When I first heard the news that bigots had infected the L.A. City Council, it definitely took me by surprise, but it did not shock me in the slightest. Discrimination and prejudice existed long before we became the U.S.A. and can be found among all races.
“Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate’er it touches.”
— Shelley, Queen Mab (1813)
Bigotry isn’t exclusive to Caucasian people, that thought itself is racist. The first American settlers did not pioneer xenophobia, that has existed long before the word “xenophobia” first came across someone’s lips. And, yes, we do have systemic racism in this country that benefits the white population, but, no, that doesn’t exempt minorities from being racist themselves.
Growing up mixed, I’ve had prejudice lobbed at me from all sides. Regardless of their race, confusion strikes people when they see me. Is he Latino? Is he Filipino? Is he one of us? Confusion makes people uncomfortable and ugly — at least their mouths turn ugly. My skin has leathered over time thanks to the racial epithets and hatred, most of which didn’t even apply to my race or ethnicity. It was just hate speech.
So finding out that Martinez, Cedillo and de León jammed themselves up with their own bigotry made me happy — City Council just became a lot less sleazy. People often dig their own graves, waiting for the time when their actions end up burying them.
“…their racism stands out even more when underscored by the lack of respect for their colleagues, their positions or constituents”
But their racism stands out even more when underscored by the lack of respect for their colleagues, their positions or constituents — the Angelenos who elected them.
Moreover, this embarrasses anyone belonging to a minority group and who isn’t a bigot. Martinez and her cronies just set all of us back a few years. They gave the extreme right gasoline and matches, adding to an already unstable political and social climate. And the cherry on top? Angelenos are now being mocked by other cities.
As if the shame, humiliation and insult weren’t enough, de León and Cedillo refuse to step down, even as dozens of political leaders, including the president, call on them to do so. This makes it obvious that their positions of power mean more to them than the people they’re supposed to serve.
An honorable person would not only accept responsibility but also take whatever punishment they’re dished. Protesting Angelenos want these bigots gone, but they won’t budge. My head hurts trying to reason the whys and hows of their stubbornness.
“We had to have this moment to open real dialogue about racism on all fronts.”
Instead, I looked for a glimmer of something in this mess, and I realized: this NEEDED to happen.
We had to have this moment to open real dialogue about racism on all fronts — not just in Los Angeles but the entire country; not just minorities oppressed but also their oppressive ways. Racism as a response to racism mirrors the “eye for an eye” mentality of the Bible, and ignoring any form of racism slows our development as a society.
Too many Latinos discriminate against African Americans. Too many African Americans discriminate against Asians. The circle keeps winding around itself, like a snake performing auto-asphyxiation.
The L.A. City Council gave us a wake-up call, my fellow Angelenos. How are you going to respond?