My City Council representative needs to be called on his actions.
On May 30th, as LAPD officers were brutalizing huge numbers of demonstrators across the city, LA Councilmember Paul Koretz tweeted his first public statements regarding the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis:
“I will not stand for the lives and property of my constituents being endangered,” he wrote. “I’ve spoken to LAPD command & made clear my full support for our officers to maintain order in the coming days throughout my district.” [Emphasis added]
In that same thread, Koretz states that the looting of property was “no less troubling” than the “death of George Floyd” — he later was forced to backtrack on this claim, but he never apologized — and says that he asked the LAPD to “clamp down on criminal actions.”
Koretz continued to cheer the LAPD, demonize demonstrators, and privilege the property of his wealthy (white) constituents over the lives of Black people in further statements to the press.
I'm heartbroken over the senseless death of George Floyd. The violence & looting we saw last night was no less troubling. Vandalism is growing in the Fairfax area of my district. I've asked the LAPD to be fully supportive of peaceful protests but clamp down on criminal actions.
— Paul Koretz (@PaulKoretzCD5) May 30, 2020
But it’s not just Koretz’s tweets I’m concerned about.
More important are his efforts to stop the cuts to the LAPD demanded by Black Lives Matter — Los Angeles (BLM-LA) and ally groups through the People’s Budget LA campaign. Instead of listening to Black-led organizers in his own city about how the police are a fundamentally racist institution rooted in slave-catching that must be dismantled, Koretz is doing all he can to defend the cops.
This needs to be called out for what it is: Paul Koretz is upholding white supremacy. He is acting to protect systems that privilege the wants of rich white people at the expense of Black lives and communities of color. Koretz’s actions make it clear that in his mind, preserving white comfort is more important than alleviating Black suffering.
On June 16th, Koretz was one of just three councilmembers who voted against requesting an analysis to look at cutting between $100-$150 million from the LAPD to reinvest in communities of color.
Given that Mayor Garcetti’s budget proposal increased LAPD’s share by $123 million over the previous year, this may not even be a cut. Yet Koretz refuses to even consider this idea, citing calls from his constituents — who are overwhelmingly white homeowners living on the westside and in the valley neighborhood of Encino — praising the LAPD.
History Can Help Us See This For What It Is
You may be thinking: “ok well that makes sense, he’s just doing what his constituents want.” But it’s precisely this type of business-as-usual politics in favor of the powerful that keeps the deeply racist status quo in place.
Politicians working to uphold segregation during the 1960s might have been doing what their constituents wanted, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t also working to uphold systems that oppress Black people and support white supremacy.
An example from LA’s own recent history, in Koretz’ own district, may be even more clarifying. (The information below comes from the book Racial Propositions by Daniel Martinez HoSang.)
In the late 1970s, an organization called BUSTOP, made up primarily of white parents, emerged in Encino to oppose a mandatory school desegregation plan for LA that was expected to come soon from the courts. A 1978 federal study identified LA’s public schools as “among the most segregated in the entire country,” and warned against the idea that anything but a mandatory busing program could remedy this problem.
Yet the white parents behind BUSTOP raised hell about what they called “forced integration,” raised even more money, and eventually got the California Legislature to put their ideas on the ballot.
In 1979, Proposition 1 passed overwhelmingly, effectively ending school boards’ responsibilities to comply with court-ordered desegregation programs. 90% of voters in the West Valley supported Prop 1, while nearly 70% of the liberal Westside voted for Prop 1. Thanks to this organizing, 25 years later racial isolation and segregation within LAUSD was at an all-time high.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see the anti-busing push for what it is: racist.
The people involved were upholding white supremacy, even though they often explicitly claimed otherwise and framed their campaign around the idea that “we love all kids.” That their actions were racist is clearly apparent even though two of the main figures, Alan Robbins and Bobbi Fielder, were Jewish liberals, just like Paul Koretz. (I am also Jewish).
In the late 1970s, wealthy white people on the westside and in the valley preserved a racist system by opposing busing and school desegregation. Today these same people uphold white supremacist systems that benefit them by opposing any cuts to the LAPD.
They are unwilling to accept any cuts to the heavily militarized police force that protects them from the imagined masses of Black people looking to invade their neighborhood, just like they rejected the prospect of their kids attending more integrated schools.
Paul Koretz cannot dismiss charges of racism by saying he’s just responding to the demands of his constituents anymore than can the politicians who stridently opposed school desegregation.
Am I saying that Paul Koretz is personally racist? Maybe — but I can’t look into his mind, and I think that’s a pretty meaningless standard, anyways. Far more important is that Koretz is acting in a way that suggests Black lives do not matter to him; in a way that maintains systems and structures of white supremacy.
We are in the midst of a Third Reconstruction, with the possibility of truly reckoning with the racist roots of our society. But Paul Koretz is trying to keep us in the past. History will not judge him kindly.