This community opinion was contributed by Edward Huston. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
According to BenitoLink, San Juan Bautista Mayor Leslie Jordan at the gay pride flag raising on May 29 compared the LGBTQ community to other marginalized groups who led the way to equality in California, including the Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated during WWII.
A review of history may reveal the total inappropriateness of Mayor Jordan’s comparison. On February 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans were ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt to be interned in concentration camps. Of those interned, about 80,000 were second-generation Americans, born in the U.S. and were American citizens. California defined anyone with even 1/16th Japanese lineage to be subject to internment. Japanese- Americans were ordered to leave designated military exclusion zones, made up of portions of Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona, or be placed into camps.
The camps were typically stable and livestock areas at race tracks or fairgrounds in these states, which were quickly modified into housing for families of up to six members. Additionally, wood barracks were constructed for other housing and common latrines, laundry facilities and mess halls – to become the new ‘communities’ for these families who had been forced to leave their homes, businesses and farms where they had been raising and providing for their families. More than 92,000 Japanese-Americans were moved into these temporary facilities. Often, 25 people were housed in a space designed for four, and without plumbing and cooking facilities. Armed guards patrolled these facilities to prevent escape.
The U.S. Public Health Service recommendation of one physician for every 1000 inmates and one nurse for every 200 was not met. Food poisoning and dysentery outbreaks were common. The availability of medications and surgical equipment was limited. 30,000 of the internees were children. Education facilities and materials were very limited. There were no libraries in the camps.
A Supreme Court ruling in December 1944, regarding the detention of U.S. citizens without cause, finally directed the release of the internees to their home communities. By then, many of their possessions had been stolen or lost. Not until decades later, under President Ronald Reagan, through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, was an official government apology offered to these Japanese-Americans, along with reparation payments of $20,000 to each still-living survivor of the internment, for a total payout by the U.S. government of more than $1.6 billion to more than 82,000 Japanese-Americans.
So much for this history lesson. Now we turn to our present-day culture. Upfront disclaimer: results of studies vary; therefore, numbers differ from study to study. Please do the research yourself. The following is representative of the literature. Household income of same-sex couples in America is approximately $94,000 compared to $86,000 for heterosexual couples. About 46% of people who are members of same-sex couples have college degrees, compared to only a third of members of heterosexual couples. Women in same-sex couples earn about $38,000 each, compared to $30,000 for women in heterosexual couples. Factors such as taking time away from a career to raise children reduce the income earning potential for heterosexual women more than for same-sex women. The point here is that same-sex partners, in both male and female couples, do approximately the same or better when compared to heterosexual members when it comes to education and wage-earning.
Another study shows that same-sex couples making over $150,000 make up 28% of all same-sex couples, compared to 17% of straight couples who make over $150,000. Just below that income category, same-sex couples making over $100,000 make up another 24% of all same-sex couples, compared to only 18% of all straight couples who make between $100,000 and $150,000. On the bottom end of the scale, only 12% of all same-sex couples make less than $35,000, compared to 21% of straight couple making less than $35,000. (Numbers used in this study were sourced from the Treasury Department.)
All such comparisons are, by nature, a few years old. The precise income levels are not the important issue here; the overall conclusion is for Mayor Jordan to compare the current status of the LGBTQ community to the Japanese-Americans interned during WWII is not only inaccurate, it is shameful.
The Mayor should apologize to the Japanese-American community, and to the rest of us, including many in the LGBTQ community who have compassion for those who are mistreated, for twisting the facts of history, and for ignoring the efforts we are all making to treat one another fairly in San Benito County in 2021. Especially during this time of heightened awareness of aggression toward our Asian-American populations.
The mayor’s comments are clearly insensitive and out of place.