OPINION: Who’s that white lady?

With the Isley Brothers’ hit song “Who’s That Lady” playing softly in the background, if I had a dollar for every time someone Black said to me “who, that white lady?” or “who’s that white lady?” when referring to Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, I’d be rich.

Even though Greuel’s been in elected office since 2002 when she won a runoff election against then Assemblyman Tony Cardenas to represent Los Angeles’ 2nd District and has served as city controller since 2009—around most parts of South Los Angeles—she’s simply known as the “white lady” running for mayor. Which by all accounts, isn’t good for her campaign.

Greuel’s promise to bring 2,000 additional police officers to the streets of Los Angeles, isn’t going over too well either. Even though many Black people don’t know who she is, the word is making its way around that the “white lady” wants to bring more police to South Los Angeles. For a community that continues to suffer abuse from the police department, including being unfairly targeted and pulled over for driving while Black—without any hint of reform —this isn’t winning her any additional points on the streets of Los Angeles.

Also not good for Greuel’s camp is that there is still a bitter taste in the mouths of supporters of 9th District councilmember Jan Perry, a Black woman—who until recently was also a contender for L.A.’s top office. While many Black folks may know nothing about Greuel other than the fact that she’s a “lady” and she’s “white,” there’s another group that does know about Greuel and remembers her unfair attack against Perry during the primary. An attack that was seemingly more personal than actually needed at the time, considering most polls showed Greuel in the lead headed in election day.

Not understanding that certain issues earn you stripes in particular parts of Los Angeles, Greuel’s camp exploited Perry’s personal life from 20 years ago when Jan’s ex-husband’s business failed and the couple filed for bankruptcy. Perry’s ex-husband filed for bankruptcy twice and because they were married at the time of one of those filings, Jan’s name is signed on a bankruptcy filing.

So what? She didn’t publicly cheat on her husband with a television news reporter, our current mayor, or go on national TV and tell a nation that she did not have sex with someone when in fact she she did, our former president, who by the way just endorsed Greuel.

I guess in the San Fernando Valley, where Greuel hails from, they’re immune to foreclosures, repossessions, unemployment, and yes—even bankruptcies.

But around here, we’re not and for someone to go through a rough patch and still come out on top is inspiring—not be used as a negative campaign tool.

Perry may be out of the race but she’s not of out the game and she’s got huge support coming from the same community who continuously asks, “who’s that white lady?” And who do you think they’re going to vote for—not the woman who stepped on Perry’s back to make it into the runoff.

If I were a part of Greuel’s camp, I’d focus more on helping Black people to understand more about their candidate than the fact that she’s “white, ”she’s a “lady,” and she wants to add more police in South L.A. Historically speaking, those three descriptions, separate or together, haven’t polled very well among Black voters in Los Angeles.

Who’s that lady (who’s that lady)
Valley lady (who’s that lady)
White lady (who’s that lady)
Real white lady (who’s that lady)
Hear me callin’ out to you
‘Cause it’s all that I can do
Your camp tells me to vote for you
But you say vote yeah, but don’t expect much, baby

Chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne A. Cannick lives in Los Angeles and writes about the intersection of race, politics, and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook.

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