Property is “private” but its use or misuse might involve gov’t involvement, esp. when realtors — who pushed Prop. 14 — get into the picture. It’s gov’t that enforces evictions, records title deeds, enforces covenants, and so forth. And discriminatory property covenants, a type of provision dictating to future owners, were rife in California and elsewhere.

Prop. 14 also in one swoop invalidated a number of local ordinances, an infringement on local authority.

Might also want to look up Heart of Atlanta Motel Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964), which found that private discrimination could flout the Interstate Commerce Clause. That clause, you see, is one reason why we don’t have customs checkpoints at every state border, and interstate railroads and highways and canals that often overrode individual property demands.

Context here is that if the property owner likes prospering in a federal system and not, say, cramped in a medieval little principality, then s/he has to accept a tradeoff. Christie, as a governor, certainly might know better.

Charles
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Christie really f’ed up when he made that remark. I can tell you that in South Carolina such a referendum would have surely have failed. The South Carolina Democrats (that is all we had back then folks) would have rejected it at the polls.

Ben In Oakland
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

I sure hope the north carolina people use Christie’s remarks in the upcoming campaign.

Regan DuCasse
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

His appointment of a gay/black justice to the NJ Supreme Court is such cynical tokenism.
Once again, Christie wants to lure in gay voters (for his next office), while at the same time calling for a surefire way for gay citizens to be denied an essential civil right.

The duplicity of bigots, ever cowardly, never changes.

coram nobis
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Building on Jim’s point, it’s wrong to put fundamental rights to a popular vote, even in this day and age, _even if guaranteed passage_. Ira Glasser put it better than I could:

“Democracy and liberty are often used today as synonyms, but they are not; indeed, there is an inevitable tension between them. Democracy means that people ought to have a meaningful say in the decisions that affect their lives … Liberty, on the other hand, means that even in a democracy, the majority cannot be allowed to rule everything, that people have rights — are born with rights — that no majority should be able to take away.”

Jack
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

I would like to see Bruce Harris (the “gay/black justice”) decline the nomination based on Christie’s suddenly embracing the Southern Strategy.

Erin
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Though I don’t fully agree with Mark F. on some of his points, I’m having a really hard time seeing how he’s being a troll. He made his point. He didn’t hurl insults at anyone. He simply anticipated that his point would not be very popular. I think you guys should let us talk things out and save the censorship for people who aren’t making any kind of point, just antagonizing people. Though I definitely disagree that discrimination based on race in housing shouldn’t be allowed, especially back then, I can cede the point to him when it’s other less necessary types of businesses. I can see such freedom to discriminate causing a problem for the over all public and not just the non-white individuals.

Priya Lynn
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Mark F. said “Jim, You are probaly aware that business owners in the South were required to segregate. I agree that was wrong. But so is forced integration.”.

Oh, please, spare us the “forced to” whining or any of the BS about “freedom”. Business owners are “forced to” follow hundreds, even thousands of laws to do business and in the vast majority of cases no one in their right mind thinks its any sort of imposition.

NO ONE in society has absolute freedom, our personal freedoms must always be balanced with other people’s freedoms and limited to some extent – its impossible to be otherwise. Every law limits one person’s freedoms in favour of another’s to some degree, the moral question is what is the best way to balance competing freedoms. We have to ask what individual freedoms is it reasonable to ask one or another person to give up to strike a fair balance. In the case of anti-discrimination laws, asking a business owner to perform the exact same transactions he does over and over day in and day out for others for people he dislikes is not an imposition in anyway, it is not in any way a real loss of freedom. However on the other hand to force a minority to go from business to business, or even from town to town to find service, or do without it all to gether is a serious imposition and loss of freedom for that person. Clearly in a fair and just society those who earn their living off of society are obligated to serve all members of society. That is just, fair, and balanced, allowing businesses to discriminate is not.

Henri
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

I wonder how Christie would feel about a referendum on fat people running for office. Even with a majority of Americans overweight, I bet it wouldn’t pass.

JohnAGJ
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Perhaps the governor should take a look at this map:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_miscegenation.svg

There is no way in hell that anti-miscegenation laws would have been repealed before at least the 1980s in the “Solid South” without the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision. None.

