Nury Martinez's racist remarks highlight how far LA race relations have to go

Prominent Black and Latino community members are speaking out about the racist remarks former Los Angeles City Council president Nury Martinez was heard making in a leaked audio recording. 

"I was deeply offended," said USC law professor Jody Armour on the tapes. And, to Loyola Marymount University Political Science Professor Fernando Guerra, "What's really ticked me was we're talking about a three-year-old child and that's unacceptable in any context."

On Sunday, audio was leaked of Martinez using racist language about councilman Mike Bonin’s then two-year-old son during a conversation from October 2021. Bonin is white, his adopted son is Black. Martinez stepped down from her position as president Monday, but is still on the council. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Nury Martinez resigns as LA City Council president following backlash over racist comments

The two college professors both have long memories and perspective, especially when it comes to minority politics.

"In 1963 three Blacks get voted into the city council. This is in 1963," said Guerra. That's the same year Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"You have great events in Chicano-Latino history," Guerra said, like in 1968 when East Los Angeles students walked out of schools demanding change. They claimed there were racist teachers, and they protested educational inequality.

Just a few years earlier, President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was an effort to eliminate poverty and improve education for people of color below the poverty line to which Armour said, "I'm the product of a Great Society Program." But, although President Johnson opened a big door in the '60s, Armour said, "...we had a hopefulness as a society that we could make a difference to bring people up from the bottom."

But, said Armour, "when we got to the mid-80s we saw that the wealth gap between Black and white Americans had not grown smaller."

SUGGESTED: Bonin calls on LA City Council to remove Martinez as president over racist comments on his son

Then came the 1992 uprising. Later, came the formation of Black Lives Matter, all to speak out on racial injustice. Fast forward to now as some Latino Council members find themselves in the cross hairs of a major city controversy.

In terms of what we can learn from this scandal, Guerra said, "the way to advance is by struggling and talking about this. Instead of saying 'all they talked about was race,' the response should be we should talk about race all the time, but in an appropriate manner. We should not use race in an ignorant manner."

To Armour, "LA has led the country in a lot of ways when it comes to racial justice. And, so now, it's really our chance to take the torch and figure out how we can translate our rhetoric about multiculturalism into a reality among different groups."