between the lines logo (anthony asadullah samad)*In the Los Angeles mayoral race, the Kevin James “racial comments” that the Garcetti Mayoral campaign has tried to ignore, despite calls for repudiation, tells us a lot about who Eric Garcetti is. This is really not about what Kevin James is. Obviously he has a base and when you’re running for office, you try to appeal to those who draw votes, for whatever reason. His views obviously appealed to someone.

James finished third and the finalists wanted his support—which Wendy Gruel tried to get also. I’m sure now she’s glad she didn’t get it. James chose Garcetti instead, which is strange because Garcetti’s leftist politics is farther to the left than Greuel’s centrist politics. It’s a farther reach for James to reach across Wendy to hug Eric. That was a strange play in and of itself.

Maybe James knew something about Garcetti that the rest of us didn’t know?

We now know who Kevin James is. But maybe Eric Garcetti’s refusal to repudiate James’ repeated racist comments tells us more of who Garcetti is.

James’ comments about Latinos being “illegal thug aliens” is typical far right ideologue rhetoric, which we know is rooted in racism—despite his new “one black friend” (Jan Perry). Racists always show off their one black friend to “prove they’re not racist,” when it really confirms it. People who have black friends don’t have to tell you they do to prove something that is in evidence. So now Jan Perry is on display with Kevin James’ on his “Bojangles” show—becoming a sideshow in a very close Mayoral campaign. A grand but relevant distraction.

But what makes the irrelevant—relevant—is the aspersions casted upon the demography his chosen candidate, Garcetti, seeks to attract. Some people don’t mind being used as “tools in the game” just to retain some semblance of relevance. Garcetti seems bent on surrounding himself with the most ignorant and anti-intellectual segments of the community, to somehow legitimize himself among populations that wouldn’t otherwise give him the time of day. I guess everybody uses everybody to get what they want, regardless if the community gets what it needs.

kevin james & eric garcetti

Kevin James, left, endorsed onetime rival mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti outside the Van Nuys branch of L.A.’s City Hall (photo: kpcc)

What’s most troublesome about this strategy is Garcetti’s willingness to allow his chief supporter, James, to cast gross aspersions and make racists distortions about the man Garcetti has most modeled himself after, President Barack Obama.. Garcetti has literally cloned himself into a west coast version of Obama, studying in the 2008 Presidential primaries 21st Century election strategies of playing the underdog, anti-establishment candidate, dressing down to connect to common people, reaching out to non-traditional leadership while the traditional leaders fall behind the favorite, using technology, charm and pragmatism to appeal to voters who want common sense solutions to complex social and economics issues. It worked for Obama.

Garcetti is hoping it works for him. Only one problem? He’s not Obama.

Largely because he fails his biggest test, the ethics test. Not just the electronic billboard or the oil drilling under the high school tests. Garcetti fails the alienation test. Garcetti fails “speakout” test, meaning he fails to speak against what he knows is wrong and corrupt, or inconsistent with his own worldview—that is if it truly is inconsistent with his worldview? Speaking out against thing should conflict with his values. But, does it? We don’t know.

This is the type of courage that made Obama President. Garcetti had a firsthand view of history. He should have seen the type of courage it took to speak out against his minister, Jeremiah Wright, when Rev. Wright’s racial worldview conflicted with his own. He should have seen how then Senator Obama spoke out against inferred associations with extremists like Williams Ayers. He didn’t allow his minister’s politics or his board association with Ayers cast aspersions on populations that he was trying to represent. He repudiated the associations and defended his future constituents. That was the courage, agree with him or not, that got Barack Obama elected President. Eric Garcetti doesn’t demonstrate that kind of courage. That’s why people have called him an empty suit. He wants to look like Obama, and be like Obama, but he doesn’t want to stand up for Obama against extreme racists taunts.Garcetti should take James talking against someone he’s modeled himself after, very personal—He should defend President Obama and reject James outrageous comments with veracity. He should reject James, but Garcetti doesn’t have that kind of intestinal fortitude.

James talking about Obama is like talking about Garcetti’s momma, and nobody respects anybody who will let somebody talk about their momma. Yet Garcetti is perfectly willing to let James talk against President Obama with impunity, somebody who Garcetti idolizes.

That’s not a reflection on James. That’s a reflection on Garcetti. Tracking with racists don’t even fly in the South anymore. What makes Garcetti that it’s gonna fly out west?

Several candidates lost elections last November, due to their associations with radical elements, be they the Klan, the Tea Party, Anti-Feminists or downright, Anti-Intellectuals (people saying and doing stupid stuff). Garcetti is definitely an anti-intellectual lover, but he appears to want to also walk into office with his arm around the Klan… Or the Klan’s arm around him—neither one is acceptable, like whatever they say, about anybody—including his momma (or in this case, Obama)—is okay. But it’s not okay, and we can’t let him (Garcetti) hide from it. He’s gonna have to address it, or that tells us really “who he is.” Really.

And all those pictures with Obama he’s floating around—are for not.

Because he’s not Obama. He doesn’t have Obama’s values. More importantly, he doesn’t have Obama’s character. He’s just an Obama imitator. A fake imitator, at that.

Eric Garcetti is someone willing to harbor extreme racist views and let the racist hide behind him. “Who’s that behind you, Eric?” “Nobody!,” is what Garcetti is essentially telling us.

Extremism isn’t playing anywhere in this country right now. But it’s playing—right now—in the Eric Garcetti for Mayor campaign—raw extreme racism about Latinos and Garcetti’s own idol, President Barack Obama. If Eric Garcetti, after all he’s learned from the President, can’t stand up publicly stand up for him, Garcetti lacks the courage to be Mayor of Los Angeles. Moreover, what would we be able to expect after he’s elected?

White Hoods in City Hall?

It’s sad. But it’s even sadder if we let him get away with it.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist and author of, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at and on Twitter at @DrAnthonySamad.

anthony asadulla samad

Anthony Asadulla Samad