LOS ANGELES — Cross-cultural coalitions have governed Los Angeles politics for decades, helping to elect both black and Hispanic politicians to top leadership positions in the vast, ethnically and ethnically diverse city.
But a shocking record of racist comments from the city council president has exposed the tensions over political power that have been quietly simmering between the Latino and black communities.
Nury Martinez, the first Latina elected president of the Los Angeles City Council, resigned from her leadership role last week and then resigned from the council altogether after a leaked recording of her racist remarks and other harsh comments in discussions with fellow Hispanic people guides had emerged.
Martinez said in the recorded conversation, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, that white councilor Mike Bonin treated his young black son like he was an “accessory,” describing the son as “parece changuito,” or like one Ape. She also made derogatory remarks about other groups, including indigenous Mexicans from the southern state of Oaxaca, whom she called “feos,” or “ugly.”
The recording, which was released anonymously a year after it was made, has stunned and hurt many in the black community, which makes up just under 9% of the city’s roughly four million residents. Concern within this group, which has long held council seats and other city posts in heavily African-American neighborhoods, has grown in recent years as Latinos make up nearly half of the population and Hispanic politicians have begun to rank higher to take roles.
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., senior editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel, a black-run newspaper, later wrote about “the carcinogenic division that has been secretly impeding our progress.”
“To discover that these conversations are part of the dialogue of the very people charged with running the City of Los Angeles, and to recognize that there is a conspiracy among them to minimize the voice and political power of the black community, makes it even more reprehensible,” Bakewell added.
Los Angeles is no stranger to racial and ethnic tensions.
The 1965 Watts riots left 34 dead after violence erupted following the arrest of an African American man who had been pulled over for drunk driving.
The videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King by white police officers in Los Angeles in 1991 after a high-speed chase sparked international attention.
The following year, city-wide riots broke out when three of the officers were acquitted on charges of excessive violence and the jury failed to reach a verdict on the fourth case. The riots lasted six days and killed 63 people, underscoring racial tensions in the city, particularly between the black community and Korean Americans, whose businesses have often been targeted.
But Los Angeles also has a history of racial and ethnic collaboration dating back to the 1930s, said Manuel Pastor, a professor of sociology and American and ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
He said various groups worked together to help elect black Mayor Tom Bradley, who served two decades until 1993, and Hispanic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2005.
“The kind of feelings expressed in this conversation exist in the broader Latino community,” Pastor said of the racist comments on the recording. But he said most Hispanics in the city reject that mindset.
Calling for a moment of reflection, Pastor said, “There is an interesting opportunity here for the Latino community to explore anti-blackness and colorism in the Latino community.”
The now infamous conversation about frustrations over map redistribution created by a city commission was recorded in October 2021. Others in attendance were Councilors Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.
Martinez referred to Bonin, who is gay, as a “little bitch” and De León called Bonin the “fourth black member of the council.”
“Mike Bonin will never fucking say a peep about Latinos. He’ll never say a damn word about us,” De León said.
It is unclear who recorded the exchange.
For Rev. Eddie Anderson, the black senior pastor of McCarty Memorial Christian Church in Los Angeles, the “horrifying statements by the highest officials in local government” were only part “of a plan to dilute black voices and power in our congregation.” “
“There was a real black eradication plan by people who have been here a long time to build this city,” Anderson said.
The pastor, who last year sat on the Los Angeles City Council’s New Borough Committee that helped draw the map, noted the taped conversation came just weeks before final approval.
He said much of the sophistication about redistribution centered on a district that includes parts of south Los Angeles, Koreatown and Baldwin Hills, and had elected Tom Bradley, a slave’s grandson, to the council before becoming mayor.
Latino leaders in the US condemned the recorded statements and called for Martinez and the others to resign.
“At a time when our nation is grappling with a recent surge in hate speech and hate crime, these comments have deepened the pain our communities are enduring,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, who previously served as the council’s youngest president.
Clarissa Martinez, vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative of UnidosUS, a leading national civil rights organization, said, “Our community was deeply offended by the racist and dehumanizing comments made by these four Los Angeles elected and appointed officials.”
“The fact that they’re Latino is particularly painful because our community understands what it’s like to be abused and tries to weaken our voice,” she added. But she insisted, “We know we’re building on something much stronger than the backward behavior of these four people because our communities have a strong path of working together.”
Tanya Kateri Hernandez, a professor at Fordham University School of Law, said the idea that people of color are always united ignores colonialism and racial baggage from many different places and generations.
The anti-Blackness issue in Latino communities in the United States and around the world is much broader than this one example, and extends to Afro-Latinos, Africans and West Indians, said Hernandez, who published the book Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and The struggle for equality.”
The Los Angeles City Council Redistribution Commission alluded to infighting between different groups when it presented its final map a year ago.
“It was not our job to protect elected officials, their jobs or their political future,” commission chairman Fred Ali said in a statement. “We hope the Council conducts its deliberations with the same transparency and commitment to justice as this Commission.”
Anita Snow reported from Phoenix. AP writer Deepti Hajela contributed from New York.
Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
https://abc7.com/los-angeles-city-council-racist-recording-nury-martinez/12336830/ Tensions between blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles were exposed in the city council scandal over racist remarks