The resignation of Nury Martinez, the first Latina president of the Los Angeles City Council, is a dramatic development that could have wide ranging ramifications for the future of LA politics. In the wake of the release of an October 2021 conversation where Martinez and other council members made racist remarks in the context of a discussion of redistricting, acting council head Mitch O’Farrell has also demanded the resignations of Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, saying the “people’s business cannot be conducted” until they step down.
Councilmember Martinez's resignation is the right and necessary first step toward healing, reconciliation, and governing. It's time for Councilmembers Cedillo and de Leon to do the same. That is the only way forward. pic.twitter.com/v2XUOhDOxe
— Mitch O'Farrell (@MitchOFarrell) October 13, 2022
There are immediate consequences to this explosive story, but then there are also potential long-term implications which are worth considering. Nury Martinez comes from a milieu shot through with racism, classism and colorism of a recognizable variety. This sort of sentiment is all too common within the Hispanic community — and in the hothouse of Los Angeles ethnic politics at large.
In this case, it was particularly damaging that Martinez’s remarks focused on a child, the one truly innocent party here. Martinez implied Councilman Mike Bonin and his husband use their adoption of a poor African-American boy to obtain credibility with the black community, essentially exploiting him to build up their voter base. His behavioral issues — not the child’s fault, obviously — are cited by Martinez, who referred to him as a “bitch” and a “changuito,” Spanish for “monkey,” saying the two-year-old “needed a beat down” for his antics on a parade float. De Leon compared the child’s appearances with Bonin at events to a fashion accessory, explicitly saying he’s used like a Goyard or a Louis Vuitton handbag.
There is the intriguing and unresolved question of who leaked the audio of these remarks and why — it was initially uploaded to Reddit in a now-deleted post by a suspended user. But setting that aside, it’s important to understand the context to see what comes next.
There will be downstream effects of this, as it puts that the significant hostility between black and Mexican Americans in LA on the table. African Americans are on the decline in LA metro, while Mexican Americans are on the rise. But the power structure of the city does not reflect that. Instead, it is dominated by wealthy white liberals, who have the money, and black representation, which has the votes. They have effectively entered into a coalition that until relatively recently blocked out the Mexican Americans from leadership. As NBC notes:
Although Los Angeles is almost half Hispanic, Latinos represent less than a third of the council’s fifteen districts, which has highlighted long-standing political tension and concern among Latinos that they are not represented fairly. Black people account for 9 percent of the city’s population and hold 20 percent of council seats.
This scandal and its follow-on effects is likely going to end in the decapitation of the Democratic Mexican political leadership in LA, as the black-white coalition succeeds in deploying accusations of racism and bigotry to hold on to power. But they may not like what comes next. If these Democrats succeed in wiping out Mexican Americans from city council leadership, the main character will be the LA County sheriff, Alex Villanueva, who already has gained a reputation as a foe of political correctness and defender of law and order.
In April, Villanueva attracted leftist backlash and right-wing support for saying “Woke-ism is on the ropes. Let’s put it out of its misery in 2022. My only goal is to make LA livable again.” It’s a message he’s repeated in press conferences since, saying that when it comes to LA County, “they have a very weird group of people that are in charge.”
Understand: a cop is about to become the effective leader of LA’s Mexican political community. It won’t happen overnight, but you can see what comes next. Within the coming years, there is going to be a critical mass of LA Mexican Americans who start to ask the question: why am I a Democrat?