Anti-Blackness In Los Angeles: What’s The REAL Lesson Here?
Los Angeles never learns its race lessons. It would rather tolerate what Professor Derrick Bell called, “the permanence of racism” than change.
ANTHONY ASADULLAH SAMAD | OCT 13, 2022
A racial bloodbath has broken out in Los Angeles, and as usual—African Americans are at the epicenter of it. Racism being the festering, spreading cancer that it is, everybody caught some of the disease and the toxic smoke that comes with it. Everybody found out what “the Blacks” have known for two centuries: If you don’t check racism, it spreads to the next victim (Indigenous people), and the next (Jewish people), and the next (Asian people), and the next, (Arab and East Indian People), and the next (LGBTQ+ people). Hell, even children. Racism unchecked has no boundaries. The country is marred in a national discussion around immigration. Who do you think they are talking about? Latinx people, literally confirming the very fears that white nationalists have, that when they get here—they will try to take over. This is how we got here…blaming others for what you don’t have, or can’t get. We’re a society of anti-otherness.
Nury Martinez, in all her closet candor, came off like a real rabid, racist homophobe. She didn’t pull any punches, but nobody ever does when it comes to “the Blacks.” The more shocking revelation is she held her racist diatribe in the presence of people who were thought were our friends. Ron Herrera would have never become President of the County Federation of Labor without the black labor vote. Gil Cedillo, who has been in Black and Brown coalitions since the 1990s (maybe before—but I remember him in the 90s), acts blacks, talks black, hangs with black folk, and if you didn’t know better—could be mistaken for Afro-Latino. He looks like the dark people Martinez mocked).
She was talking about people that looked like him in the meeting. But he sat there, tee-heeing and laughing it up. Then when it came out—all he had to say was, “It wasn’t me.” Yeah, but he didn’t stop it either. Like in real life though, we all have those two-faced “friends” who either are not really friends or play both sides. Popular culture calls them, “Frienemies.” Either way, they’re dangers to you or the communities you represent.
Kevin DeLeon, who I’ve never trusted (my spidey senses go off every time I see this dude), tried to diminish the effect of black advocacy and protest as imaginary—at best, and shallow—at worst. The same advocacy that Latinos have replicated and advanced their causes and social standing with. In what he called “The Wizard of Oz” effect, he said “the Blacks” sound like 250 people, but when you “pull back the curtain,” it’s only 25. Otherwise, we (the Blacks) are talking loud and saying nothing. Talk about a hater…but Ron Herrera knew.
We came for them. And we brought our real friends…the Cancel Culture is always waiting to pounce…this time, it’s justified. They made it too easy this time. Racist elected officials are never a good look.
Well, at City Hall, Tuesday…looked more like 250 to me. That’s only because that’s how many the council chamber would hold (the rest were outside). However many there were, it was enough to run yo a** up outta there. And just think…he wanted to be “our” Mayor. He was the one that was delusional. Thought he could pull 25% of the vote, based on population parity (more on this in a minute), and pulled 7%. I call that, “Instant Karma,” a double dose for his delusional *ss. Two head bumps in one year.
Soooo, besides this being a case study on how to play yourself aka “how to get dragged in City Hall,” what’s the real lesson here?
The lessons are three:
- Anti-black racism is not new nor is it specific to Whites or Latinos.
- Los Angeles never learns its race lessons. It would rather tolerate what Professor Derrick Bell called, “the permanence of racism” than change.
- Los Angeles needs to take across the board Anti-Racism training policy seriously. It’s too easy to pretend “not to be racist.” People have to declare they’re Anti-Racist.
Los Angeles has always had its race problems. Right after the city put structural government in place (the City Charter was adopted in 1889—though the City was founded before California became a state (1850) in 1781), the “othering” began. It wasn’t the Deep South, but Los Angeles had its share of restrictive covenants and “sundown spaces” to keep the “others” in their place, up until and throughout the 60s. Once “the Blacks,” Latinos and Asians began demanding political representation, the City had to figure out racial pecking order and social space. Who can forget the campaign run against Tom Bradley in 1969, or the one run against Yvonne Burke in the 1980s…”Vote before it’s too late.” Too late for what? Too late for “the Blacks” to try to lead themselves. It’s called, representation, and everybody is supposed to have it. Black and Brown empowerment became “a thing” in the 70s, each experiencing a modicum of success by the 1980s. It was camaraderie then…it became competing interests (competition) in 1980s.
This stew has been broiling for some time. The Black/Brown “divide” goes back to the 1980s, when Black and Brown coalitions came together to fight anti-immigrant (Prop 187) and anti-race (Prop 209) legislation, but competing interests—namely access to jobs, housing and education—brought about competition. Also the two communities didn’t see Latino population growth in the same way, but they managed to coexist. Anti-black sentiment was largely directed at “the Blacks” from the Jewish and Asian communities. Once the year 2000 came, and the Latinx community became the nation’s largest ethnic minority, there was a noticeable shift in attitudes, both in government and in the community. Tribalism began to dictate interaction (largely out of the overgrown prison and jail populations). Martinez’s racial tirade sounds like “prison talk,” where everybody has to stay with their own—and if they don’t, “F*ck em.” However, that’s no way to run governments or civil societies. Incivility causes societies to crumble.
This closet meeting sounded like a Klan gathering where sympathizers would meet the same fate as their targets, so people we thought had more mature racial sensibilities fell in and fed the frenzy. Now that their sensibilities are known, they think they can wait “the Blacks” out and return to the horseshoe. Problem is, they talked about too many other people to be brought back in. Nobody will trust their sincerity from here on out. The apology play, sincere or not, is just a page in the playbook toward regaining credibility. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s going to work this time. Too many people got splashed on this one. It wasn’t just “the Blacks,” which is really the blessing in disguise. Now everybody knows what it feels like to be the “Anti” or the “despised” in society. Martinez, De Leon and Cedillo can’t just come back to the sandbox, say “My Bad…” and play (where they left off). That day has passed.
Hopefully, Los Angeles is learning a lesson here. It cannot ignore racism any longer. It’s just not “Anti-Black.” And anti-blackness needs to be addressed before it is passed on to the next “other.” Or child.
By the way…if you haven’t already figured it out, I’m with “the Blacks.” All three GOTTA GO.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political & Economic Institute at CSUDH, a Non Partisan Think Tank studying the impact of public policy on African Americans and their communities. He is the co-founder and host of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the upcoming book, "A Thousand Times NO To The Status Quo: Selected Counter Cultural Commentaries of A. Asadullah Samad (1991-2014)". He can be reached on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) at @DrAnthonySamad.