Nury Martinez’s racism renews fears of Black vs. Latino L.A.

She called Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, a black kid “changuito”, or “a monkey” carried around like a Louis Vuitton handbag.

From Los Angeles County Dist. atty George Gascón, she simply said, “F— that guy. He’s with the blacks.”

LA City Council President Nury Martinez said she was only in “one-on-one” during an hour-long, secretly recorded meeting in October with LA County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera and fellow Latino council members Gil Cedillo and Kevin Moment of intense frustration and anger” de Leon.


We just heard who Martinez is Yes, really is. But more importantly, what they Yes, really wants for the future of Los Angeles – the consolidation of Latino power – and what it is Yes, really willing to do to get it.

That hour-long meeting, the audio of which was uploaded to Reddit and reviewed by The Times, wasn’t just a forum for exchanging the kind of racist remarks and “jokes” you might hear at a Trump rally.

It was supposedly convened to discuss the redistribution of seats on the city council that was taking place at the time. But it very quickly devolved into strategies of manipulating district maps to deprive blacks of political power and give it to Latinos instead.

“When you talk about Latino districts, what kind of districts are you trying to create?” Martinez grumbled at one point. “Because you’re taking our fortune away from us.”

Elsewhere, De León addressed the so-called “Wizard of Oz effect,” which he described as a small number of black voters attracting an outsized amount of political attention while larger numbers of Latinos go unheard.

“It sounds like there are thousands of them,” he said. “And then when you actually draw the curtains…you see the Little Wizard of Oz.”

In a city where blacks make up a shrinking percentage of the population but still have some of the highest rates of poverty and homelessness, what Martinez and De León said—repeated by Cedillo and Herrera—does a lot of damage.

It also pulls back the curtain on the kind of blatant machinations and machinations that dictate political power in LA

Her words, now bouncing through social media in audio snippets, bluntly confirm the worst fears of many black Angelenos: that Latino politicians treat political power as a zero-sum game. That because of their numbers, they will take over leadership of the city and because of their racist beliefs, they will ignore our needs.

Their words, which they thought we would never hear, were ignorant, narrow-minded and downright insulting.

De León’s so-called apology on Sunday that he “fell short of what we expected of our leaders” does not begin to make up for what he said — and laughed at.

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson was shocked by the intensity of anti-Black sentiment.

“It’s understandable that politicians are trying to attract the most favorable voters,” he said. “Some sort of concerted effort to dilute the power of black voters is what I expected from Republicans in the South and Midwest. I did not expect this level of repression of black voters in Los Angeles.”

It doesn’t help that all of this comes at a time when black cultural spaces are shrinking or being obliterated by an affordability crisis that is leading to both displacement and disproportionate homelessness.

There’s also gentrification, particularly in West Adams and along the Crenshaw Corridor in South LA. The general feeling that Metro opening its new rail line through Leimert Park is both a blessing and a curse is testament to this.

This whole ugly incident tears a huge hole in the narrative that many would like to believe that Los Angeles — and California — is a sort of multicultural Mecca where blacks and browns form alliances to work together in solidarity to solve problems.

“This is a city that prides itself on bringing communities together, especially in the pursuit of progressive causes,” said Manuel Pastor, director of the USC Equity Research Institute. “We’ve come up short before, but those are exceedingly unhelpful comments.”

In reality, the same tribal struggle for power that has long haunted LA is still here.

Nothing suggests that more than the back-and-forth surrounding suspended councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Specifically, how Martinez and the others discussed how he could redraw his South LA district in a way that would strip power away from Black Angelenos and make room for an interim replacement to serve pending the upcoming federal trial of Ridley-Thomas with the Latinos on the city council would vote on bribery allegations.

“I see what we have to do, right? Just massage to create areas that benefit you all. And the future. But we also need to find out Mark’s place,” Herrera once said.

“If he resigns and African Americans see that as a hostile takeover because he’s gone, we need to work that out,” Martinez replied. “Because they will come after us politically.”

“The one who’s going to support us is Heather Hutt,” Cedillo said.

In August, Martinez appointed Hutt a voting member of the Ridley-Thomas Council District. After some back and forth, she was approved for service in September.

Thanks to the conversation they didn’t know was being recorded, Martinez, Cedillo, Herrera and De León have now managed to completely undermine Hutt, a black woman, treating her as little more than a tool for the political power of the to portray Latinos.

A “hostile takeover” indeed.

The question is what comes after that. It’s true that South LA, once a Black Angeleno stronghold, isn’t anymore. Today, Latinos make up roughly half of LA’s population, but make up less than a third of the council’s wards. This raises questions about fair representation.

But the answer can’t be a city run by Latinos, only for Latinos, which, based on what Martinez likes to say behind closed doors, is what she really wants to do — and will do almost anything to get it reach.

Even two apologies sent via Twitter are not enough. De León wrote that he regrets “condoning and even contributing to certain insensitive comments about a colleague and his family in private,” he said in a statement.

Bonin deserves more than a call. His black son too. So do all Black Angelesos.

I tend to agree with Harris-Dawson when he says that something “fundamental” needs to be addressed and that if done right, it will be a “very long, grueling process”.

“I heard a statement on the tape where one of the people in the room says, ‘Well, those black voters never did anything.’ That’s just ignorant,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s willful ignorance or if it’s actual ignorance, but it’s not something that can be solved by being fired.

“It’s something that gets resolved over a long period of time where people commit to doing and understanding something.”

LA deserved this. Leaders, especially a city council president who will lead, do not use racist tropes to build a political system of ours against them. Nury Martinez’s racism renews fears of Black vs. Latino L.A.

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