Reviews | Why Los Angeles’ Black-Brown alliance bit the dust

The ongoing scandal in Los Angeles involving four prominent Latino officials caught in the act of racial slurs as they plotted for a redrawing of precincts immediately brought to mind my father, Larry Aubry. He died in May 2020, a census year that prompted the redistricting – and a week before the killing of George Floyd set the country on a course of racial reckoning that is still ongoing.

My dad was a consultant for the LA County Human Relations Commission, and he spent most of his working life and his entire retirement working to build meaningful coalitions between black people and everyone else — white, Asian, and well-to-do. course latinos. That was the job. But my dad took it more seriously than anyone else in town, a dedication that was remarkable, especially because he was Afrocentric, rooted in civil rights and the black freedom movement of the ’60s. And he was deeply committed to building bridges from that position, not from a racially neutral position that some people might assume is necessary for coalition building. In other words, my father was a humanist but not an assimilationist. He expected those he worked with to be the same – advocates for their own group but aware of the fundamental importance of coming together to achieve things for the good of all, like racial justice. Especially racial justice.

This is where the four self-proclaimed power brokers – three elected officials and the county’s top union leader – failed horribly. I’ve heard other black people say they weren’t surprised by the feelings expressed in the audio; former city council member Bernie Parks said bodybuilding has been going on forever, it just so happens it was filmed. Another mayoral veteran and member of the 2020 redistricting commission — who never wants to be named due to sensitive political connections — has been telling me about the Latin American land grab for years. But I can’t help but feel disappointed. I believed in what my dad did and assumed a lot of the people he worked with did too. Among those people was Gil Cedillo, the councilman who is one of the disgraced four – and who has so far pushed back calls for his resignation. After my father’s death, Cedillo stood in the council chamber and commemorated him in passionate and poignant remarks, a heartfelt tribute to my father’s integrity and unwavering belief in justice for all – which he said had guided Cedillo’s own career. What would my father have said about what is happening now?

I know what he would say: he would have been disappointed but not surprised either. My father was an idealist but not naive. He spoke to me many times about how sincere, well-meaning people, true believers in social justice, have finally succumbed to the status quo, either because they haven’t had the courage to challenge it, or because they have taken sides for the status quo more than they have taken sides for justice. . He saw change happen most often with politicians who entered the business with ideals but ended up compromising them. Or after entering politics, their true nature emerged – the lust for power or the need to feed the ego – and ideals took a back seat. The temptations were more immediate for black and brown elected officials who had historically been shunned from positions of power and, once installed, were more likely to see those positions as an end, not a means.

Latinos were something of a special case – a group for whom power became a fait accompli years ago because of the number. But unlike whites or Asians, Latinos lived next to blacks in the south-central. They were our neighbors for decades, sharing schools and stores and many of the oppressive conditions built into the history of a place that had been home to so many people of color. But Latinos were also a threat to black people’s hard-won sense of belonging. As a consultant, my dad focused on education, and one thing he did was try to make common cause with Latino parents who weren’t necessarily invested in racial justice as a goal. principal of public schools, as were the blacks. More concretely, Latino and Black students had different language, learning, and cultural needs, needs that were not equally met as Latinos became the overwhelming majority in the city’s school district. While Los Angeles officials were good at public relations-focused discussions about coalitions and unity, they were reluctant to talk about racial differences and power differentials that were becoming clearer.

My father strove to bring the two together, unity and tension, to forge a new kind of progress. He was involved in many multi-ethnic efforts in the 80s and 90s, including the Black Latino Roundtable, and after the 1992 civil unrest that brought South Central into the national spotlight, the MultiCultural Collaborative. None of these efforts lasted. The reasons are complicated, but my dad always said that membership — what Latinos and black people agreed they wanted from each other — just wasn’t explicit enough or compelling enough for whoever stays at the table. And so, despite the collaboration that occurred on city council, such as black and brown members voting for fair wages and other policies, in the real world was a reality in which blacks were losing ground and Latinos were becoming an increasingly autonomous force and increasingly impervious to black concerns.

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The real scandal of the city council exposure is that it shattered the idea that black and brown are more aligned than not, that we can still overcome politics as usual because of our closeness to each others and because we share a certain vision of the world. But black people, including my father, knew better. Although there had always been Latino allies committed to racial justice which they saw as essential to both groups, the status quo of Latino power, thanks to its ever-growing numbers, was increasingly important and becoming more difficult and more risky to challenge. At the heart of the scandal was the ease with which the four degraded black people or failed to oppose the degradation. (Not to mention the degradation of dark-skinned indigenous Mexicans, Jews, and gay people) The long free conversation confirmed that rising to power almost always involves racism and exclusion, in Los Angeles and everywhere else in the world. country. This is the price to pay for doing business.

I can say with confidence that my father never denigrated or belittled anyone, not even in private. Although he was very critical of people’s actions, or their lack of action, he remained a staunch humanist until the end. At a critical moment, these four didn’t. The best outcome of the latest LA civic crisis would be for a new status quo to come to power, one that really puts everyone in the room.


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