The plot to suppress the Black vote

The fallout is still brewing from a leaked audio recording that features proposed backroom dealings that would sap the political clout of Black people as well as racist and derogatory comments aimed at just about everyone by several Los Angeles elected officials.     

The outrage and condemnation have been hot and heavy, to say the least. 

“I was shocked, and I am so very disappointed in the three City Councilmembers and the now former President of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, who have been documented making the kind of racist comments I never thought would come out of the mouths of those elected to serve the beautifully diverse city of Los Angeles,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters said. “Their comments also included horrific details about efforts to weaken the political power of Black people across the city.”

Former Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez. Courtesy photo

Former Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and several of her colleagues managed to piss off a whole lot of people. In one secretly recorded conversation that took place inside the offices of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor in 2021, Martinez short-circuited her political career with incendiary and racist-laden remarks in a conversation she had with ex-labor leader Ron Herrera and Los Angeles City Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de Leon. 

Martinez resigned. And so far, de Leon and Cedillo have resisted pressure to step down, further escalating more anger and more calls for them to quit.   

“The resignation of Councilmember Nury Martinez from her council seat is an important step in helping the City of Los Angeles and its people move forward. There is no joy here; this has been a dark week for our city, our Latino leadership, and our nation,” reads a statement from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).   

“We once again call on Los Angeles City Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin De Leon to resign their posts immediately so that the nation’s second-largest city can begin the difficult process of uniting its people once again and move the community forward together. “There is no vaccine for racism. No one is immune from this ugly disease, and we must continue to hold our leadership and each other accountable when we experience it.”

Things have turned ugly for all four high-powered and once-breakthrough Latino leaders. You know things are bad when the head of your political party wants you gone. The White House all the way to national and local organizations have called for heads to roll after the disparaging remarks, made a year ago, were leaked publicly. 

This matter involving the elected officials in question has torn at the fabric of the Democratic Party and the Los Angeles political system. The meeting between Martinez, de Leon, Cedillo, and Herrera, centers on the four Hispanic leaders allegedly conspiring during the lengthy recording of taking away or finding ways of dissolving the Black vote, something that the Department of Justice has been called on to investigate.  

“When bigotry and power intersect, as they did here, we must address both the racist comments, but also the political institutions that protect those incumbents,” said California Common Cause National Redistricting Director Kathay Feng said in a released statement. “Only an independent redistricting commission can ensure that councilmembers are fully accountable to their constituents and that resources are distributed equitably.” 

Former senator and current Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de Leon listens to Professor Andrew McMahon, Director, Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine. Photo by David Sprague

Jonathan Mehta Stein, the executive director of California Common Cause, said the blending of political corruption and racism needs to be fixed.   

“As the leaked LA tapes illustrate, a partisan redistricting process also perpetuates the systemic racism that deprives communities of color of the power and representation they deserve, and along with them, the strong schools, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing they need to thrive. In a state as diverse as California, incumbent-run redistricting often pits neighborhoods and communities against one another,” Mehta Stein said via statement.   

“We stand with LA communities seeking healing and accountability. We also acknowledge nothing will change in 2030 as long as a broken redistricting system allows our communities to be used as pawns of those in power,” he added.  

Los Angeles is divided into 15 districts. African Americans represent three of those districts. Heather Hutt (District 10), Curren Price Jr. (District 9), and Marqueece Harris Dawson are current members that sit or occupy Los Angeles City Council seats. According to the U.S. Census, Black people make up just 8.8 percent of the population in Los Angeles, and 13 percent nationwide. On the other hand, Hispanics/Latinos comprise 49 percent of the city’s residents.    

With that said, Martinez, de Leon, Cedillo, and Herrera allegedly go through this conversation of expanding their voting bloc at the expense of Black residents by wanting to create district maps that would be beneficial to them.

Los Angeles City Councilman Gill Cedillo (far right) attends a Mayor Eric Garcetti dinner that was hosted for DACA recipients on the 5th anniversary of DACA in 2017. Garcetti (far left) meets with Jimmy Gomez and Cedillo. Courtesy photo

This does not sit well with the NAACP.  

“This kind of overt racism has no place in political discourse. We clearly know where your heart and mind are, and both of them are corroded with the rust of racism and hate,” said Rick L. Callender, President of the CA/HI State Conference of the NAACP. 

Latricia Mitchell, president of the Los Angeles Branch of the NAACP, let her feelings be known about the recent developments. 

“We will not sit idly by and allow our elected representatives to engage in these kinds of disgusting and racist behaviors,” Mitchell said in a statement that can be found on the organization’s website.   

Martinez, Herrera, Cedillo, and de Leon, are now staring at the possibility of a political death sentence for their part in a discussion that lasts well past an hour.