Fernando Cabrera is out of touch with constituents


(re: “Cabrera: It’s hard to be rich,” Political Arena, July 20)

When I heard Fernando Cabrera muse about how hard it is being rich, I rolled my eyes, and nearly threw my computer out the window. Here was this anti-LGBTQ elected official, spewing absurdities about the very people he represents.

I’ll give him credit for being an intersectional hater, I guess.

My grandparents, two hard-working Dominican immigrants, instilled in me a deep sense of pride and commitment to our heritage and our ability to make it in America, despite all the odds. But my grandparents are also not perfect, and sometimes we have difficult, uncomfortable conversations about issues when I come home.

But my grandparents aren’t elected officials. Our disagreements are limited to awkward dinner conversations, not the systemic disenfranchisement of thousands of people based on their gender expression or identity.

I’ve recently taken to the phrase “unlearning.” It is a process that never ends. It ebbs and flows and calls upon us in the most uncomfortable situations to rise above our prejudices to find the goodness deep in us to make the world around us a better place. Unlearning also requires us to humble ourselves, and to have tough conversations among our friends and relatives we may not agree with.

It means some of the things I believed in growing up in a strict Catholic household may not feel the same anymore, but that’s OK.

In the spirit of unlearning, I urge my fellow Bronxites to unlearn the behaviors that have some of us pulling the lever to keep Cabrera, and the out-of-touch bigots like him, in office. 

He has proven countless times that there is no discussion to be had. He will not change his views.

Cabrera’s long been a controversial figure with antiquated notions of the LGBTQ community. His ties to the Family Research Council should sound the alarm for Democrats and folks who are undecided. 

If Cabrera had his way, we’d all be singing hymnals with Tony Perkins, reading bigoted scripture from the false prophets at the Family Research Council about the dangers of the “homosexual agenda.”

To be clear, the Family Research Council is a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled hate group. The organization freely boasts about its anti-gay position: “We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools.”

It is undemocratic to allow a public official to use his elected office to apostolate on behalf of bigotry and intolerance. 

It is also an injustice to the thousands of families who live in poverty to keep a man like Cabrera in office.

Emma S. Ketteringham, managing director of the family defense practice at the Bronx Defenders, wrote in The New York Times about the poverty facing too many Bronxites, noting that “the Bronx has the highest percentage of homeless school children in the city, the largest unemployment rate in the state, and the highest rate of food insecurity in the country. Some parents we represent live in areas where the median household income is under $9,000, and nearly 90 percent of children live in poverty.”

Given this crisis, it’s clear that Cabrera is out of touch.

The irony is that Cabrera himself has mused about “class war” in the past. In 2012, Clyde Haberman at The New York Times wrote a piece citing the pastor’s words in a dispute over public funding for religious groups in schools outside of classroom hours. 

He said Cabrera, a Bronx councilman who is also a pastor, “veered toward an ominous side of this debate, raising the specter of ‘class war’ at a council meeting last week. This was a case of ‘the rich telling the poor that you cannot use the schools as houses of worship,’ Mr. Cabrera said, his voice rising at times.”

Shame on Cabrera.

At a time of so much division and vitriol, how can anyone stand proudly in their commitment to keeping this man in office?

Remember that Cabrera won his last city council race by the skin of his teeth. So again, in spite of unlearning, let’s look ahead to a progressive future that lifts up all Bronxites, not one that rejects the accomplishments and very existence of our richly diverse community. 

And let’s make sure we get folks to the polls.

This is an opportunity to stand up to bigotry, denouncing it with one of the most powerful tools we have: our votes.

On one hand, we have a progressive candidate in the race like Randy Abreu, who’s been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and the Stonewall Democrats. On the other, an incumbent who represents a divisive vision for our borough that leaves behind our LGBTQ and low-income family.

To those shaken by the chaos in the national news cycle, connect the dots. 

At a time when the Democratic Party is struggling over “litmus tests” on critical, non-negotiable issues, we too have our own reckoning to contend with in the Bronx. The race in City Council District 14 is so clearly a reflection of the Democrats’ crisis of non-negotiables. As the old adage goes, all politics is local.

It’s time the hard-working taxpayers of City Council District 14 stop paying Cabrera’s paychecks, and send him packing this election day.

Jess Torres