I saw something exceptional yesterday.
Not since I was in Switzerland — on my way to Unterwasser — have I seen an all-white, male, middle-aged road crew. And I saw it in New Jersey, no less — not just New Jersey, but the Plainfields. North Plainfield, Plainfield, and Watchung are divided by Highway 22. It’s hard to find the bridge over the highway that literally separates wealthy Watchung from the largely poor, demographically diverse Plainfields (South Plainfield is more prosperous).
Together, North Plainfield and Plainfield are about three-quarters non-white, and Watchung is the mirror opposite — three-quarters white. Or put it this way, South Plainfield and Watchung have T R U M P signs in their front yards, whereas the Plainfields do not (with the exception again, of South Plainfield)
The Plainfields’ poverty rate seems unremarkable without putting it in statewide context. New Jersey is the wealthiest state in the nation; it beats Connecticut. Yet in this wealthy state are some of the poorest cities in the nation, including Camden and Plainfield. In Plainfield, even the building where Planned Parenthood is housed is marked “for sale.”
Plainfield, what is more, is home to a historic Quaker house museum and a Unitarian congregation, with the relatively new kid on the block, so to speak, being one of the many physical homes across the nation of #BlackLivesMatter.
Why does it matter that the municipal work crew I saw was all white, middle-aged men? Because as jobs diminish and municipal public-works jobs are even more difficult to find, connections, favors, and favoritism must matter even more.
So this got me thinking, why all of a sudden are municipal public-works road jobs (possibly; this is an unfounded social science hypothesis, after all, an observation) going to what is demographically categorized as, or the embodiment of, Trump supporters? Or put more plainly, why all the signs in the border town South Plainfield –- even the wealthy Watchung did not have that many T- R- U- M -P* signs.
*The spaced out letters work well we all have vision problems in middle age. The lettering reads like a general practitioner’s eye-exam.