A Tale of Two Cities

Early in June this year, Long Beach City Council decided to officially recognize June as Pride month and May 22nd as Harvey Milk Day. The motion was made by Megan Kerr of the 5th District.

Harvey Milk Park is a small site located on Third Street at the end of the Promenade Park. This is the first park in California to be named after an openly gay person, and the first park in the nation named after civil rights leader Harvey Milk.

Harvey Milk Assassinated

In 1978, San Francisco superintendent Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White. This occurred the day Moscone was to announce that White was to be replaced. Dan White was initially charged with first-degree murder, however the jury in the end convicted him of voluntary manslaughter.

White’s attorneys used what was called the “Twinkie” defense alleging he was under the influence of sugary foods which addled his brain. Harvey Milk was such a beloved figure in San Francisco that protests rang out and rioting erupted in response to the verdict. After spending 5 years in prison, White was released and later committed suicide.

Temecula School Board Again Assassinates Harvey Milk

Yet, in Temecula just a short 80 miles from Long Beach, things are very different. Temecula, located in Riverside County, is a picturesque, small city known for rolling hills, wineries, hot air balloon rides and a warm but moderate climate. But judging from the news coming out of Temecula, the city might as well be somewhere in the Bible Belt.

Harvey Milk was again assassinated – this time by the majority of the school board members of the Temecula Valley School Board. The board members reviewed some of the social studies curricula and found a short biography of Harvey Milk in the teacher’s study guide. That was enough to set off the newly elected members to decide to ban the book.

In explaining the board’s action against the social studies book, Joseph Komrosky, the president of the board said, “my question is why even mention a pedophile?” This charge is unfounded.

Within a week of the book banning, three board members fired the beloved 25-year superintendent of schools, Jodi McClay, in a closed meeting. The reaction was quick with members of the teachers’ union and parents protesting at the next school board meeting.

Temecula Valley School District Takeover

Over the last few years, the school board has been taken over by a majority of “Christian” candidates who are sponsored and funded by The Inland Empire Family PAC. Supported by evangelical churches in the area the PAC is open in its mission.

“The Inland Empire Family PAC unofficially began in 2017 when parents got a copy of a comprehensive sex education curriculum that was taught in a Temecula Valley classroom. This bold indoctrination forced many into action and several traveled up and down the state telling others about what they saw. Much has changed since then, and the threats have increased. Critical Race Theory, state mandates, and the sexualization of our children are now national issues. The Inland Empire Family PAC was created to ensure parents are the final decision maker in the education of their children, not the Government.”

The PAC was able field school board candidates who are now the majority of the board. Closer to Long Beach, the inclusion or any recognition of non-binary persons has been met with hateful demonstrations in Glendale and North Hollywood.

John Rogers, a professor of education at UCLA and the director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access noted the attack on public education.

“…this broad campaign against public schools has sought to use misinformation to challenge public schools and to rile up parents to draw upon their frustration, their sense of not feeling comfortable with the way things are in society. And to use that to undermine this very important institution of public education, with so much ugliness playing out here in Southern California and across the country over LGBTQ curriculum.”

This is part of a nationwide effort by the Christian fundamentalists and the Republican Party to use parents’ fears of a changing society to gain political power. Campaigns against LBGTQ+ are a way to use fear to polarize communities.

Campaigns against immigrants and against the truth about American history seek to cause divisions in our society. This is especially true in erasing the history of genocide against the native American people and the history of slavery and Jim Crow both instrumental in the founding and development of our country.

Here in Long Beach, we cannot be too complacent in that we live in a diverse city. Issues of poverty, homelessness, increased surveillance and police misconduct still plague communities within our city.

The Supreme Court decision on the right of women to control their bodies and now the campaign against LGBTQ+ people are contrary to American values. People who care about human rights can no longer sit by the watch, they must engage and fight for a restoration of rights we took for granted and are be eroded before our very eyes.

Marshall Blesofsky is a long-time peace and social justice activist. He is the chair of the steering committee of Long Beach Area Peace Network and a member of the Anti-Surveillance Coalition of Long Beach. The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of either organization – only those of the author.

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Excellent article!

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