In case you wondered, state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) served in Vietnam in the Marine Corps.
Senator Nick Scutari (D-22) today said Rice has done nothing for the community.
“You haven’t done a thing for the communities we represent,” said the senator from Linden. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. …You haven’t done a thing for your community.”
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) stepped in.
“I’ll have to mute yous if you keep doing this,” Sweeney said.
This is where we are in this state.
A combat veteran, an African-American who came of age during the Civil Rights movement, who got off the bus after coming back from Nam to find Newark in flames and served as a police officer and community leader in his hometown, has to sit there and listen to this filth.
That’s what it is.
The gangsterism of New Jersey establishment politics has so saturated the public forum that Scutari – reared in this ignoble, parochial and self-serving environment – thinks he can use that kind of tone and that kind of language and get away with it; and does, with Sweeney on the dais equating Scutari’s remarks with Rice’s.
It’s truly despicable.
We have fallen so far in this state, we couldn’t possibly assume that someone answering to the title of state senator would be patriotic in the best and truest sense of that word. Neither could we expect someone in this cocoon to act moral and decent or to have a sense of the historic implications of a nightmare like Vietnam, what it did to this country, and to the men who fought there, and what it means – deeply – to this day.
It’s simply too much to ask of those raised in a good ol’ boys club of ignorance where they slap one another on the back and falsify language to make bills appear to serve the public interest when they don’t, to consider the sacrifice of someone who actually fought for his country, and had to spend much of his time in the bush over there fighting racism in the ranks of his own supposed allies.
It’s simply too much to ask.
But if you’re interested in citizenship perchance and wondering at all about what Senator Ronald Rice of Newark did for his community, consider this.
His service in Vietnam was just the beginning.
He organized the local kids, took them to the park and did structural recreation. He also became a cub scout leader. His son, future West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice, was a child at the time, and so it was a natural fit. Rice organized Christmas carols and had lines of children walking, military style, around the neighborhood. He formed a block association. He got involved.
This was all while he was working as a police officer, and later as a detective.
As a senator, Rice – the leading statewide voice on decriminalization of marijuana and expungement, housing and police reform – founded and leads the Legislative Black Caucus and has fearlessly fought the Democratic power structure of Trenton and never become one of its obsequious enablers. The caucus contributed those specific elements of the marijuana legalization legislation that passed today, without which there would be next to no social justice component.
“This is political warfare,” Rice told InsiderNJ in 2019. “The black migration is one of the most important pieces of our history. And it’s hard to express that to a generation on social media that doesn’t know how to reach out and touch real things. You have to touch. What’s hurting us is back then [in the 1960’s], there was always a national leadership voice for black people, and as part of that you had people like Jesse Jackson, Dr. King, and Malcolm. But we don’t have a national voice anymore and we haven’t prepared one, and that hurts us. The national voice helped build the soldiers and leadership at the state levels so that when someone like Dr. King came, he would have lieutenants and ground troops keyed into the now.
“We don’t have a state leader,” he lamented, . “I try as best as I can to represent that to some degree in terms of just bringing people together, but it’s hard because people in power divide our community by giving jobs or board appointments and titles to folks.”
It’s a fair bet that he doesn’t get his back slapped in Trenton from the power players, because he doesn’t do it to them, and he owes them nothing; but if you happen to run into Senator Rice in your travels, a Marine combat veteran who lost his wife this year, maybe you can offer a small word of gratitude, to a man who served his country, not the parochial bosses of New Jersey, and who, if nothing else in his public life, continues, indefatigably, to serve his community.