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This Time, Everything Really Is Racist…and Corrupt…and Head-Spinningly Awful

Context, Intersectionality, and the Matrix of Domination RE: Los Angeles City Hall

By Thomas Buckley, October 10, 2022 2:43 pm

Racism, corruption, political scheming, and rank stupidity – just another day at Los Angeles City Hall.

The by-now infamous recording of LA Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León (or whatever his legal name is), and president of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor Ron Herrera has provided a glimpse behind the torn and ratty curtain that is the public face of LA politics.

While the main focus of media reports has been on the straight-up, make David Duke blush racism of the quartet, the context of the conversation must be addressed. Often, when someone mentions context in relation to racism it is usually an attempt to divert, distract, and deflate attention from the predicate act. In this case, though, the context – specifically the reason for the meeting – is crucial to understanding the impunity with which the city’s political class acts.

Martinez has just announced she will no longer be council president, though whether or not she will resign her seat in its entirety is as yet unclear, as the Globe reported.

The scandals, the dysfunction, the incompetence, the dismissiveness, the municipal degradation, the appalling waste, the blatant corruption of Los Angeles is perfectly encapsulated by this – latest – tawdry event.

Ironically – considering the previous public progressive political positions they have taken – certain “woke” concepts may actually – for once and only this once – be of assistance in untying this Gordian Knot of civic ick.

Let’s start with “intersectionality,” which is defined as “an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege.”  

The concept, of course, utterly obliterates the very notion of individual agency, but it does come with a handy chart explaining power and powerlessness:

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Using this chart, the four participants in the conversation fit far more comfortably on the “privilege/dominator” side of the wheel, with Martinez herself clicking a number of spokes: LGBTQ+, Black Minority Ethic people, Gender Deviance, Dark Skinned, and Infertile at the very least – on the oppression side with her comments about Councilman Mike Bonin and his “little monkey” black adoptive son.  The “joking” threat of violence – “This kid needs a beatdown” – is not even on the chart, but as causing physical harm just because you think you can is pretty much the definition of “oppression” we will put that in as well.

Cedillo and de León chime in about the “Wizard of Oz” chimerical nature of Black politics in the city, saying the African-American population makes more noise than they should considering their population.

And Herrera, with his statement that his only goal is to get the three of them elected to keep his “little Latino caucus” in power, fits the entirety of the “domination” side of the graph.  It should be noted that, per their website – https://thelafed.org/ – the Los Angeles Federation of Labor claims as some of its “values” the following:

  • We strive to be at the forefront of fighting systemic inequality – shaping our society and its structures to be not just equal, but equitable for all – by holding those in power and those representing us accountable.
  • Acknowledging the diverse stories and struggles of the working people of Los Angeles, we advocate for the protection of working people and working families in all communities demanding respect from representatives at every level of government.
  • We affirm our interconnectedness by building a holistic movement inspired and committed to breaking down oppressive structures and assisting the vulnerable.

This cabal – supported by Herrera’s army of campaigners, see this list of federation events, almost all of which are politically related, is clearly attempting to institute a “matrix of domination,” a prominent term from the woke world they say they inhabit. 

Per another Wikipedia definition:

“One of the main aspects of the matrix of domination is the fact that one may be privileged in one area, yet they can be oppressed in a different aspect of their identity…This shows one of the key components of the matrix of domination; the idea that one cannot look at the individual facets of someone’s identity, but rather that they are all interconnected.”

This leads to a question that must be asked, though – as they are Hispanic, can they – per current “definitions” – even be considered racist despite meeting a number of the criteria?  In other words, does their Hispanicness outweigh everything else?

If this chart from, of all places, the California Arts Council website, can be navigated, it seems that question may be both fluid and unanswerable:

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However, outside of academia, it would seem that Martinez’s “Fuck that guy…he’s with the Blacks” referring to LA District Attorney George Gascon (of Cuban heritage, if that matters) and Cedillo’s reference to Oaxacans, would rather self-evidently answer that question in the affirmative.

As to context, in this case it is more than crucial.  The reason for the conversation in the first place was apparently to discuss the extremely critical city council re-districting process, a process that plays a massive role in determining who ends up leading the city.

As only three councilmembers (and not a majority of the council) were present, it would seem not to be a technical violation of the state’s Brown Act open-meeting strictures, even though it was clearly a violation of the spirit of the law.

However, as noted, the meeting took place in the thick of the always contentious re-districting process; the advisory Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission began its work in late 2020 with the map being approved in December, 2021 – about two months after the discussion and after numerous council-imposed changes.  The district map that was eventually approved was designated “K 2.5,” the version Cedillo stated he was happy with (of course, maybe not happy now as he lost his re-election bid in the re-drawn district in June.)

Also discussed was removing LAX from Bonin’s district, during which Bonin was described as “that little bitch.”  Insult aside, it is fascinating that representing the airport is seen as a political plum rather than a constituent complaint-driven headache.  Whether or not that has to do with patronage opportunities, being able to hustle campaign donations (and other personal and/or financial benefits) from the massive business interests that surround the facility, pride of place, ego stroking, or a combination thereof is not immediately clear.  It is clear, however, that councilmembers think it is a very big deal to snag the airport.

For her part, Martinez was rather critical of the process itself, saying at one point that the “Los Angeles’ (census) numbers are simply not accurate. Look around you, we did not get whiter and we did not get wealthier. This is not the Los Angeles that I see around me.”

