Does The Way We Vote Promote Gang Involvement?

As I campaign to become the Assemblyperson for Brooklyn’s 43rd district one of the first questions I am asked is, "Who are you with?  Who is backing you?"  Most of the time, I am being asked by a parent and he/she is asking this question in front of their child and as I ponder the answer to this question, I imagine what a child has to go through when he or she is in the school cafeteria and trying to make new friends.  I contemplate the pressure he/she is under to find someone to be affiliated with in order to be accepted.  I also realize that sub-consciously by asking this question in front of their child, the parent is instilling a sense of “needing to belong” in order to be successful.  What if no one is backing me, what if I am not with anyone?  Does that mean I am not just as capable of doing a great job?  What about if that child told his peers in the cafeteria, “I am not with anyone?”  Does this mean that that child would not be the greatest friend anyone can ever have?

One of the most instrumental character lessons we should always instill in our youth is to have a sense of individuality.  We continuously emphasize that they do not need to be a part of a gang or group of people in order to be successful.  We always tell them not to be ashamed of being by themselves even if everyone else seems to be joining up and/or affiliating with other people.  We ask, “If everyone else jumped off the roof would you do it too?”  As a parent, I understand how tremendously important it is for our children to know that going out on their own is not a bad thing, so why aren’t we voting according to the life lessons we are trying to teach our children?

Recently, I told my son I was running for public office.  I asked him, “Will you vote for me?” and he responded, “I am too young to vote.”  I then said, “If you were old enough to vote would you vote for me?”  He said, “I have to see how you run stuff first.”  I passionately said, “I am your father!  You already know how I run stuff.”  He said, “Well just because you are my father doesn’t mean you automatically get my vote.”  I then said to him, “You know what?  You are 100% correct let me know what I need to do to earn your vote.”

Even if you never vote for Saquan Jones, I ask that you make each person earn the vote he/she receives.  We must start to evaluate our political candidate(s) based on their merits and NOT according to the “Political Gang”; he/she is affiliated with.  As we evaluate our candidates and the political process as a whole, we must keep in mind that we can no longer complain about gang involvement and then vote based on a candidate’s association.  Our children are our greatest resource and are extremely perceptive.  Today’s youth are fully capable of assimilating certain behaviors they are witness to and acting on them as young adults and beyond.  We must begin to set the standard early because it could be the difference between a productive citizen and a statistic.