Jersey City, the second largest city in New Jersey with 265,000 residents, is located south of Hoboken, where I live. You can only enter Hoboken from the south through Jersey City and vice versa, so the populations are well acquainted. Ethnically Jersey City is divided into four major groups: Hispanic or Latino (28%), Black or African-American (26%), Asian (24%) and Non-Hispanic White (22%). Racially Whites are the largest group, with 33%. A more detailed look reveals that Jersey City is the ultimate melting pot: The Hispanic contingent primarily comes from Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Cuba, and there are African-Americans from Nigeria and Kenya. The Asians come from India, the Philippines, China and Vietnam, and for the Non-Hispanic Whites the most reported ancestries in the last US Census were Italian, Irish, Polish and German, although there are also leftovers of earlier English and Dutch populations. With so much diversity there has to be a high level of cross-cultural tolerance in Jersey City, maybe only similar to the level of tolerance in New York City, the neighbor across the Hudson.
Muslims constitute 4.5% of all religious adherents in Jersey City, and among them there is significant diversity as well. Surprisingly, the fastest growing segment of the Muslim population is Latino, but there are also African-American, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims. Although Jersey City’s population has a significant Arab-American segment it does not constitute the majority of the city’s Muslims, because it includes a large Egyptian Coptic community. At a rally in Birmingham, Alabama, last Saturday, Donald Trump declared that on 9/11/2001 he watched thousands and thousands of people in Jersey City cheering as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were coming down in lower Manhattan. He could only have been referring to the local Muslim community, but his ‘eyewitness’ account was quickly debunked. The Jersey City police department denied that something like that ever happened, and there was no video footage of it, which if it existed would have been shown by all networks, both immediately after 9/11 and frequently during the years that since have passed. So Trump was lying, plain and simple.
From the beginning racism and xenophobia have been at the core of Trump’s campaign. Playing into the sentiments of the white part of the American underclass, he used the announcement of his candidacy to proclaim that Mexico is sending rapists and drug dealers across the border, and trumpeted that 11 million undocumented aliens should be deported. After the Paris attacks he found something even better, now mobilizing the anti-Muslim feelings of the same group.
Trump’s only campaign issue is destructive on three levels. Geopolitically it plays straight into the hand of ISIS, which is desperate to frame its quest as a war against infidels and the West, and undoubtedly appreciates that Trump obliges. Domestically it weakens the tolerance that is the fabric of the US society, and finally it sows fear in the hearts of Hispanics and Muslims alike.
Last Friday ABC showed a special by Barbara Walters, showing Trump as a family man with wife and kid, children from earlier marriages, and grandchildren playing in his office. I was reminded of footage of Hitler playing with his dogs, an appropriate association in this case.