Furthermore, we didn’t even hit a plurality among Americans approving of interracial marriage until 1991, according to Gallup:

http://www.marriageequality.org/polls-and-studies

Kevin
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Major businesses do discriminate against People of Color.

http://www.bc.edu/dam/files/schools/law/lawreviews/journals/bctwj/23_1/01_FMS.htm

coram nobis
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Interesting point about Loving v. Virginia. If little Barack Obama’s parents had come to the stateside U.S. in, oh, 1965, they might have had trouble finding a place to stay in, say, California, thanks to Prop. 14, if the landlord didn’t care for their marriage. And they would have been subject to arrest in Mildred Loving’s Virgina, among other states, under the miscegenation laws.

Now he’s “evolving” on marriage, he says. He might ponder what evolved since 1965.

Blake
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Yeah, Kevin, you get that at restaurants a lot. Do you remember that more recent Denny’s incident up in Maryland. I think Denny’s had to pay out a fat settlement in that one.

Once, while driving through rural Alabama late one night on my way to Pensacola from Atlanta my friend and I stopped at a Waffle House. Before we could even get out of the parking lot we were yelled at, threatened, and called “fags.” Apparently, whereeverthehell we were in bubba-fuck Alabama the locals had decided that this particular Waffle House was the Black Waffle House and the one on the next exit up was the White Waffle House. Needless to say, we left in a hurry and elected to just get snacks at the next 24 hour gas station we found.

Also, I worked at a couple of mom & pop places in Atlanta where the rest of the wait-staff imposed a “don’t give me the black table” policy. While there was no policy of discrimination the staff created a defacto one due to the untrue perception that black people tip less. I thought they were fools, however, and took every “dark” table I could. My tips never suffered & I ended up with a few regulars to-boot.

Anyway; yeah, there is still racial discrimination in America.

mike/
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

in effect, what this large man said is, “Let’s have a vote on slavery!”

he wouldn’t see it that way, of course, but some one explain how certain states really would not consider a got like this to be a vote on slavery!

i think Abraham Lincoln, if he were alive today, would NOT be a Republican…

Mitchell Young
January 26th, 2012 | LINK

Coram Nobis,

You are absolutely right — Californian voters voted for the civil right of owners to sell to, lease to, rent to, who they wanted. That civil right was taken away from us by the courts and absurd overreaching of the so-called ‘civil rights’ movement.

Ben in Oakland
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Maybe because it was neither civil nor right?

BTW, that civil right wasn’t’t technically taken away. What was taken away was the right do do it publicly and expect the gummint to support you.

Patrick Hogan
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

There’s no need to go back to the sixties — or even the nineties — for examples of a majority of people in a state voting in favor of racism: as recently as 2004, the people of Alabama voted to keep language in their state constitution mandating racial segregation.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/30/usa.schoolsworldwide

Of course, the law is unenforceable (made so by Brown v. BOE) — but the language remains on the books to this day (http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/04/alabama_senate_votes_to_remove.html).

Donny D.
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Mitchell Young wrote,

That civil right was taken away from us by the courts and absurd overreaching of the so-called ‘civil rights’ movement.

Why do you refer to it as the “so-called ‘civil rights’ movement”?

Priya Lynn
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

“Why do you refer to it as the “so-called ‘civil rights’ movement”?”

The only reason I can think of is that he doesn’t support the idea of equality for black people.

Jim Burroway
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

I’ve decided to reconsider and remove Mark F. from moderation. I am nevertheless wary of anyone who states an opinion and then invites people to attack him. That’s not what this forum is for.

coram nobis
January 27th, 2012 | LINK

Mitchell Young, Ben in Oakland –

Prop. 14′s state constitutional amendment wasn’t a pre-existing right, but created. Trouble was, it clashed with the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the one about no state denying due process or equal protection of the law. There’s also that bit in the 9th about not construing the Constitution to deny or disparage other rights. FYI.

And as a matter of commercial rights, Justice Douglas’ concurrence in Mulkey noted that segregation tended to stifle credit in “mixed” neighborhoods. There was also this back-and-forth:

“[E]ach time we citizens of this country lose any of the rights that go with the ownership of property, we are moving that much closer to a centralized government in which ultimately the right to own property would be denied.”

That apparently is a common view. It overlooks several things. First, the right to own or lease property is already denied to many solely because of the pigment of their skin; they are, indeed, under the control of a few who determine where and how the colored people shall live and what the nature of our cities will be. Second, the agencies that are zoning the cities along racial lines are state licensees.

Zoning is a state and municipal function. … When the State leaves that function to private agencies or institutions which are licensees and which practice racial discrimination and zone our cities into white and black belts or white and black ghettoes, it suffers a governmental function to be performed under private auspices in a way the State itself may not act.

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