At least in terms of ethnicity, the Los Angeles City Council and citywide elected officialdom are catching up with the people of Los Angeles in key areas of diversification.
First and foremost it’s important to know that Los Angeles County is the inter-racial capital of the world. Based alone on the statistics of marriage licenses issued by the County Recorder, for decades Los Angeles has outstripped the rest of the world as the county with by far and away more inter-racial marriages than anywhere else.
Of course there is no scientific basis for the concept of multiple races within the “human race” so I’m using it the way that government and the public generally thinks of the concept. The overwhelming number of inter-racial marriages in Los Angeles at a minimum force the friends, families and co-workers of the people involved to at least deal with the fact of the marriage whether they like it or not. Compared with the positive quantity of inter-racialism of this sort, the number of “hate crimes” based on racial motivation pales.
Three of the newly elected Los Angeles City officials are Gay and went up to be sworn in with their same sex partners or spouses. Controller Ron Galperin–the son of a Jewish concentration camp surviving father who along with his mother fought in the Israeli war of independence–was accompanied by his husband, Rabbi Zachary Shapiro. Council member Mitch O’Farrell, of Wyandotte Native American descent, was with his partner George Brauckman while Council member Mike Bonin succeeded his Gay former City councilman boss, Bill Rosendahl, accompanied by his partner Sean Arian.
City Attorney Mike Feuer, who headed Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles before his political career, is the son of a World War II Army Air Corp sergeant and ball turret gunner who survived a year in Luft-Stalag 17 as a prisoner of war.
City Council member Bob Blumenfield and his wife Kafi Blumenfield– who heads the prestigious Liberty Hill Foundation — are the quintessential “salt and pepper” team of a white husband and black wife.
Likewise, Council member Felipe Fuentes is in an inter-racial marriage. He once pointed out the complexities of the census during an Assembly committee hearing in dealing with so-called mixed racial people in that on his side his daughter Lliana is of Mexican descent while on the side of his wife, Lena Wu Fuentes, she is Brazilian, Chinese and Jewish.
First ever Los Angeles Jewish Mayor Eric Garcetti is descended from an Italian immigrant to Mexico on his father’s side who fled the Mexican revolution to America, while on his mother’s side his Jewish forebears fled persecution in Eastern Europe. The inaugural invocation was given by Rabbi Susan Goldberg, daughter of prominent attorney (and old friend of mine) Arthur Goldberg and niece of former school board member, city council member, and State Assembly member Jackie Goldberg. Art and Jackie (brother & sister) were prominent in the 60′s U.C. Berkeley Free Speech Movement (FSM) and many other radical struggles.
Filling out the Los Angeles City Council are African American members Herb Wesson, Curren Price and Bernie Parks; Chicano/Mexicano/Italian Gil Cedillo, Jose Huizar, and Joe Buscaino; Armenian American Paul Krekorian; Paul Koretz, Jewish; leaving the sole straight “Anglo” male on the Council as Tom LaBonge.
For the first time in a long time though, Los Angeles will be without a woman on the City Council until as I expect, my great friend Cindy Montanez wins her special election runoff later this month.
Cindy, whose family hails from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico has a very interesting heritage. Her epiphany on her Jewish family origins came when I quizzed her (as I do with all of my Latino friends) about some obscure customs and traits. She sweeps to the center of the floor “because that’s the way my mother and grandmother always” did it (keeping the dirt away from holy objects on the walls). The family makes flour tortillas (Spanish style Matzoh from the 15th Century). Her grandmother always “adamantly” insisted that all work had to stop Friday night and not continue until Saturday night (keeping the Jewish Sabbath). Cindy couldn’t understand as a child while all the Catholic families she grew up with weren’t like that but all the Jewish families she knew were…..until I finally explained that it was obvious that her family had been forcibly converted by the Spanish Inquisition.
Since then, Cindy has been to Israel twice and last visit met with President Shimon Peres–who like the Perez, Peretz, and other variations on the name is likely descended from Perez, son of Judah, son of Jacob as per the Torah.
I don’t know if anybody picked up on this but me, but several of the lines out of Mayor Garcetti’s inaugural speech were straight out of the Buffie Sainte Marie song, Welcome, Welcome Emigrante. Speaking of the trials and tribulations of his Mexican and Jewish immigrant grandparents who sought refuge in America, three of his lines paraphrase from the lyrics:
I am proud, I am proud, I am proud of my forefathers and I say, they built this country
For they came from far away, to a land they didn’t know
They spoke a foreign language and they labored with their hands……the same way you do my friend
Underscoring the inauguration was just very different and a break with the past, swearing in Mayor Garcetti was fourteen year old Kenia Castillo. She’d met Eric when she was four and her mother, a member of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union), a custodian, and her fellow union members needed support and Eric had been there for them. When they met again as he was jan tuckercampaigning for Mayor, they got involved because now they were there for him. I am hopeful that this spirit carries on in everything our new administration does from now on in deeds as well as in words.
This piece first appeared in the LA Progressive