Posted on October 19, 2022

Nury Martinez’s Resignation May Quell Fury but Won’t ‘Deal With Latino Anti-Blackness,’ Experts Say

Erin B. Logan, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2022

Nury Martinez, the Los Angeles City Council president who derided a progressive district attorney for being “with the Blacks,” described a small Black boy as “parece changuito” (like a monkey) and claimed his white father handled him as if he were an “accessory,” resigned her seat last Wednesday.

But Councilmembers Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo, who were in the room during the leaked conversation in which Martinez spewed racist statements, are still in office.

Major California political figures, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, have joined protestors in calling for the resignations of Cedillo, whose term ends this year, and De León, who is set to serve through 2024. Even President Biden, who was in Los Angeles last week, has called on the lawmakers to leave office.

The episode, which has captivated much of the country, showcases two political phenomena — strife among Democrats jockeying for power and anti-Black racism among politicians of color — that are rarely aired so openly. Two of the lawmakers involved in the tape have refused to leave office in the face of righteous anger, creating a waiting game of sorts. But focusing on whether a few politicians will resign, rather than on a culture that nurtures anti-Black racism within Latino communities, can obscure the prevalence of racist beliefs, experts told The Times.

Anti-Black racism in the Latino community is not a question of a few bad eggs, said Tanya Katerí Hernández, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law and author of “Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality.”

“[Martinez’s] comments don’t exist in a vacuum,” Hernández said. “They exist within a set of cultural racial attitudes that are part of Latino culture.”


“You don’t need ‘whites only’ signs when an entire society already has internalized the notion of what are the white spaces,” Hernández said.


Anti-Black sentiment is prevalent not only among people in Latin America but also among Latinos in the United States, Hernández said. In the U.S., levels of racial prejudice against Black people are comparable for Latinos and non-Hispanic whites, political scientists Yanna Krupnikov and Spencer Piston found in a 2016 study.


Hasan Kwame Jeffries, a historian at Ohio State University, noted that Martinez made her racist comments during a conversation about political redistricting.

“This isn’t just one’s person’s beliefs or biases against another,” he said. “Nury is connecting to a particular base in a rigidly segregated community. In the context of political power, the solidarity between Black and brown communities can sometimes break down. {snip}”

Black and Latino Democrats often find themselves together pushing for power in Congress, which remains disproportionately white.

In the Los Angeles political power structure, however, there is no shortage of Democrats of color, and lawmakers often find that their most threatening rivals are within their own party.


In Los Angeles, Black organizers say they still see many Latino activists as natural allies in the struggle against white supremacy. But the tape has deepened their distrust of the city’s Latino leadership.