Comically, since the recording has leaked Martinez invoked protecting “communities of color” and careful re-districting as reasons for her racist diatribe:  “The context of this conversation was concern over the redistricting process and concern about the potential negative impact it might have on communities of color,” Martinez said as part of her recent apology. “My work speaks for itself. I’ve worked hard to lead this city through its most difficult time.”

The advisory commission stated at the outset its various values and visions – values and visions that were clearly mocked, ignored, and denied but were supposed to drive the process, including:

  • We will be intentional in creating and investing in opportunities to strengthen capacity and provide access for historically underrepresented communities to allow for full participation of their voices in the process.
  • We will center equity, compassion, respect, and dignity of communities in decision-making.

One would have to be blind not to see that the vision was obliterated; as also with the ommission’s  values of:

“To strengthen the governance of the City of Los Angeles by empowering its communities to have their diverse needs served through fair and inclusive representation.”

Values:

    • Equity
    • Integrity
    • Transparency
    • Respect
    • Compassion
    • Dignity
    • Data Driven
    • Solution Oriented
    • Interdependence

And what of the referenced Heather Hutt, whom the four seemed so eager to be fill the seat vacated by Mark Ridley-Thomas (more on him later)?  Hutt – after much political weirdness that saw two other people kinda, sorta hold the seat in just the previous few months – was appointed to the seat on a 10-2 vote, with Bonin one of the two “no” votes.

Martinez appeared to be the driving force behind the appointment as well – https://spectrumnews1.com/ca/la-west/politics/2022/09/02/la-city-council-appoints-heather-hutt-to-fill-vacant-10th-district-seat .

Of course, Hutt herself is a creature of the political system that holds sway in Los Angeles and California as a whole, having spent the last 11 years working for state Assemblyman then Senator Isidore Hall III and current Vice-President Kamala Harris.

And it is that system itself that the recording so gloriously – but unsurprisingly – exposes.  In just the past few years – as one-party dominance has grown into “only the connected part of one-party” absolute hegemony – the stench that has wafted from City Hall has been unmistakable.

For just a taste of the corruption, here are a few topline names:  Jose Huizar, Mark Ridley-Thomas, David Paradis, Raymond Chan, Mitch Englander, and on and on and on have all faced, shall we say, ethical and legal challenges (for a handy figurative and literal cheat sheet to City Hall sleaze, see here: https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/07/16/tearing-the-fabric-of-municipal-trust-a-guide-to-corruption-cases-in-los-angeles-city-hall/ ).

Other nasty self-inflicted problems, scandals, and moments of unbelievable chutzpah are plaguing the city.  From homelessness – unabated despite billions being spent – to smash-and-grab robberies, to the LAPD telling people not to wear fancy watches lest they be torn from their wrist, to crumbling infrastructure, to terrible schools, to untenable housing prices, to rare disease outbreaks (not even counting COVID), to the bloat and waste of every government program, Los Angeles appears to be teetering on the abyss of a feudal anarchy not seen since the aftermath of the fall of Rome.

And as the city burns, its leaders pray to the gods of equity, inclusion, diversity, virtue signaling, easy platitudes, pointless crusades, and meaningless blather, as if likes and re-tweets will magically solve every problem with ease.

Imagine, if you will, what else the fakakta four could have been talking about rather than political schemes? Chat about ways to improve public safety, take a real look at homelessness, try to figure how exactly why housing is so expensive, reform the DWP, potholes?  In other words, they could have been doing their jobs.

But, nope – they spent their time – YOUR time on YOUR dime – talking about gaming the system for their own benefit and doing so in an incredibly racist manner to boot (interestingly, it is not clear who made the recording and/or leaked it or even if there were others in the room; of course, Cedillo is on his way off of the council at the end of the year.)

The Los Angeles ooze is not limited to City Hall – it has found its way into the school district, the county Board of Supervisors, the DWP, the homeless-industrial complex, and, of course, the state of California.

Could Mayor Eric Garcetti have set an example – a standard of conduct – when he took office nine years ago?  He theoretically could have but did not; in fact he has been personally touched by sleaze (though maybe not actually physically touched by Rick Jacobs) throughout his tenure.  Emerging from the same cesspool – a cesspool kept full by the connected and the powerful and the donors –  as most of his political cronies, it almost certainly never occurred to Garcetti that anything could or should ever be different.  

The political culture of Los Angeles over the past decade has been truly horrid and it’s all connected by – intersectional with, if you will – graft and favors and friends and spin and looking the other way and self-interest and bribes and media cheerleaders like the Los Angeles Times and putative non-profits and greed and being able to take advantage of the public’s both generous and docile nature.

The municipal dystopia this mob has created – with the help of the votes of the public, mind you – does call to mind an old saying, though:

Politics is like a sewer – what you get out of it depends upon what you put into it.

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3 thoughts on “This Time, Everything Really Is Racist…and Corrupt…and Head-Spinningly Awful

  1. [And it is that system itself that the recording so gloriously – but unsurprisingly – exposes. In just the past few years – as one-party dominance has grown into “only the connected part of one-party” absolute hegemony – the stench that has wafted from City Hall has been unmistakable.]
    Thank You Mr. Buckley for breaking down other disturbing revelations this audio recording exposes. We did get a “glimpse behind the curtain” ! Boy, that stink will not come out in the wash.
    Once again the need or power and control rules the day. They manipulate the voter for their own personal gratification. We need true representatives that want to solve issues that our plaguing our California cities.

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