Los Angeles has had its share of race relations issues in the past. The Watts Riots. The Rodney King beating and the subsequent unrest after the police verdicts. The George Floyd murder. But the City Council scandal that has rocked the Los Angeles political scene is different in that it has the potential to disrupt what has otherwise been beneficial relations between the Black and Latino communities.
Watching the city council meetings days after the recording of unhinged racist remarks by the three Latino councilmembers and Ron Herrera from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor showed the anger and frustration of the public towards morally corrupt leaders.
The key here is public outrage. Every community was equally horrified by the remarks and the inactions not taken to stop the defamatory comments.
Latinos were just as incensed as members of the Black community – voicing their angst in front of city hall, lambasting the four Latino leaders on social media, and calling for their resignations. The phrases “Ya Basta!” and “Fuera!” could be heard as loud and as frequently as “Hey, hey, yo, you have to go” in crowds across Los Angeles.
Each community found the remarks reprehensible but in different ways.
Many Latinos were vexed that their champions would talk negatively about the Oaxacan community living in Korea Town. It was intolerant, insensitive, and far from the purpose of political discussion. The inward turn was perplexing to Latinos across the region.
The Black community was outraged, and rightly so, by the racist remarks and attacks on a Black toddler, which they should have never mentioned in their meeting on redistricting. Even then, their primary purpose of disenfranchising Black voters and elected officials must never be tolerated.
But racism exists in every culture. And with variations.
Stereotypes’ perpetual push helps keep negative and false impressions of cultures and individuals alive. For some, it is purely the color of your skin. For others, it is your national origin or ethnic background.
Fear lives in bigotry. Celebration lives in diversity.
In those recordings, we heard the fear of losing power, authority, and identity. Historic themes that have existed primarily in quiet discussions around the world for millennia.
Of course, race persecution has also existed out in the open throughout the dark portions of human history.
Their actions are why there is an urgent need to have all three individuals resign immediately – we must not allow this to become a dark period in our city’s history. By leaving their seats, the remaining two council members permit Angelinos to focus on the brightness of our communities and start the healing process.
We must espouse one another’s cultures or run the risk of implosion.
Combating racism requires constant interaction and hyper-local multicultural events to experience one another’s worlds.
The exchange of culture has a significant and immediate positive impact. Example: the rapper Snoop Dogg recorded Que Maldicion, a substantial hit with Mexican mega group Banda MS with crossover appeal to Latino, Black, hip-hop, and banda music lovers worldwide.
The lesson here is that racism is a learned ignorance and can come from anyone of any background. The teachable moment is we should strive to educate ourselves on the similarities and differences we have in such a rich and diverse community like that of Los Angeles.
As we enter the season of thanks, praise, giving, and rejoicing, let us take a moment to greet one another, dine at places we have never been before in a neighborhood where other cultures thrive, and show respect and gratitude as we break bread.
Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer is the Chair of the Public Safety Committee, a Member of the California Reparations Task Force, and represents the communities of the 59th Assembly, which include Exposition Park, South Los Angeles, Walnut Park, and Florence-Firestone.