wearemitu

Opinion: After Her Anti-Black Comments, Nury Martinez’s Resignation Letter Is A Slap To The Face

The Los Angeles City Council is at the center of a scandal due to year-old audio that was leaked online recently.

The recording prominently features City Council President Nury Martinez making racist comments about her colleague Councilman Mike Bonin’s Black son, disparaging comments about Oaxacans, and efforts to diminish political representation for LA’s Black residents. 

After days of meandering, Martinez resigned from her job representing one of the most diverse cities in the United States. In her letter, she fails to take accountability for her actions, and said she hopes that she inspires the “little Latina girls across this city.” 

There is nothing admirable about what she has done.

Martinez, along with Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, contributed to the repugnant hour-long conversation, which was centered around the city’s redistricting process and maintaining economic funding in Latino districts.

In the audio, Martinez recounted her and her now former colleagues’ appearance on a float during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, where Councilman Bonin was joined by his young Black son. Martinez referred to the boy as “negrito” and “parece changuito” — in English, “like a monkey.” She also said the boy was handled by his white father like an “accessory,” with de León comparing that to Martinez holding a “Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”

Martinez went even further and said, “They’re raising him like a little white kid. I was like, this kid needs a beatdown. Let me take him around the corner and then I’ll bring him back.”

While discussing the redistricting process, Martinez discussed Councilwoman Nithya Raman’s desire to lead Koreatown, and how it wouldn’t be in her own best interests. She then referred to the area’s Oaxacan residents as “little short dark people,” also adding “‘tan feos,” or “so ugly.”

Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Their frustrations were voiced poorly, taking their anger out in the nastiest way on these minority communities and people that have been historically neglected by the government. Hispanic people make up 48% of Los Angeles, while Black people make up 8% — an already stark difference — and these Latino representatives wanted to change district lines to their advantage instead.

The scandal quickly seeped its way into national news, even prompting President Joe Biden to recommend the council members involved to resign. 

Martinez was the first Latina president in the City Council’s history and led during the COVID-19 pandemic. A historic first that would have surely cemented her legacy in LA politics was quickly torn to shreds with the audio leak.

She issued an apology and resigned from her position as Council President the next day. Then came the announcement before the Council’s first meeting since the leak that she would be taking a leave from office. After mounting pressure from LA residents and city officials, she finally resigned this month.

“It is with a broken heart that I resign my seat for Council District 6, the community I grew up in and my home,” said Martinez in her resignation letter. “I had the honor of serving in the role of a lifetime: being the representative for my neighbors.”

At the very end of her letter, she said, “to all little Latina girls across this city – I hope I’ve inspired you to dream beyond that which you can see.” 

When you represent a city as large and as diverse as Los Angeles, there’s no excuse for such language, and it shouldn’t inspire young Latina girls. The incoming and current younger generations of Latinas should know better than to spout anti-Black, racist views at all, including in moments of frustration. 

Martinez released a blanket apology when she was caught, failing to directly acknowledge the pain she caused Black people and other communities of color. She also never once called her comments racist. She neglected to do those essential steps two more times when she resigned from both of her positions on the council. Instead, she touted her accomplishments while she was in office before vaguely declaring that she was going to “take the time to look inwards and reflect.”

The long history of anti-Blackness and colorism in the Latinx community cannot continue, and it should not be internalized within our elected officials.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know people’s true colors when we put our trust in them to lead. There are much better role models for young Latinas to look up to than Nury Martinez; ones that won’t belittle other communities for the sake of lifting themselves.

Notice any corrections needed? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com