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The Mast-Head: A Good Point

Wed, 11/09/2022 - 18:46

Out of seemingly nowhere, on Monday my 12-year-old told me in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to vote for anyone who was not “a minority.” We were on the morning drive to school, passing a thicket of political signs in Amagansett, Ellis buried in TikTok, and I worried about the election.

“Who should I vote for?” I asked, not expecting an answer other than “Zeldin,” intended to get a rise out of his dad. I had to think; only one or two people of color came to mind.

“What about a woman?” I said.

“So long as she’s a minority,” Ellis said.

I was stumped, and this struck me as a real problem.

From smallest to largest, nonwhite or Latino representation in elected positions of government is not where it should be, despite unprecedented demographic shifts. In East Hampton, Latinos made up more than a quarter of the population in the 2020 census; there has been only one Latino member of the town board and one on the village board, both women, it is worth noting.

On this year’s ballot, Antonio Delgado, who won as lieutenant governor, met Ellis’s stiff requirement, as the first Latino to win statewide office. He is African-American, Cape Verdean Mexican, Colombian, and Venezuelan. “Okay,” Ellis said when I mentioned him.

I was not able to probe deep enough to know where Ellis had come up with his one-point criterion. However, since he entered middle school in East Hampton this year in seventh grade, his perspective has demonstrably widened. On the football sidelines, he clowned around with boys whose family backgrounds were in Central and South America. At night when he plays computer games, he and some of the same kids jabber with one another over their headsets. Did one of them give him the idea or did he come up with it on his own out of solidarity? I did not ask.

Maybe his generation will move toward a fuller representation of who we are as a community. These things take time, not too much more, I hope.

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