November 2, 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey (ACLU-NJ), the League of Women Voters of New Jersey (League), and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (Institute) issued statements today condemning the racist and xenophobic mailer that attacked two candidates for the Edison Board of Education.

The mailer states: “Make Edison Great Again” and includes pictures of two school board candidates, one Chinese American the other Indian American, with a red “DEPORT” stamp under their faces, according to NJ 101.5. Underneath their photos it states: “The Chinese and Indians are taking over our town! Chinese school! Indian school! Cricket fields! Enough is enough!” The reverse side says, “Stop wasting school holidays! Stop the outsiders!”

No one has taken responsibility for the mailer, according to news reports. More than 45 percent of Edison’s 100,000 residents were born overseas and about a quarter was born in India, NJ 101.5 reports.

  • “This mailer hits New Jerseyans so personally because we know that the qualities this flier disparages – diversity, unity, strength through difference, even the democratic process and democracy itself – are so fundamental to what it means to be American,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha. “Immigrants make America great, but it goes deeper: immigrants make America America. New Jersey has the highest proportion of Asian Americans of any state. This is a community of Americans, of New Jerseyans, of people who belong right here. They are our neighbors, and they are us.We must organize and fight back against hateful, bigoted attacks on our immigrant communities and defend the rights we share. In New Jersey, an attack on one of us is an attack on us all. Let’s proclaim what it means to be American, together, by standing up to discrimination, by showing up on Tuesday to vote, and by saying loud and clear that xenophobia and fear-mongering have no place in our state.”
  • “This is an example of how our current political environment is both normalizing and fueling racism. Only by standing together and making it clear that this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated can we begin to fight back,” said Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey.  “The League echoes calls for a full investigation to uncover the group behind this vile ad.”
  • “Acts of racism, xenophobia, and division have been emboldened since the 2016 presidential election,” said Ryan Haygood, President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “These flyers are yet another reminder of the critical task before us to stand up against it in all of its manifestations – whether it be found on flyers in Edison, in the Bordentown police department, on a college campus in Charlottesville, or in state legislatures where public policies do violence to our pursuit of social justice.”
  • “These kinds of intimidating activities are meant to undermine the political power of communities of color,” said Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski. “These tactics show the importance of getting out and voting on November 7. New Jersey voters must send a clear message that we reject any attempts to divide our communities.”

On Tuesday November 7, the first statewide elections since the 2016 Presidential Election, New Jersey voters will head to the polls to elect a new Legislature and governor. The 2016 Presidential Election marked the first presidential election in more than 50 years without the heart of the Voting Rights Act in place.  The recent events in Edison are evidence that racist attempts at voter suppression are alive and well in New Jersey.

To safeguard the voting rights of New Jersey’s voters, civil rights groups will be working throughout the state on Election Day to ensure that voters have access to the polls. Through this non-partisan effort, civil rights groups seek to ensure maximum participation in this important election by New Jersey’s voters—particularly people of color, who disproportionately encounter barriers to the ballot. 

Both the ACLU-NJ (973-854-1719) and the League (1-800-792-VOTE) are hosting voter information hotlines, and the ACLU-NJ is available to assist voters in court when necessary. The Institute will have volunteers on-the-ground in several cities to distribute voter empowerment materials and help voters with questions. Voters can also call the national Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.