Scott Novakowski Speaks to the Washington Post on Racist Mailers

The Washington Post reports:

While many find the explicit racism of the messages troubling, they see the victories of the three candidates as proof that, in at least two diverse communities in New Jersey, voters have banished anti-immigrant rhetoric into the sidelines — even as such sentiments, at times, dominate national conversations.

“It’s kind of similar to some of the national rhetoric around white people losing power, kind of a last effort at holding on to power in an increasing diverse, multicultural and multiracial society,” Scott Novakowski, associate counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, told The Washington Post. “It’s important to emphasize the strong message that was sent with these folks winning the elections in terms of what that says about their community and New Jersey as a state.”

This piece was also published in Independent.


Media Round-Up: #VOTE2017 Election Protection reports:

"I have not seen these explicitly racist fliers in the past," Scott Novakowski, associate counsel for New Jersey institute, said Monday. "It's a sign that this type of racism is being normalized."

NJ Spotlight reports:

Despite many instances involving state and national Republican parties, Clarke made a point to say that this is a nonpartisan issue. Scott Novakowski, associate counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice echoed the sentiment.

“I certainly have not seen fliers this explicitly racist in the past and I do think it's an outgrowth of the 2016 campaign and the language and the policies being advanced by the administration,” Novakowski said. “It’s a sign that this type of racism is being normalized, which is incredibly troubling and makes it that much more important to push back.”

92.7 reports:

"There needs to be an investigation to uncover more of the facts," said Scott Novakowski, associate counsel with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Novakowski said these recent acts "need to be condemned in the strongest terms" — candidates and state/local officials of both parties need to "speak out against such attempts at intimidation and make it clear that diversity is what makes our country great and our democracy strong." reports:

Scott Novakowski, associate counsel for New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, described the fliers as disturbing, especially when seen on doorsteps in one of the most diverse states in the country. 

Novakowski called on local prosecutors, the state Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate if the creators of the fliers broke any laws. 

Observer reports:

“Emboldened coming out of the 2016 campaign cycle, these types of openly racist and xenophobic acts have become all too common,” said Scott Novakowski, associate counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, citing “the pervasive anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the highest halls of power.”

“It is incredibly disturbing to see this showing up on our own doorstep here in New Jersey where we are one of the most diverse states in the nation,” he added. reports:

Other organizations that condemned the flier included the American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. 



Asbury Park Press: Community unites in response to 'Make Edison Great Again' campaign mailers

Asbury Park Press reports:

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 Thursday condemning the mailer, as did The Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association. Asset Building Coalition to Relaunch in the City of Newark

Yusef Ismail, Director of Financial Inclusion at the United Way of Essex & West Hudson, writes in

Despite this positive progress, it is also a very difficult time for a majority of Newark's residents who are punctuated by fears that the city's renaissance could push them out. Now, Newark is wrestling with a challenge faced by plenty of reviving urban hubs before it: An increase of development is taking place disproportionately, therefore, widening the disparity between the places where glittering new towers are rising and the portions of the city where opportunity has yet to take place.

A recent report by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice found that there is widening economic disparity between most of the city's residents and the large corporate workforce that commutes in and out of Newark every day. According to the report:

  • About one-in-three local residents live below the federal poverty line, and 95 percent of these residents living in poverty did not have a full-time job during the past year.
  • Newark residents hold only 18 percent of all jobs in the city.
  • Newark's average unemployment rate for 2015 was 8.8 percent, which is approximately 70 percent higher than the 2015 average unemployment rate for the U.S.
  • 62 percent of Newark households qualify as "ALICE," meaning that they are asset-limited, income-constrained, and employed.


Media Round-Up: Social Justice Groups' Statement on Racist Edison Mailer reports:

On Thursday afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice issued statements urging officials to investigate the flier. 

"This is an example of how our current political environment is both normalizing and fueling racism," said Jesse Burns, executive director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. 

To read the full story, please click here

Social Justice Groups Condemn Racist and Xenophobic Campaign Mailer

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.

Next Avenue: How to Fix Racial Inequities in the Workplace

Next Avenue reports:

Another panelist, Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, noted that only 18 percent of all jobs in Newark, where his institute is based, are held by local residents. (In Newark, 49 percent of residents are African American; 36 percent are Hispanic.) By contrast, 33 percent of jobs in Baltimore are held by local residents and 45 percent of jobs in New Orleans are.

Newark’s 18 percent rate isn’t so low because of an unwillingness of its residents to work, Haygood noted. And it’s not because Newarkers have criminal convictions preventing them from being hired, or comprise an exceptionally high percentage of people without college degrees. “We found the same incidence of convictions as in most other U.S. cities,” he said. “The percentage of people in Newark with college degrees — one-third — is consistent with the national trend.”

No, Haygood said, the reason so few blacks in Newark are working is “that the system has been designed to produce the kind of results we see.”

Scott Novakowski: End the Racist Epidemic of Criminal Disfranchisement

Institute Associate Counsel Scott Novakowski writes for the Star Ledger:

On Nov. 7, New Jersey voters will head to the polls and cast their ballots to elect state legislators and a new governor, officials who will make critical decisions on issues that affect the lives of New Jerseyans - including who has the right to vote. 

More than 94,000 residents will be barred from voting on Election Day because of a criminal conviction.  Under New Jersey's anti-democratic law, the right to vote is denied to anyone serving a sentence for a criminal conviction, which includes those who are incarcerated as well as those who have been released but are on parole or probation. Three quarters of those disfranchised are living in the community while completing a term of parole or probation

New Jersey's criminal disfranchisement law dates back to 1844, over 170 years ago at a time when racial exclusion was the law of the land. In 1844, slavery was legal and practiced in our state. In 1844, the Fourteenth Amendment had not yet guaranteed equal protection of the law to black residents. And, in 1844, black residents were prohibited from voting in New Jersey, thanks to an 1807 state law that limited the franchise to white males only. (In fact, New Jersey was the first state in the Northeast to limit the franchise to white males.)