Each day that passes without full accountability holds us back from healing and from unity in Los Angeles.
Nury Martínez has resigned, shamefully without an apology in her resignation letter where she bizarrely claimed to be an inspiration for “little” Latinas. Now Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo must also resign from the Los Angeles City Council.
At a recent summit led by the Latino Media Collaborative, host organization of CALÓ NEWS, we invited then-council president Martínez to provide remarks on the state of Latino media in California. Since then, she has been forced to resign amid tremendous political and public pressure after leaked audio recordings of her conversation with colleagues exposed a well of anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity and homophobia behind the leadership of Los Angeles. The recordings have shaken us and we condemn them in their entirety. De León and Cedillo must resign before our communities are able to turn a chapter.
President Joe Biden has called for their resignation. So has City Councilman Mike Bonin, whose 8-year-old son was the subject of some of the racist and derogatory remarks in a recorded conversation that has gained global attention.
Black, Brown and white people across Los Angeles have expressed outrage and disgust related to the bigoted vitriol revealed in the conversation that took place a year ago and made public this week via reporting by the Los Angeles Times.
“Unacceptable” is how the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described the hateful speech.
“Here’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans: When a Democrat says something racist or antisemitic … we hold Democrats accountable,” Jean-Pierre said. “When a MAGA Republican says something racist and or antisemitic, they are embraced by cheering crowds and become celebrated and sought after.”
Ron Herrera, the president of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor — who was part of the leaked conversation — resigned at a meeting Monday.
All three council members have apologized, but de León and Cedillo remain in office. Councilman Bonin was correct when he stated this week that the shameful trio should have resigned first and then apologized.
“There are a lot of people who are now asking for forgiveness. And asking for forgiveness is a good first step,” Bonin said in an emotional speech at City Hall Tuesday. “But well, it’s a second step because first, first you must resign and then ask for forgiveness. But let me be clear: People should not ask me for forgiveness, because I can’t forgive them because it’s not my prerogative. It’s the prerogative of a boy who was too young to really understand what the hell was going on. And when he’s older, maybe when he’s in high school, you can seek his forgiveness.”
The attack on Bonin’s son was an attack on all children.
“I am a dad who loves his son in ways that words cannot capture — and I take a lot of hits, and hell, I know I practically invite a bunch of them. But my son? Man, that makes my soul bleed and it makes my temper burn. And I know I’m not alone. Because Los Angeles has spoken and it feels the same way,” he said.
Those derided in the conversation weren’t just Black. The so-called leaders attacked Oaxaqueños and Armenians. Also, there was language recorded that was homophobic and bigoted.
Martínez, de León and Cedillo were trusted public servants who spoke about people in their own communities with disdain and disgust. This scandal reveals the internal racism within the Latino community, as they spoke of other’s skin tone and stature, and described a child in a racialized, animalistic way. The slurs should never be repeated.
Latinos come in all colors and can be of any race. Many are white passing. Some pretend to be white passing. The language used in the conversation was straight up white supremacy. The Latino politicians spoke as if they were white by condemning or mocking those who are darker than them.
Their words could cause damage and distrust for years to come. Their actions speak to the worst of politics, of people who wheel and deal and treat people they are supposed to serve with disregard and contempt. They tried to wield their power for political gain, but now should be powerless to make decisions for residents of Los Angeles. Their political careers are over. Racists should not get second chances.
Now, instead of focusing on how to strengthen the city of Los Angeles on issues of housing to economic development and public safety, the attention of the world is on this hateful episode.
Our community has already been severely damaged by the hate speech of other politicians, namely Donald Trump who called Mexicans “rapists” and “criminals” and constantly stoked fears with talk of an “invasion” of immigrants.
Republican voters condoned that speech simply by voting for Trump. Some even cheered it on along with countless other bigoted things the president said.
But Jean-Pierre is right. Democrats have to be held accountable. There must be ethical and moral standards, lines we do not cross. Racism or bigotry in any form against any community is never acceptable.
There can be no healing until there is justice. As we continue calling on the resignations of de León and Cedillo, our community must also embark on a journey of deep reflection into how, in the words of Angelica Salas from CHIRLA, Latinos do not become the new face of racism and prejudice in this country.