As bell hooks used to say, “we live in a First World, imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist, hegemonic, cis-gendered, patriarchy” - so why should L.A. be any different?

As I write this article, Los Angeles City and County haven't completed their midterm vote tallies. With approximately 60% of the votes tabulated, close races—like the mayoral race between Rick Caruso and Karen Bass and a couple of others—can’t be called yet. So as of now, I don’t know who will be sworn in as my next mayor.

Truth is, I’m not losing any sleep over the outcome. When I heard the leaked racist, homophobic, antisemitic recording of a secret meeting between Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon, and Gil Cedillo—three brown members of the Los Angeles City Council, I was reminded of the words of the late great bell hooks. As bell would say, “we live in a First World, imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist, hegemonic, cis-gendered, patriarchy”.

This might confuse some. Understandably, some are scratching their heads. Let me explain. bell hooks, in her explanation of interlocking systems of domination, made it clear that patriarchy has no gender. She’d say you don’t have to be white to practice white supremacy or its ugly sibling, colorism and so on—ableism, classism, antisemitism, ageism. Listening to the tape, it seems Martinez and company covered the waterfront, even demeaning short brown people, which many would call Gil Cedillo.

The point is, we are in trouble regardless of the party in control because we refuse to get to the root cause of this nation’s conflicts: all of these isms point to the belief that not all people are deserving of fair and equitable treatment or equal representation.

I’ve never run for nor held political office, but I’ve been involved politically, at various levels of engagement, for more than 30 years. I moved beyond simply voting in 1990 when I was asked to write an article about voter turnout for a friend who was starting a newsletter. In researching statistics for the article, it sickened me to learn that less than 25% of eligible voters in Los Angeles participated in the franchise.

Politically, 1990 was a turning point in my life. A dear childhood friend was arrested on non-violent drug-related charges in Washington, DC, where Bill Bennett had been appointed “Drug Czar.” Against his public defender’s wishes, my friend refused to take a plea bargain, insisted on a trial, and had the book thrown at him. He ended up being sentenced to 27 years in a federal prison.

Back in 1990, I believed and still believe that public policy and, by extension, legislation, reflects the belief systems of the people at the table when the legislation is written. Back to what I said in the first paragraph: the belief that some people matter and are deserving of justice and humane treatment while others don’t gets infused into our policies. With less than 25% of the populace voting, can we demand or even expect that those who purportedly “represent” us will change that?

In 2002, the United States Sentencing Commission found that my dear friend's sentence was based on a misperception of the special dangers of crack cocaine compared to the powdered variety. In 2011, when he would have been “in” for more than 20 years, the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively reduced the sentences of certain offenders, in many cases releasing them. My friend would have been eligible—but couldn’t be released because he died a painful death in federal prison in 2003, at the age of 47.

With that as a backdrop, I’ve watched as people came up through the ranks of the Democratic Party, either seeking office or paid positions within the party itself. The Democratic Party—arguably the party whose members have been disproportionately impacted by the New Jim Crow—seemed to have little power or little desire to curb the appetite of the carceral state. In fact, during this same span of time, Los Angeles County—or what Lisa Ling of CNN called “America’s Largest Jailer”—came to hold more inmates than all jails in any of 37 U.S. states, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These statistics are just as, or perhaps more dismal, when it comes to the growth of and treatment of unhoused people in Los Angeles County. Again, what I’ve witnessed is that the leadership has little power or little desire to solve this travesty. Clearly—to me, at least—many of us believe not all people are deserving of fair and equitable treatment or equal representation.

In the past 30 years, I’ve watched as little has changed in the material lives of L.A.s middle class, most still live paycheck to paycheck. The lower middle class has been priced out of ever owning a home, as rents have skyrocketed to the point where it isn’t uncommon or multiple families to live together—all the while the lives of marginalized and poor communities are increasingly over-policed and underserved. Driving through some parts of town, it is hard to believe you are in an American city. Many who live in Third World countries live better than those who live in L.A.'s Skid Row—an area that most Angelenos can and do avoid due to what the L.A. Times calls California’s most racist monument—its freeway system.

In a piece published shortly after George Floyd was murdered when protesters were toppling racist monuments, the L.A. Times wrote, “The aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in police custody has created a moment for radical truth-telling. So here’s some ugly truth about the city of Los Angeles: Our freeway system is one of the most noxious monuments to racism and segregation in the country.”

So, as I write this piece, I await the outcome of the midterm elections as I’ve done every four years since 1990. And, as dour as my mood sounds, I am actually optimistic. I'm not losing sleep because I sense change on the horizon.

I’m optimistic because the leaked tape, as awful as it was, may represent a turning point for L.A.—not a turning point for the political class of L.A.—a turning point for the people of L.A. But it isn't just the leaked tape. There has been a steady drip, drip, drip that is fueling a sense of urgency among the electorate.

In the days following the leak, the chambers of L.A. City Hall were packed to the gills with people of all stripes. Disparate progressive forces are forming coalitions. There is a recall petition for Kevin de Leon. Black Lives Matter L.A. has camped out at de Leon’s house, demanding his resignation. More and more, progressive candidates like Eunisses Hernandez, who wouldn’t have had a shot a couple of years ago, are getting elected. The gears turn slowly but they are turning.

Fifteen years ago, I co-founded the LA Progressive along with my husband, Dick Price. Back then, I doubt we would have seen the chambers of city hall filled with all kinds of people—united in their opposition to their elected members. There was a time when the weeklies—L.A. Weekly, specifically—served the community, but those days are gone. So, as long as we still have our 1st Amendment right to free speech and freedom of the press, we’ll continue to publish the LA Progressive. There’s no guarantee we’ll keep those freedoms, which makes me even more thankful for the growing coalition of progressive thought and progressive activists in Los Angeles.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Sharon Kyle, JD, is a formerpresident of the Guild Law School and is the publisher and co-founder of the LA Progressive. For years before immersing herself in the law and social justice, Ms. Kyle was a member of several space flight teams at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she managed resources for projects like Magellan, Genesis, and Mars Pathfinder. Sharon sits onseveral boards including the Board of Directors of the ACLU. She is a contributing writer to Black Politics Today. Follow @SharonKyle00. Contact the LA Progressive, Ms. Kyle and BC.

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