Martinez resignation won’t ‘deal with Latino anti-Blackness’

Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, who mocked a progressive district attorney for “hanging out with black people,” described a little black boy as “parece changuito‘ (like a monkey) and claiming his white father treated him like he was an ‘accessory’, resigned from her seat last Wednesday.

But council members Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo, who were in the room during the leaked conversation in which Martinez made racist remarks, are still in office.

Key California political figures, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and US Senator Alex Padilla, have joined the protesters to call for the resignations of Cedillo, whose term ends this year, and De León, who will remain in office until 2024 supposed to demand. Even President Biden, who was in Los Angeles last week, has urged lawmakers to leave office.

The episode, which has captivated much of the country, depicts two political phenomena – feuding among Democrats vying for power and anti-black racism among politicians of color – that are seldom aired so openly. Two of the MPs involved in the taping have refused to step down in the face of righteous anger, leading to something of a waiting game. But focusing on whether a few politicians will step down rather than a culture that encourages anti-black racism in Latino communities can mask the spread of racist beliefs, experts told The Times.

Anti-Black racism in the Latino community is not a matter of bad eggs, said Tanya Katerí Hernández, law professor at Fordham University School of Law and author of “Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality.” . .”

“[Martinez’s] Comments don’t exist in a vacuum,” Hernández said. “They exist within a set of cultural racial settings that are part of Latino culture.”

In much of the world, anti-Black racism conjures up certain images—whites only signs hanging over water fountains in the Deep South, burning crosses in the Midwest, and white men hurling racial slurs at Trump rallies. But the Atlantic slave trade made anti-Black racism an ongoing global phenomenon.

Although the legacy of slavery is most closely associated with the United States, the trade was much more widespread in Latin America and the Caribbean. Scientists estimate that of the 12 million Africans trafficked to the Western Hemisphere, fewer than 400,000 went to North America, while millions went to Latin America and the Caribbean. And while Jim Crow was unique to the United States, Latin American countries continue to use police power and government resources to uphold racial hierarchies and racist social norms through what Hernández calls “standard racial regulation.”

“You don’t need ‘whites only’ signs when an entire society has already internalized the idea of ​​white spaces,” Hernández said.

In Latin America, it’s common for people to reject racism and see class as the primary wedge problem between groups, Hernández added.

But racial differences permeate Latin American societies. In Colombia, for example, Afro-Latinos make up 26% of the country’s population and 75% of the poor, according to the United Nations. On average, Colombian Afro-Latinos earn 34% less than their non-black counterparts. In Brazil, Afro-Latinos make up almost half of the population, but their economic share is only 20% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Anti-Black sentiment is rampant not only among people in Latin America, but also among Latinos in the United States, Hernández said. In the US, racial prejudice against blacks is comparable among Latinos and non-Hispanic whites, political scientists Yanna Krupnikov and Spencer Piston found in a 2016 study.

In the United States, which also discriminates against Latinos, it can be easy for people like Martinez to downplay the harm of their words, she added.

“Getting rid of a Nury has nothing to do with Latino anti-Blackness,” Hernández said, adding that not all Latinos are anti-Black. “But there are many Nurys and we need to be racist educated about the existence of anti-blackness in communities that are not white Anglo-English speaking Americans. ”

Pastor Thembekila Coleman-Smart, left, and activist Greg Akili

Pastor Thembekila Coleman-Smart and activist Greg Akili called for the resignation of council members involved in the recorded conversation at City Hall last week.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Hasan Kwame Jeffriesa historian at Ohio State University, noted that Martinez made her racist comments during a conversation about political redistribution.

“It’s not just one person’s beliefs or prejudices against another,” he said. “Nury connects to a specific base in a strictly segregated community. In the context of political power, solidarity between black and brown communities can sometimes break down. It would be nice if we could go beyond that. But power is power.”

Black and Latino Democrats often find themselves striving for power in Congress, which remains disproportionately white.

However, there is no shortage of Democrats of color in Los Angeles’ political power structure, and lawmakers often find that their most menacing rivals are within their own party.

Martinez expressed “an eagerness to replace one oppressor with another,” Melina Abdullah, who has connected with Black Lives Matter nationally and is currently a leader in BLM-LA, told The Times. The anti-Black sentiments expressed by Martinez are a “common approach of so-called leaders who move on the basis of their own political ambitions rather than service,” Abdullah added.

In Los Angeles, black organizers say they still see many Latino activists as natural allies in the fight against white supremacy. But the tape has deepened her distrust of the city’s Latino leadership.

“How can you trust people to make public policy for the interests of Black people when they make fun of Black people like that,” said Greg Akili, a 74-year-old Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles organizer. “It shows a certain side that a lot of us thought didn’t exist in Los Angeles’ Latino leadership.”

“People like that shouldn’t hold political office,” he added.

Jessica Zubia Calsada, a 23-year-old San Fernando Valley resident, expressed her dismay at Martinez’s comments and said they were not an anomaly.

Calsada, a non-black Mexican-American, urged people to name racism in Latino spaces when it emerges.

“It’s important that we also look inward and bring the same energy that Martinez did to our anti-Black community members,” she said. “We must stop anti-blackness to build community unity.”

Calsada said she has younger black siblings and makes an effort to speak up when she hears racist rhetoric from her family members.

“I don’t want them to think this should be normal and something they have to tolerate,” she said. Martinez resignation won’t ‘deal with Latino anti-Blackness’

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