We’ve all seen the video of Edward Cagney Mathews who so graciously gave us his name and ignorantly offered up his home address for the entire world while verbally and physically harassing a Black family. Incidents like this in Jersey are more common than most Americans would think. The actions we all witnessed remind people of what they see in “the South,” but the reality is, in that specific region, this is all too common. Those types of people are everywhere.
But if you’re from Jersey, as I am, you know all about the Mathews’ of the world.
Coming up in Jersey wasn’t exactly easy. We moved into, and I spent most of my formidable years, in Union City. A city coming out of just skirting bankruptcy forcing many to move away. Before Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans moved into the city in search of affordable housing, it was primarily an Italian community. Many didn’t take too kindly to Black and Brown people moving into the ‘old neighborhood,’ as it was often referred to.
This isn’t to say every Italian in the city treated us unfairly. I would find out later in life that my mom bought our house from an old Italian lady who sold it to her for what was owed. Many Black people and Latinos (primarily Cubans) found similar housing search opportunities resulting in a huge demographic and cultural shift at seemingly lightning speed. Sweeping changes like this often result in great animosity towards minorities from many in the city.
While I understand the frustration of watching your old community go through cultural shifts like Cuban restaurants where Italian restaurants once resided and many of the people you grew up with leaving the city, that’s no excuse to treat those looking for a better quality of life any differently. It certainly doesn’t justify calling Latinos spics and Black people the n-word. But it happens and there’s no way for people in New Jersey, or New York, or Pennsylvania (you get the picture) to deny it. Especially now, thanks to Dilbert Dumbshit from Mt. Laurel, N.J.
If I know my Jersey peeps, many will come for me and argue that what happened in Mt. Laurel is an outlier. Even they know that’s a lie. It happens more often than people would care to admit, and frankly, I get it. It’s difficult facing the ugly truth of hate in your community. But denying it or acting like it isn’t that common or that it’s not so bad gives racists like Mathews power. See how the cops treated him despite him breaking several laws right in front of them?
That gives him power. In fact, police have been granting him that authority.
What About the Cops?
Well, you see, folks, cops always let this stuff slide. They always have. I mean, what’s the harm, right? He’s just hurling racial slurs. He’s not hurting anybody. Just let him go home and calm down. Besides, ‘freedom of speech,’ amirite? Wrong. It’s precisely this type of attitude that gives racists dominion over others because they know the community nor police will do anything.
At a minimum, he violated two laws in the presence of police and it wasn’t the first time. They didn’t initially arrest him for bias intimidation and harassment. The video also shows us how familiar the cops were with Mathews while never arresting him for this or several other incidents of his intimidation of Black people in Mt. Laurel. It was clear that he knew the cops are normally on his side. The only reason he’s in jail now is because of the video.
For too many, silence is most comfortable. Confrontation is too difficult. But racists don’t attack those people, do they? Of course not. Because when they do, they’ll come seeking help. Mathews was empowered by complacency. By failing to act on the part of the Mt. Laurel Township. Did anyone reach out to him and tell him he’s wrong? Did white people step up and tell him to back off or that his attitude isn’t welcomed in their community? Sure doesn’t seem like it, does it?
And that, by and large, represents the problem with America.
If you can’t count on the police to reign in an avowed racist in your community, using laws put in place for people like him, then the community must start making noise. Contact your city council members, your mayor, your commissioners, and judges. Make some noise until they act to put an end to a racist serial harasser. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities. Allowing hatemongers to roam freely and intimidate your neighbors makes you complicit.
It’s like opening the door to your city for a Klansman to attack Black people. Yeah, it’s exactly like that. If there’s a difference (there isn’t), go ahead and let me know you think there is so I can ignore you anyway. The police in Mt. Laurel proved their uselessness in handling this miscreant and the community seemed largely okay with it. Until it was caught on video, that is.
According to charging documents, at least two neighbors logged complaints against Matthews on Friday, July 2, 2021. One of those was a Black woman who called police after Matthews approached her front door shouting racial slurs. Her doorbell camera captured Mathews bringing his dogs in her front yard while thrusting his hips in a vulgar way and again, shouting racial slurs — after police talked with him. She has several previous reports filed against him. The second call on Mathews is the one captured on video.
While Mathews issued an apology, as racists often do once they’ve been caught doing the things they do, the damage stemming from his actions has been done. He asks for a chance to move forward but what about the people he terrorized? They can’t just move forward. Their safety outside of their homes has been compromised. No matter how much security there may be when these folks travel, they will never feel safe again after a racist white man was allowed to follow them home for the opportunity to terrorize them.
That’s some Klan-level shit.