Today’s news:

Editorial: Stand up and be counted

Led by Congressman Gregory Meeks, the borough's black leaders met at York College last week to urge minority families to cooperate fully with the Year 2000 census. They said that in the last census, 10 years ago, the minority community was greatly undercounted. Simply put, if no one knows that you are here, you don't count.

First and foremost, the census data is used to determine congressional representation. The data can lead to a redrawing of district lines. The data is also used to determine federal funding needs.

In the past, minority and immigrant communities have been reluctant to cooperate fully and honestly with the census. Those who already mistrust the government bureaucracy are understandably reluctant to reveal details about their families, even when given reassurances that the information would remain confidential.

We agree with Meeks and the others who believe it is important the number of people living in Queens be accurately counted. However, we question why Hazel Dukes, the president of the New York branches of the NAACP, would ask people of mixed race to check the box that says "black only." Dukes does not want African Americans to check multiple boxes that would more accurately reflect their ethnic and racial heritage. Some people attending the meeting wore buttons that proclaimed, "Say it loud, I'm black, I'm proud. Check 'Black Only.'"

What's the point? In essence, Dukes is asking people to lie, or at least to be misleading. In terms of federal funding, it will make no difference if the numbers reflect a mixed race population, rather than one that is more purely African American. It is natural that people of a mixed-race origin will tend to align themselves as a member of a particular race. But lying on this form will only serve to give a distorted picture of America.

Dukes was wrong to ask people to skew their answers in order to meet her predetermined political end. Dukes is often wrong, especially when it comes to issues of race. It was Dukes who once complained that Latinos who didn't speak English were grabbing all of the good hotel jobs in New York City. She was being divisive then and she is being divisive now.

Everyone should fill out the census form as honestly and completely as possible. No leader should try to manipulate the results for their own political purpose. If 10 years from now the buttons read, " Say it loud, I'm black and a quarter Irish and an eighth Filipino," where's the harm? In fact, as the walls of fear and racial intolerance continue to crumble, we may all be reduced someday to being just plain Americans. That's something worth looking forward to.

Gang busting

Last week, two students from Franklin Lane High School were attacked and stabbed repeatedly on the elevated train track on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven. Police believe that the incident was gang related.

The growth of youth gangs such as the Bloods, the Crips, the Latin Kings and the Zulu Nation is reason for grave concern. Such gangs are addicted to guns, drugs and random acts of violence. The police and the courts have good reason to come down hard on the gangs, even if it means offending the civil libertarians.

We support the decision of the NYPD to ban violent gangs from certain sections of Long Island City and the efforts being made by the city Department of Corrections to identify gang members and leaders. The gangs should know that are not welcome here and they will not own our streets.

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