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What You Need To Know Today: Reflection After City Council Tape, Council Presidency Next Steps, Indigenous Land Map

A masked crowd sits in on a LA City Council meeting.
L.A. City Council Meeting
(Phoenix Tso
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Tuesday, October 11.  

Today in How To LA: Reflecting on LA city decision makers' controversial conversation, what happens next in council presidency; plus, new indigenous land map 

I know I’m not alone in thinking that this has been one long week in Los Angeles already. And it’s only Tuesday. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard the controversial, racist conversation between a few councilmembers and the L.A. County Federation of Labor President.

Since the City Council tape heard ‘round the world released this Sunday, Nury Martinez announced her resignation as the Los Angeles City Council President (at this time, she is still serving on the council, but here’s abreakdown on what happens next), and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera stepped down from his post, which was first reported by the L.A. Sentinel. Also, other folks on the call apologized, and many prominent L.A. politicians, like Sen. Alex Padilla, have called for everyone involved in the discussion to resign and take full responsibility for their actions.

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It’s been quite a whirlwind, especially as a Black woman who is well familiar with the history of anti-Black racism and colorism in this country, even in so-called liberal, progressive bastions like California. While I read this story, I kept on thinking about the Los Angeles Times article that was published in August about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports about Latino warehouse employees that were blatantly calling Black workers the N-word and “monkeys” among other derogatory slurs.

This time, we’re seeing an attempt to gerrymander and suppress votes from people who claim to look out for communities of color.

I keep thinking about the fact that Nury Martinez and the other councilmembers talk about a so-called “Wizard of Oz effect” where they sought to disconnect the Black community of their already limited power, especially in light of the fact this is a population that is already dwindling in size. As the Black population in L.A. has fallen from 17% in the 1980s, to now 8%, the Latino population has grown exponentially to almost 50% in the county.

The How To LA team chatted with Amir Whitaker, a civil rights attorney with the Southern California chapter of the American Liberties Civil Union and Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at USC about their thoughts on these powerful decision makers comments in a casual discussion.

We really wanted to know: What they thought of this interracial discussion and what they think should be done about it in context? 

In today’s podcast, you’ll hear How To LA host Brian De Los Santos talk to these two leaders about this. Here are some key takeaways:

Amir Whitaker, who lives in Councilmember Kevin de León’s District 14, says he felt tricked once he heard the tape. He’s heard the decision makers on the tape speak about solidarity and communities of color working together for that common mission. For him, it’s the only way to uproot white supremacy from our nation.

“Some of the comments were anti-Black, anti-indigenous, anti-LGBTQ+, and a lot of those comments were rooted in white supremacy and colonization,” Whitaker said. “So the fact that they are supposed to be champions dismantling that system, but they’re agents of it as they proudly professed to, to me as a voter, I kind of feel like I have no representation as a Black man. The people on the city council are not working for my people. Some of those comments show they are actively trying to diminish Black Power within Los Angeles.”

He said there’s been a history of Black and Brown solidarity and that it’s really important to remember that because Black and Brown communities have been working together and will continue to work together.

But there’s a generational divide and disconnectbetween first-generation immigrants and their younger, progressive offspring. Whitaker said that when colonists came to Latin American countries, they were founded on white supremacy and slavery.

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Hancock, who is Creole, says that she has sat on panels with de León and hosted panels featuring Martinez in the past. She said she feels heartbroken especially with the comments about Councilmember Mike Bonin’s son. She says that they really need to do some soul-searching.

“It was really heartbreaking for me to hear as a voter, but also as a human being and a person who knew these people and thought these people shared my values,” Hancock says.

Whitaker said although there’s a history of solidarity between Black and Brown people, like the Brown Berets and the Black Panthers, there’s also a history of movements being pitted against each other, a classic divide and conquer technique.

“In L.A., we really have to be more sophisticated in our analysis of, you know, white supremacy and how many of us or many people in our communities perpetuate the long standing inequalities,” Whitaker said. “I think one of the most disturbing things about the recordings is that you hear this divide and conquer notion of us versus them.”

Hancock says that punching down on a group that is so small is not necessary.

“When you’re almost 50% of the population of Los Angeles County, your prime competitor is the next largest group, right?” Hancock says. “And not to look at it as us versus them, but to then say, what are the systems in place that are making us blind, to the fact that we think this tiny group over here that has been declining for decades in their numbers is the place where we need to kind of direct our anger or direct our competitive juices, when it fact… It's about fighting a system that has not been set up to represent any of us, you know, who were not kind of the standard person that was in mind when the Founding Fathers created this.”

Both Whitaker and Hancock agreed that it would have to take more than just calling people to resign in order for things to change. There needs to be a whole wide reckoning about the years of disproportionate suffering of Black people — like the L.A. County jail system and homelessness and there needs to be younger people that show that anti-Blackness, anti-Indigenous, homophobia will not be tolerated in political spaces.

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“The younger generation still needs to say, 'that’s not okay' and shut it down," Hancock said. "It can't just be 'oh, that's just who they are' and we roll with them until they decide to walk away."

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

The News You Need After You Stop Hitting Snooze

*At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

  • As you previously read, there’s been a lot of fallout in regards to the scandal involving Nury Martinez and the Los Angeles City Council. Now that she’s stepped down as president, what happens next?
  • Our new Voter Game Plan is up this morning and it's full of more than three dozen guides to help you make your most informed decision ever.
  • An Altadena property owner donated land that she inherited back to the Tongva tribe that hadpreviously lived in the area for more than 10,000 years.
  • A new report finds that the deaths of two rock climbers at Tahquitz Rock came as a result of poor weather conditions and faulty climbing equipment.  
  • Beloved Southern California disc jockey Art Laboe died at the age of 97,this past Friday. He was known as being one of the first to play rock ‘n’ roll music on the West Coast and was on air for more than 70 years. 
  • From intimate local concerts to celebrating Indigenous People’s Day —if you’re looking for the scoop on what to do in Los Angeles this week, we’ve got you covered.
  • Not only did the L.A. City Council recording capture anti-Black and homophobic comments, the decision makers also made derogatory swipes at Indigenous people. My colleague Leslie Berestein Rojas interviewed some Indigenous people who felt that the comments brought back trauma rooted in colonialism, racism and colorism.

Wait! One More Thing...A New Map That Shows You What Indigenous Land You're On

Map of Indigenous tribes
A screenshot of a portion of the interactive map from Native Land Digital shows which Native territories have inhabited different regions of the Americas, based on a variety of historical and Indigenous sources.
(Native Digital Land
Screenshot by NPR)

Have you ever been curious about what Indigenous group lived where you currently are? Native Land Digital, an Indigenous-led nonprofit, created an interactive map that shows you what Native lands you are living on. It has a ton of resources that could guide you to tribe websites, related maps and various images of the surrounding tribes of your area. There’s also a teacher guide for those who want to use it as a classroom resource.

It’s all an effort to help people understand themselves and their ancestors.

So, I’m sure you’re thinking, what resources are they using? Native Land Digital plans to update their maps using oral history, written documents or people who are deemed to be credible resources. Check it out here.

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