Words by Derny Fleurima
“Miseducation thrives in my community.”
Those were the first five words of my college essay. Miseducation, by its very denotation, implies that there is some form of education, but that education simply isn’t correct.
There are roughly 30,000 people living here in Elmont. These people choose to live here for a number of reasons. Some say they want a fresh start. Others want to start families. Some are entrepreneurs who want to start businesses. These people are Mothers, Fathers, Doctors and Lawyers, Businessmen and women the list goes on.
Clearly, there is a high level of education here. Political Scientists say that the more educated an individual is, the more likely he or she is to partake in political events, particularly, voting. However, here in Elmont, that is not the case.
Throughout my high school career, I was constantly discouraged by the voter turnouts during elections. I remember walking door to door hearing voters constantly say, “I won’t be voting and they don’t need my vote!” In this past election, there was a record low voter turnout among the voting eligible population [Board of Elections data pending.]
There is a plague of Miseducation that threatens the stability of this community. People believe that elections do not affect them and choose not to vote.
*To make matters worse, miseducation is intensified by voter suppression.*
With a historical analysis, we can see that this voter suppression has been galvanized by redistricting, gerrymandering and other sophisticated technologies towards diverging minority votes. This phenomenon can only be properly referred to as a reincarnation of a post-slavery hindrance. These tools of disenfranchisement and misrepresentation have replaced the grandfather clause and the literacy tests which prevented people of color from voting. In 2016, these tools are just an embellished Jim Crow with shiny colors. With 60% (40%, Black; 20% Latino) of Elmont’s population being people of color, this comparison proves true.
Somewhere along the line, Elmont voters were fed the lie that their vote does not matter, that their vote does not make a difference. Well, it does. When people of color and minorities don’t vote, it makes it that much easier for them to be misrepresented.
The reality is that state legislators carved up this community to prevent people of color from voting together because we have the majority, a whopping 60%! They want to DILUTE our vote. We cannot let that happen.
If every person of color who can vote, votes and becomes civically involved, we threaten the very fabric with which that Miseducation is sewn. We are able to have the power over choosing our representation. We are able to do what’s best for our children and fight for the causes that only we could understand through our personal experiences and familial bonds.
However this lie came about, the reality is that we face it every day.
This Miseducation births powerlessness which births complacency. Elmont could possibly become a puppet town, a dummy vehicle of political biases in which politicians and a minority “elite” make the decisions while its majority members remain dormant in a lack of political and civic efficacy.
Gerrymandering could run rampant, our school districts could suffer, our cost of living — as high as it is — could increase to force the augmentation of enterprises which are against our values *cough cough* Belmont Casino. This is not hyperbole and if we don’t tackle Miseducation, this will become a reality. It is important that we take steps to tackle this miseducation at its core.
We must start by educating parents about the importance of voting and henceforth educate students as well. We must bring back Civics into our school curriculum and hasten the revival of voter education. Otherwise, we face a depravity that is worse than any other, false knowledge. That which we believe to be true but isn’t.
Tackling Miseducation begins with us. It starts, ironically, with our education system. We must educate parents about the importance of voting and henceforth educate students as well. Thanks to community leaders and organizers, the information is out there. Now is an important time for information sharing because not only do we have civic organizations, library board meetings, Board of Education meetings, county legislature meetings, town hall meetings, the PTA, et cetera.
But, due to technology, we also have online communications through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. Blogs, like this one, websites like Elmont.org.
Despite the actions to disenfranchise and divide us, we have ways of unifying and being informed. It does not require effort, it simply requires the inclination for change. No matter what tools are used against us, we can overcome them but we must overcome them as a collective, as one people, together.
Edited 1/27/16. History of edits available upon request.