Recording of City Council members reminds us that there is still work to be done

Mryna Castrejón/Chair and Director of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)
October 17, 2022

For more than a week, Los Angeles has been embroiled in the drama unleashed by a year-old recording of three Latino councilmembers and a top union official plotting to consolidate and retain Latino power on City Hall through the redistricting process. of the districts.

The underlying scandal of the conversation was the brazenness with which these leaders tried to manipulate the process to consolidate their own power, pitting one community against another, which exposed how crude power play and a “zero-sum mentality” They are present at the town hall. Overshadowing the blatant politics heard in the conversation was the ugliness and blatantly racist, homophobic and hurtful language that was used to disparage and invalidate entire communities that the four saw as competing for power.

The response from the entire political and civic community in Los Angeles and beyond was swift and unequivocal. The barrage of public statements from all sectors was dizzying, each denouncing this style of politics and condemning the behavior of these four public figures. This behavior cannot be tolerated.

As a community, we must demand responsibility. Renunciations are necessary before healing and restoration can occur.

A week later there has been no acceptable resolution and the damage continues to mount. Many community leaders fear that the fragile coalitions formed over decades, in a city that strives to be seen as a haven of diversity and inclusion, have been irrevocably damaged. This story is not over, and the repercussions will be felt for years to come.

As a Latina who leads an organization whose civic goal is to improve education, especially for the most underserved communities, my deepest hope is that we resist the urge to individualize the crisis to the four or leave it to the statements of solidarity that were issued in the wake of the same. I hope we will use the occasion to include a more personal range of actions.

We know very well the damage that judging an entire people for the actions of a few can cause. We also know that, as horrible as these recorded and spoken attitudes are, they reflect unspoken attitudes among some members of our communities. Our multiethnic and multiracial character, our mixed immigrant status, and our varied countries of origin complicate any single pan-Latino identity and, yes, our unity is sometimes undermined by persistent and pernicious colorist, racist, and anti-Indigenous sentiments.

We may remember or have witnessed a relative or family friend praising fair-skinned babies; that speaks of “marrying to improve the race”, that eliminates darker-skinned or indigenous relatives, or that behaves with suspicion or even antipathy towards other groups.

There are many historical and structural reasons for this, rooted in colonialism and the vestige of the caste system that is very slowly disappearing in Latin America. Our stories are a struggle for acceptance and a desire to move from the margins to the center of a dynamic, diverse and inclusive future. However, failure to also take this as an opportunity to take a close look in the mirror and take individual and collective responsibility for interrupting these cycles of bias will compromise everything we have been fighting for since Prop 187 woke up our collective politics. nearly 30 years ago.

The changes we want, and need, must be structural –equal access to the vote, to resources, to representation– and will not be achieved with simple resignations. Similarly, the necessary changes cannot be restricted to the corridors of power, but must be included in conversations at the dinner table, in classrooms, and even in houses of worship to advance our conversation. It cannot be just about what is “unspoken”, but about how we live our values ​​every day in words and deeds and how we align those values ​​with our actions. Regardless of who is listening.

These changes can only be made by working together in communities to solve common problems. It means disrupting the biases we hear and see in our public AND private conversations; it is systematically challenging the idea that immutable characteristics like skin color or country of origin have anything to do with goodness or worth.

We often say that “values ​​are learned at home”, so I am calling on moms, dads, uncles and grandparents to join this effort. It is not enough to say "what a shame". "They don't speak for us."

California schools have recognized the importance of providing social and emotional learning, of creating spaces of belonging where children of all backgrounds feel welcome and accepted. I encourage all of us to take those conversations home and apply the golden rule: fight and work against prejudice wherever it manifests itself in whoever it is. It is the only way to continue advancing in the work of justice, it is the only way to advance.

*This opinion piece was initially published in La Opinion.