Op-Ed: D.A. Gascón: Yes, I’m ‘with the Blacks’
Los Angeles City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, and Ron Herrera, the top labor leader in the county, made many horrific comments on the now infamous recording, which was revealed recently. But I can’t say that they were wrong about me. I am, as Martinez said, “with the Blacks.”
I am “with the Blacks” because in Los Angeles County, Black people are victims of crime disproportionate to their population size. Black people are 8% of the population of the city of Los Angeles, but were the victims in 24% of hate crimes, the largest group of any in Los Angeles. This year, that number is rising.
Given what we have now heard elected City Council members say about Black people behind closed doors, the fact that hate crimes are committed disproportionately against Black people in Los Angeles now has a new context.
If elected officials not only hold these racist views about Black people and Black children, but also feel free to share them with laughter in a meeting with colleagues, it is less surprising that other people act them out in our streets. While it may not be surprising, it is still shocking and unacceptable.
I am also “with the Blacks” because I know that we have underinvested in all poor communities throughout this state, and our response to that radical defunding of schools, housing, parks, clean streets, healthcare and job training has been to rely on law enforcement to “solve” the resulting and predictable problems. Black people make up 9% of the county’s population but 42% of the unhoused population. I have long argued that we will never, ever arrest and incarcerate our way out of homelessness.
As a police officer for 28 years, including 22 in Los Angeles, I have spoken up about the fact that Black people are disproportionately subject to pretext stops by law enforcement in Los Angeles County. Black people are also disproportionately the victims of police violence in California and in Los Angeles. That’s why I fight against mass incarceration in California, where Black people make up 6% of the population but 30% of the state prison population.
But I’m not only “with the Blacks.” I am also with the Latinos. I’m a Cuban American immigrant who still speaks with an accent. I’m proud to be a Latino and to stand with my Latino and Indigenous brothers and sisters. Latinos are often stopped and searched by the police for no reason, which happens to Latinos in Los Angeles at greater rates than for white people, despite the fact that both Black and Latino people are less likely to have contraband than white people.
We know that Latinos are targeted by ICE. I was with Latinos when I started an “immigration escort policy” that assigned victim advocates to escort fearful undocumented immigrants and witnesses through the courthouse. I was with Latinos when I sponsored a law that forbade the prosecution or defense counsel from asking about a person’s immigration status when they testified, unless such a question had been approved by a judge. I stood up to Joe Arpaio when he conducted illegal deportation sweeps in Arizona.
The disgraced former sheriff, I’m sure, had words to say about me behind closed doors, just like the disgraced Los Angeles City Council members. But words won’t stop me from doing the work needed to serve and to protect the people in this county. That means standing with the Black community, Latinos, Oaxacans, Armenians, the Jewish community, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the LBGTQ community and with women.
Supporting one group, particularly a group that has been marginalized, does not mean standing against another group. Elected officials who can’t understand this basic idea have no business remaining in office. Surely, the residents of Los Angeles deserve better.
George Gascón is the Los Angeles County district attorney.
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