Brazilian American Councilor Stephanie Martins is challenging Haitian American Councilor Gerly Adrien for comments deemed offensive by Martins and that questioned her authenticity as a Latina – calling her a “quote-unquote Latina” during Monday’s Council meeting.
The situation began when, three hours into Monday’s meeting, Councilor Gerly Adrien was speaking about her belief that the residents are not represented properly by race and ethnicity. She said while the City is majority people of color, there are very few on the Council. In doing so, she indicated that Councilor Martins was “quote-unquote” Latina – meaning that Adrien did not consider her truly a representative of the Latino population.
“There are two wards made up of Haitians and Latinos,” she said. “I am the only Haitian on the Council and there is a quote-unquote Latina on the Council. The whole city is not represented the right way.”
Martins was clearly distressed by the comment immediately on the Zoom screen and laughed it off, but did offer up an immediate response.
“This is unnecessary but I want to educate everybody that anyone from Latin America is Latino,” she said. “I’m not quote-unquote. I’m a proud Latina and I’m proud to represent Everett.”
As the meeting closed, Martins did take a point of personal privilege to call out the comment in more depth. Adrien had left the meeting before then and was not present to hear Martins’ comments.
“On behalf of the huge Brazilian population in our city and schools, we can’t fight for the cause of diversity while ‘quote-unquoting’ people’s heritage,” she said. “I want to say that as a person straight from south of the border, who had to learn English and was not born with a Social Security Number, who had to pass the Citizenship Test and is here. To get to be an elected official is a huge milestone. We don’t have a lot of people like me. To have a person that flies the flag of diversity diminish somebody’s heritage I find unacceptable. I want to make sure every girl that looks like me and is fighting the battle to succeed in this country to feel validated.”
On Tuesday morning, Adrien told the newspaper she had no further comment and stands by her statement about Martins – noting that she has made comments in the past that brought on her comments.
On Tuesday as well, Martins submitted a lengthy op-ed to the newspaper condemning the comments by Adrien and calling it “Color on Color Racism.”
“The comment, which was dismissive and disrespectful, reflects a sad reality in our communities of color: the fact that color on color racism exists,” she wrote.