Letters to the Editor: My relative Edward R. Roybal would be devastated by L.A.’s leadership today

Edward R. Roybal with students in 1968
Rep. Edward R. Roybal addresses students protesting at Hazard Park in Boyle Heights in 1968. Roybal served 13 years on the L.A. City Council before being elected to Congress.
(Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I am just as pained as anyone else by the recording of ex-L.A. City Councilwoman Nury Martinez and Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León making hateful and racist statements. I am more pained for our family, as we are very proud of the legacy that Edward R. Roybal made in paving the way for Latinos and other people of color to earn a seat at the table.

In 1949, Roybal, my mother’s first cousin, ran for a second time for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council. He was able to mobilize volunteers through the efforts of the Community Service Organization, which he co-founded in 1947. He won as a result of high voter turnout from East Los Angeles, South L.A. and Chinatown.

My research has turned up this statement, in the Congressional Record, from 1949 by Rep. Chet Holifield of California’s 19th District:


“In the recent Los Angeles ... elections, one of our highly respected American citizens of Mexican ancestry, Edward R. Roybal, was elected to the important position of city councilman of the ninth district, which is located in my congressional district.

“Mr. Roybal was supported not only by Spanish-speaking citizens but by other good American citizens of Jewish, Negro, Japanese, Italian, and Philippine descent. In fact, people of all races and religions joined together to elect this fine young man to one of our most respected civic positions.”

Later, a young police officer named Tom Bradly became a strong ally to Roybal. Bradley wrote in his autobiography that if it weren’t for Roybal, he would have never entered politics and become Los Angeles’ first Black mayor.

The comments heard on the recording are not what Roybal, Bradley and other trailblazers had in mind when seeking opportunities for all people in Los Angeles. My guess is Ed is shedding a tear in heaven.

Louis Gardner, San Clemente


To the editor: In her column about the now infamous recording of Latino political players using racist and homophobic language while discussing redistricting, Jean Guerrero aptly describes them as belonging to a generation trapped in the politics of zero-sum gains, “imposed by white supremacy.”


To illustrate, she recounts how De León reached out to her before and complained about the intensity of the reaction to the Border Patrol’s treatment of Haitians while African Americans are silent about Latino immigrant rights.

What? How could he not comprehend that the images of men waving horse reins painfully evoked the violence of slavery? Or that given the daily deadly violence against African Americans, immigrant rights are understandably not at the forefront of African American organizing?

The answer is the zero-sum mentality of nationalism. Perhaps the gut-wrenching revelations of this week open the possibility of moving beyond this thinking.

María Blanco, Los Angeles

The writer is a former California redistricting commissioner and former national senior counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.


To the editor: Guerrero quotes “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire: “Almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.”

I encountered this with two close friends. One, a man from Oaxaca living in Minnesota for more than 20 years, said to me that the Jews were wielding their power behind the scenes.

Another friend, a Navajo woman in New Mexico, told me of her husband’s unfaithfulness, but was more upset because he had done so with a Mexican woman.

Especially remarkable is that both of these friends knew that I have Jewish and Mexican ancestry, but that did not deter them. When I called them on it, they were defensive — “I’m not racist,” and how dare I imply otherwise.

Sometimes it feels like everyone is racist in some way. More likely is that the path to liberation is long and arduous.

Gina Ortiz, Claremont


To the editor: I agree with Guerrero that we should practice racial and ethnic coalition politics. But in a city where increasing representation for one group requires reduced representation for another, this is almost impossible.

In America, the people suffer from underrepresentation. If L.A. had the same ratio of council members to residents as in New York, we would have 24 representatives, not 15. If we used the Chicago ratio, we would have more than 70.

More council members will not eliminate racial or ethnic politics, but it will make coalitions much more possible.

In 1929, Congress fixed the number of House members at 435 by using the 1910 ratio of people to representatives. In 1910, our population was less than one-third of what it is today. Using the 1910 ratio, the House should have more than 1,500 members.

We need more democratically elected representatives at the national, state and local levels.

John Perez, North Hollywood


To the editor: As a former decades-long Los Angeles resident who recently moved to Ohio, I follow news from the city as though I never left. I would like to thank the person who recorded the meeting, as we finally have concrete evidence of the ugly, racist machinations of many in government.

This was not about just one meeting. This is systemic. Every politician needs to go through history classes about racism and sensitivity training before they can take office. And pass a vetting exam.

Don’t pass? Get another job.

Judi Laing, Columbus, Ohio