NJ racism scandal brings back best lesson my mom taught me (Opinion)
Note: This piece first ran after allegations of racism surfaced in a NJ town. Mother’s Day is coming soon. My mom is getting up in years and hasn’t been doing well lately, and I’d like to remind people how many valuable lessons on integrity our special moms offered us as children.
The following was originally published on July 8, 2021.
This is an ugly story but I want to add some positive thoughts. First of all, don’t let what’s been happening in the Essex Place condo community make you think Mount Laurel isn’t filled with good people. Good people rarely make the news.
Edward C. Mathews is by all accounts not a good person.
According to court documents, published reports, eyewitness accounts and video recordings and police, Edward likes to harass black people.
Numerous families over numerous incidents have dealt with Edward coming onto their property and standing at their doors and calling them racial slurs, the N-word, referring to them as a certain type of animal, threatening them with chest bumps and telling them he wants them to move out, according to authorities.
Seems little Eddie bought himself big trouble. After one of his more recent rants a protest happened outside his home during which police showed up and stood between his door and his outraged neighbors who said enough was enough.
The mayor says don’t blame police throughout the previous incidents. Blame the courts that wouldn’t do enough to stop the racial intimidation.
The day of the protest little Eddie was finally taken away in handcuffs for the ultimate timeout. Criminal charges including harassment and bias intimidation. An investigation into the matter is underway. The mayor has called for a federal investigation.
Now here’s the thing. This charming guy is claiming he was drinking during his most recent confrontation as if that’s something of a mitigating factor to consider. To me, all that means is he has two problems: racism and poor alcohol choices. If that’s supposed to make me think he’s not racist and it’s the alcohol talking, I’m sorry but It’s not working.
This pathetic story does make me feel good though. Because it was a nice reminder of how much my mother didn’t want me to grow up to be this guy.
One of the times I was most proud of my mother was on my 8th birthday. We had a simple above-ground pool. And I wanted a simple party. Backyard cookout (my birthday is in June) and some friends over for swimming.
Among the kids I invited were my best friend Carl and my friend from school, Otto. Carl was white. Otto was black. To me this was beside the point. They were my friends.
Carl got to the party after Otto, and when this white kid’s mother saw that there was a black kid at my party she freaked out. My mom had no idea I was watching when the woman angrily pulled her aside and spoke through a clenched jaw, “You didn’t tell me there was going to be a colored kid at this party!”
I will always remember my mother keeping her cool and telling her to calm down, this was Jeff’s party and this was one of Jeff’s friends and there was no problem. The woman got even angrier and was practically spitting her words. “Either he goes or Carl goes!”
My mom somehow remained calm and asked, “You really would not let your boy be here for his best friend’s party just because Otto is here?” There was some back and forth that I don’t recall, but I’m crystal clear on what my mother finally said to end it.
“That kid is our guest and he isn’t going anywhere. If you want to take your son and leave then you’re free to do so.”
I remember my heart pounding at the drama I was seeing. I hadn’t been raised to hate anybody. I was raised to know I wasn’t better than anyone else. Seeing this hate coming from a woman who had always been nice to me, made me lunches when I was at their house, took me to cool places like the circus with her son, it was so confusing. It was a side of her I didn’t know existed and I didn’t like.
In the end, her anger palpable, she decided she would allow Carl to stay but SHE would pick him up later as “she would be no part of this.” She was supposed to stay and hang out with the grownups. Like a mean child she left. But not before saying in such a nasty tone, “Just don’t let that kid change into his swimsuit in the same room as my kid!”
I was so proud of my mother. I never forgot the stand she took that day. I didn’t tell her until years later that I had seen and heard the whole thing.
But what an ugly display. And decades later, in 2021, in a town 64 miles south called Mount Laurel, what another ugly display.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.