In Light of all the Tribalism going on, Latinos Could Have Given A Second Chance To Their Leaders. They lost Two Powerful Positions

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezApril 14, 2023
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Latinos in Los Angeles were perplexed about how African Americans reacted to Mark Ridley Thomas’ conviction. They were forceful in their immediate calls for the resignation of four Latino leaders after a racist audio recording was leaked.

Latinos quickly learned with Mark Ridley Thomas’s convictions that tribalism here in Los Angeles is alive. Different groups demand accountability as long as the one committing the act is not one of their own—an unfortunate and destructive reality for Los Angeles.

Latinos recently lost two very influential political positions:  Nury Martinez was the city council president, and Ron Herrera was the labor leader in this city. Kevin DeLeon weathered the storm and survived at least until the next election. And Gil Cedillo’s term ended on December  2022. He didn’t need to resign.

Kevin De Leon, Ron Herrera, and Nury Martinez all had stellar progressive credentials and accomplishments in their times in public life. In addition, Councilwoman Martinez and labor leader Ron Herrera didn’t engage in criminal activity. Most Latinos didn’t care about their Latino leaders’ contributions to their communities and wanted them gone in the name of accountability.

What these Latino politicians said on that audio recording can’t be defended. However, it would be a stretch to call these Latino civic leaders racist. Their mistake was one of judgment, not an error of their hearts. The same mistake that San Francisco’s Mayor, an African American woman, made not long ago when she blamed immigrants for all the problems facing San Francisco and called them drug dealers. She apologized, and nobody demanded her to resign. The world moved on.

Mark Ridley Thomas is a legend in L.A. politics. He has been an influential political leader who succeeded in all positions people elected him for. The African American community didn’t just rally behind Thomas; they sadly defended him after he was convicted on federal bribery, conspiracy, and fraud charges.

Hours after the city learned that he had been convicted of severe crimes, It was nothing but tributes and a love fest from prominent African American leaders in the city, even though Mark Ridley Thomas had betrayed their interest.

Mayor Bass even said on the day he was convicted that “it was a sad day for L.A.”  Many in this city who would like civic leaders held accountable had a field day with the Mayor’s statement.

The “South L.A. Clergy for Political Accountability,” an African American group, audaciously went on record saying that Mark Ridley Thoma’s indictments were part of a “racial purge discussed in that leaked recording.”  Rev. Kenneth Walden, a Holman United Methodist Church pastor, told Los Angeles Times that the real crime was the substance of the racist comments made in that leaked recording. He appeared not to understand why Thomas was being indicted.

That was an interesting and silly position that underscores a kind of destructive tribalism that is not good for the city. This organization “for political accountability” is all for accountability as long as the one to be held accountable is not one of their own.

Furthermore, when Jose Huizar was indicted, Latino council members immediately voted to suspend Huizar without pay. The two African American council members also voted to suspend Huizar. However, when Thomas was indicted, Marque-Harrison and Curren Price voted against suspending him. They even made ridiculous arguments about why he shouldn’t be suspended in light of the massive damning evidence against Thomas’ corruption reported in the media.

Latino leaders canceled Jose Huizar. He was never seen in another Latino community event. On the other hand, It was reported that Mark Ridley Thomas was sitting in the front row at Karen Bass’ mayoral inauguration and continued attending community events in the African American Community. Mark Ridley Thomas’ community never abandoned him, even when they knew he was guilty as hell.

African Americans defending Mark Ridley Thomas was like Latinos Defending or ignoring former Councilman Jose Huizar’s transgression for his significant contributions to our community and for that awesome Sixth Street Bridge he made possible for the city.

We should foster an environment where people can air their grievances. Latinos should be able to say how they feel. Otherwise, people will do it privately, which doesn’t help anyone. Granted, there were racist comments in that leaked recording, but there were also legitimate grievances about Latino representation in this city that should be discussed in open forums. According to the last census data, Latinos are 49% of the L.A. County population. It is almost the same as the city of Los Angeles. They are the largest ethnic/racial, and their numbers are not reflected well in the political landscape. These are difficult conversations, but Latino and Black leaders must be brave enough and have them.

And in December of 2022, Mark Ridley Thomas was paid around $350,000.00 for all months he was suspended. Tavis Smiley, a prominent African American in South L.A., even bragged about Thomas getting his backpay, “we don’t black down. Our brother got his money,” he told his new audience.

It was wrong to have paid all that money to Thomas when his corrupt behavior led to his suspension. Latinos were disgusted with Jose Huizar’s crimes that paying him while being suspended never crossed their minds. In addition, the city was also paying the person who replaced Thomas a salary. Nobody voiced any outrage in light of the blatant double standards.

Angelinos are all overwhelmed by the human degradation taking place in the city of Los Angeles. Unhoused individuals sleeping on sidewalks and piles of trash as far as the eye can see appear to have replaced the majestic palms this city is known for. Nonetheless, if we dig below the surface of this city’s homelessness problems, we will find profound problems dealing with a lack of ethical and competent leadership.

Accountability is the backbone of any democracy. When accountability is selectively used, then democracy dies. Voters need to get deeper engaged in this city’s politics and elect individuals with the ability to renew the democratic spirit that has been lost in the City of Los Angeles.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez
Lecturer of Politics at LACCD

Photo Credit: Bigstock photo used for this piece.


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