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OP-ED: Plenty of talk but little walk from Democratic leaders on issues affecting minorities

Amid the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, recent months have seen significant public discussion over the treatment of minority communities in the United States. Countless protests and demonstrations have been held across the country as members of these communities rightfully push back on the police brutality and what many consider systemic inequality in certain areas. Many are seeking to finally make their voices heard among those that have been elected to represent them.


While we have seen mayors and governors across the nation deliver speeches and tweet in support of the messages that those walking hand in hand in these protests have been championing, one central problem persists: when you pull back the curtain on their rhetoric, many of these same politicians have failed to act on the very inequalities that are being highlighted in these protests. And instead of offering solutions, these politicians have implemented policies that have only made matters worse. 


The most notorious examples of this are unfortunately taking shape right here in California. While Governor Gavin Newsom and local elected officials from Sacramento to San Diego espouse progressive ambitions and “forward-thinking ideologies,” minority communities have suffered under their leadership. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of California’s Latino population is living in poverty — well above the national average.


In Los Angeles, the largest city in the state,  things are even worse. Homelessness, long one of the city’s most pressing crises, has had a severe impact on the city’s minority communities. Between 2016 and 2017, Latino homelessness increased by 63% in just one year. And if Mayor Garcetti’s failure to act on this issue isn’t bad enough, the Mayor has taken no responsibility for his inability to solve this problem, and instead is busy chatting with members of the national press about how he has “not a lot of regrets” regarding his handling of this crisis. 


And under Mayor Eric Garcetti’s watch, over one out of five workers in Los Angeles have been left without a job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the crisis disproportionately hurting the city’s minority communities. 


Granted, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an exceedingly difficult challenge for our community and others across the U.S., but it has also made clear the already glaring problems resulting from Mayor Garcetti’s failure to protect Latinos in Los Angeles, which started well before the coronavirus outbreak. 


Cities across the nation have been hit by coronavirus-related shutdowns, but Mayor Garcetti’s anti-business policies made things even worse in Los Angeles. For example, despite his campaign promises to do away with the city’s burdensome business tax, it still remains in place. Now, small businesses see little reason to open up in Los Angeles. Failed policies such as this, which Mayor Garcetti put in place long before COVID-19, have made the economic impact of this pandemic far worse than it should have been on the people of LA. 


Minority communities have also seen starkly different health outcomes in Los Angeles. Both Black and Latino Los Angeles residents have experienced double the mortality rate from COVID-19 than that seen in the city’s white population. Asian American residents have also seen a notably higher mortality rate. Once again, minority communities here in LA are bearing the largest burden during a time of crisis, and it is simply not sustainable.


Far too many politicians, particularly here in California, have not lived up to their promises to minority communities. Their policies have instead failed to address existing inequalities, and things do not appear to be getting better. The next several months will be a flash point for these elected officials as they seek to make a final case for themselves ahead of November’s elections. Otherwise, they may not be able to prove they deserve the support of those struggling the most.


For much of the current election cycle, Democrats have thought their opposition to President Trump would alone be enough to win their support from Latino communities, but that is simply not enough. If they want to have any hope of coming out on top on Election Day, they need to start honoring their promises and living up to their word. They need to show California’s minority communities that they truly are dedicated to progress, rather than simply stating that they differ from the current administration.


This summer has seen a lot of talk, but little action, from leaders ranging from our state’s Governor, to Mayor Garcetti, and others all over the nation on minority issues. If that trend continues, it will be difficult for many of these politicians who are competing for open political positions, or fighting to keep their current ones, to make a worthwhile case for minority voters to back them on November 3rd.


Octavio Martinez is an author of two published works, and former pastor from Whittier.

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