Ruckus Over Racist Audio Shows Los Angeles Latinos Need Better Leaders


— Multiculturalism can be messy. Los Angeles isn’t just America’s second-largest city. It is also one of its most problematic.

All it takes to set the city ablaze are audio clips of a quartet of Latino pooh-bahs — three members of the Los Angeles City Council and a labor leader — spewing mean, racist and horrible things against Blacks, Jews, Armenians, gays, whites, Koreans and Oaxacans. No one was safe.

The audio — recorded in October 2022 and posted on Reddit before being obtained by The Los Angeles Times — has torn apart the city.

I know this city. It’s the place that I ran to in the 1990s and then later ran away from. I lived in El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles three times in a four-year period after fleeing the farmland of my native Central California. I tapped out in January 1995 when — after a nightly radio show ended that I had co-hosted for ABC Radio with African American broadcaster Tavis Smiley — I bid the City of Angels adios and left it to deal with its demons.

Twenty-seven years later, one thing about Los Angeles hasn’t changed. Latinos (more than 50% of the population) and African Americans (about 9%) still fight over crumbs that fall off the table of white people.

Los Angeles is where math goes to die. There are 15 members of the City Council, and only four of them — less than 30% — are Latino, even though Latinos make up more than half of the city.

Actually, better make that three Latinos. Nury Martinez, the disgraced former president of the City Council, said no más this week and gave into calls to resign that stretched from City Hall to the White House.

Martinez wasn’t the only offender. The other three also got in their licks. But Martinez went over the top. She recalled a time when council member Mike Bonin’s young Black son misbehaved by saying that the boy “parece changuito,” or “was acting like a monkey.” She also said that Bonin — who is gay — was a “little bitch” who treated his son as an “accessory.” Martinez called Oaxacans short, dark and ugly, and said that the district attorney was “with the Blacks.”

Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, has also resigned.

Los Angeles City Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León are the two holdouts.

Cedillo is a lame duck, having been defeated by left-wing Latina Eunisses Hernandez in California’s June primary. Of course, de León must also resign.

The foulmouthed four always had to go. They can’t do their jobs. Their colleagues don’t trust them. A sizable chunk of the public doesn’t like them. To the degree that there was any comity or respect on the City Council, they destroyed it.

That’s not all they destroyed. Here they were scheming over how to prevent the city’s redistricting commission from eroding hard-earned gains by Latinos and they wound up eroding those gains all by themselves.

Diversity looks nifty in the brochure, like a shiny gadget from the future. In around 2042, whites are expected to become a statistical minority as the country becomes “majority minority.”

But in the hands of the clumsy, diversity can be corrosively divisive. And division based over personal differences — race, color, creed, etc. — has no place in the future. Instead, it harks back to an ugly past.

Yet don’t get sanctimonious. Latinos and African Americans didn’t invent identity politics in 2022. If you check the copyright on that bad boy, you’ll see it was a favorite chew toy for the Italians and the Irish in 1922. A century earlier, in 1822, it wreaked havoc between the English and the Germans. The national motto isn’t really E Pluribus Unum (“From Many, One”). It’s “Take Care of Your Own, Buddy.”

But what happens when a group of people who claim to be taking care of you don’t leave you feeling taken care of? Because those who claim to be your leaders don’t speak for you or reflect your values.

“I hope you stay engaged and continue to fight for your fair share of the city’s resources,” Martinez said in her letter of resignation. “It’s hard to say goodbye, but please know that I was in this fight for you.”

Unbelievable. She still doesn’t get it. Along with Cedillo, Herrera and de León, Martinez wasn’t leading Latinos anywhere — except into a cul-de-sac of racism, pettiness and tribal thinking.

Take it from this Mexican American, we weren’t going in there. Besides, it’s tough to follow someone whom you’re ashamed of.