New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed willful ignorance when he said if civil rights had been up for a popular vote in the 1960s, it may have avoided bloodshed in the South.
His remarks came last week as the State Senate Judiciary Committee was about to consider a bill that would move New Jersey closer to legalizing gay marriage.
Christie suggested that New Jersey voters instead be allowed to decide the gay marriage issue in a referendum bill.
“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.”
Christie’s remarks are insulting to the Civil Rights Movement.
How can the governor be so ignorant of the history of U.S. race relations to believe that in the segregated Deep South, civil rights would have been gained in the 1960s through a referendum vote?
Segregation and second class status were accepted and imposed on Blacks. Lynch mobs and cross burning were not uncommon. Segregation was not just the law of the land, it reflected the will of the Southern white majority at the time. Blacks were in the minority and were denied equal rights to vote on a referendum, and on anything else.
Are we to believe that the governor doesn’t know that Blacks were terrorized in the South for seeking the right to vote?
Of course the governor knows better.
Christie is engaging in revisionist history.
He knows civil rights gains were made after the blood of martyrs. The Civil Rights Movement pressured the federal government and the courts for Blacks to gain civil rights.
It took national leadership and the U.S. Supreme Court to act, which is why civil rights leaders worry when they hear conservative leaders today talk in support of state’s rights and against activist judges.
It took the power of the federal government and the landmark rulings of fair-minded judges to uphold civil rights for African Americans. Referendums would not have achieved civil rights.