In 2019, Nury Martinez became the first Latina president of the Los Angeles City Council. She stepped down from her powerful job today, Oct. 10, 2022, after a leaked audio of racist comments between her and some other council members went public on Oct. 9.
The local and state NAACP called on Martinez and all council members involved to step down.
So did Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif). “Los Angeles must move in a new direction, and that is not possible unless the four individuals caught on that tape resign from their offices immediately,” Bass tweeted.
The LA City Council is responsible for enacting laws that govern the city and has the final say on the budget for all departments and agencies within the city. There are 15 city council members who each preside over a council district.
When Martinez took the helm, there was cause for celebration, however many in the city called for her resignation after she was caught on tape making racist remarks about Black Americans.
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Martinez, the child of a dishwasher and a factory worker from the Mexican state of Zacatecas, is a Democrat. She previously served as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education from 2009 to 2013.
An anonymous Reddit account tipped off people about the racist audio recordings. The voices on the recordings seem to that of Council President Martinez, Councilmembers Kevin de León, and Gil Cedillo, and L.A. Labor Federation President Ron Herrera, Knock L.A. reported.
Martinez and two other council members used the language while discussing a white colleague and his toddler Black son in a broad conversation with a labor leader.
In the October 2021 conversation, which lasted for roughly an hour, Martinez can be heard calling fellow council member Mike Bonin “that little bitch.” She also said that he handled his adopted son like “an accessory.” She refers to the child as “su negrito,” which is a disparaging term in Spanish for a Black person. She also called the child “ese changuito,” or that “little monkey.”
“There’s nothing you can do to control him, parece ch****ito.”
“This kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner, I’ll bring him right back.”
Martinez, de León, Cedillo, and Herrera discussed Black political power in L.A. and what de León termed “the Wizard of Oz effect.”
In the recording, Martinez said of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, “Fuck that guy, he’s with the Blacks.”
The audio files were posted earlier this month on Reddit, but the account and those files have since been deleted, The Daily Beast reported.
Martinez has since apologized.
In a Oct. 9 statement, she said, “In a moment of intense frustration and anger, I let the situation get the best of me and I hold myself accountable for these comments.”
Bonin told the Los Angeles Times that the audio had made him “disgusted and angry and heartsick,” adding that his son had been 2 years old at the time the comments were made.
Tensions between Black people and Latinos in Los Angeles have heated up.
California has seen a rapid growth in the Latino population, which is now at 19 percent in the U.S. overall and 39 percent in the state.
In a series of lawsuits companies have settled with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Black Californians detail racism they claim to have experienced at warehouses from Latino co-workers. These are the largest discrimination cases seen in California.
“We are seeing an increase in larger race harassment cases,” Anna Park, regional attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Los Angeles district office, told The Los Angeles Times. “The nature of them has gotten uglier. There’s a more blatant display of hatred with the N-word, with imagery, with nooses. All the violence you’re seeing in the news, it is manifesting in the employment context.”
Under U.S. federal policy, “Hispanic” is not recognized as a race but as an ethnicity. Hispanics can be of any race–there can be white and Black Hispanics. There are Black and white Latinos. But non-Hispanic Black American workers in California have found themselves the victim of discrimination from Latinos.
Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, Jan. 14, 2020, Solagil1126, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Solagil1126&action=edit&redlink=1