The more you hear it, the worse it gets.
I am speaking of the leaked audio of a conversation in October 2021 between three members of the Los Angeles City Council and a prominent union leader. Its ostensible purpose was to devise a strategy for drawing lots for council districts that would give Latinos more power.
“When you talk about Latino districts, what kind of districts are you trying to create?” So said City Council President Nury Martinez, councilors Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera in an audio file posted on Reddit a month ago, obtained by the Times. “Because you are taking our assets away from us. You’re only going to make poor Latino neighborhoods with nothing?”
That’s a fair question, especially in a city where Latinos make up about half the population but hold less than a third of the council seats.
But instead of taking responsibility for the overwhelming state of Latinos’ political power, they just wailed and wailed about their predicament and blamed everyone else – especially blacks.
If you have a Latina elected official, use words to describe black people—children, no less—as switch (“monkey”) and negritos (“Darkies”), while no one else in the room backs down, it shows the rottenness, pettiness and paranoia that afflicts the Latino political class in LA. The four waded straight into the complaints policy from Sam Yorty’s town hall.
This wasn’t a case of your Corona rancho-liberal cousins drunkenly babbling around during a backyard carne asada or small-town politics in southeast LA County or in the San Gabriel Valley. These are some of the most powerful politicians in Southern California – and some of the most prominent Latino politicians in the United States.
Martinez is chairman of the city council of the second largest city in the United States. Councilor De León was the first Hispanic California Senator in more than a century (and finished third in the mayoral election). Cedillo is an immigrant rights legend, while Herrera heads an organization with the money and manpower to influence elections.
They should know better than to say things quietly out loud, even in private — and the fact that they don’t is not only frightening, it’s enlightening.
Martinez called fellow councilor Mike Bonin “a little bitch” and described him as “the fourth black councilor” who “is gonna take a damn look at Latinos.” He will never say a bad word about us.”
Perhaps he would have supported Latinos had Martinez and her cohorts made more of an effort to ally with him?
Herrera suggested that Bonin effectively publicize his young son, who is black, like a lawn jockey, the racist statues used to conjure up the antebellum South. De León compared the son to one of Martinez’s Louis Vuitton bags.
“Heu trae su negrito‘ Martinez added – that’s where he goes, bringing his little Darky with him. She later said the boy’s behavior on a float during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade made him feel like a “change.”
In Martinez’s world, everyone in the LA political class who can’t help their cause is anti-Latino and pro-Black – even the Cuban-American LA County Dist. atty George Gascón, of whom Martinez said, “F— that guy, he’s with the blacks.”
De León has floated nonprofit director Irma R. Muñoz to replace council member Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was suspended last year over federal bribery allegations.
Herrera then said, “You just gotta fight CoCo with that seat. This seat must be anti-CoCo.”
He was referring to the Community Coalition, the nonprofit founded by mayoral candidate Karen Bass and once led by councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson that has spent the past three decades trying to improve relations between Latinos and blacks in South Los Angeles. Bass and Harris-Dawson are black; The current Chief Executive and Executive Vice President of the Community Coalition are Latinos.
Beating up political enemies wasn’t good enough for Martinez and her cronies.
De León satirized the political power of the city’s blacks little better than the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz.
“About twenty-five are black,” Cedillo added. “And the 25 Blacks scream.”
De Leon interjected, “But they scream like they’re 250.”
Such was the toxicity of the quartet that they found time to destroy other groups as well.
Cedillo called Koreatown a “misnomer” because the population is predominantly Latino. Martinez mentioned Oaxacans who have lived in the neighborhood for decades.
“I see a lot of little, little dark people,” she said, giggling as she trotted out the anti-Oaxacan stereotypes pervasive in Mexico and the US. who is of Guatemalan descent, if Guatemalans are also ridiculed by Mexicans for their stature and complexion.
“I don’t know where these people are from,” Martinez continued. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what village they came from, how they got here.'”
“And now they’re wearing shoes,” someone added.
“‘Tan-Feos,” Martinez replied – they are ugly.
In a statement, Martinez apologized for her comments but defended the “intense frustration and anger” that had led to them.
“The context of that conversation was concern about the redistribution process and concern about the potential negative impact it could have on communities of color,” she said.
This comes after a conversation in which she and her political allies taunted blacks, Oaxacans and Central Americans, who in their Mexican-centric world now don’t seem to be “communities of color.”
De León called some comments made during the meeting “completely inappropriate”.
“I regret that I appear to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments about a colleague and his family in private,” he said in a statement. “On that day, I failed to live up to the expectations we set for our leaders – and I will hold myself to a higher standard.”
Unfortunately, nothing about this embarrassing fiasco surprised me. I hear Latinos whining all the time that blacks have too much political power at their expense. Mexican discrimination against Oaxacans is so pernicious even in Southern California that the term “oaxaquito— Little Oaxacan — was banned in Oxnard schools. I’m surprised Martinez didn’t call Koreans.”chinitos‘ – Chinese – because that would have followed the same tiny demeaning line as insults like ‘negritos’ and ‘changuitos’. Too many Mexican Americans still throw them around.
People are already defending Martinez’s use of them, saying she used the former in a sarcastic tone and the latter to describe Bonin’s son’s wild behavior, not his race.
Casual racism and classism among Latinos is something our community has never really faced until recently, as a new generation has begun open, honest conversations about our anti-blackness and colorism. It’s a pathology that’s getting worse in America as we move into new neighborhoods and compete for political power with communities that they’ve held longer than we have and aren’t yet ready to relinquish.
But the pendejadas supported by Martinez, Herrera, Cedillo and De León are the reason why too many people still don’t trust Latinos for higher office.
The latent fear that Latino politicians will only care about Latinos and screw other groups while our population continues to grow remains too real. People can say that’s unfair because ethnic politics has always been a part of American democracy.
But if you are the majority now, you should not behave like those who used to oppress you.
Martinez can complain, which she wants other Latinos to falter in political power. But as this fiasco shows, we have met the enemy – and it is always so, always us.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-09/nury-martinez-latino-recording-column-racist Nury Martinez reveals the enemy of Latino political power