VOX POPULI: Thank You, Ms. K. Harris

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By MO NISHIDA

I never thought I’d be writing to the editor over an action taken by the state attorney general. But here I am, writing.

Because I feel she has offered me, a lower-working-class, proud to be buddhahead revolutionary nationalist, another chance to express my views on what I believe is “haji kake mondai” — a shameful episode of selling out of our heritage.

Her office has denied the sale of “Keiro, umbrella of care” senior care facilities, a 501(c)3 non-profit, to the Ensign Group, a for-profit corporation (see Rafu, Wednesday, Oct. 15), which has given me another chance to express my disgust and shame on the selling out of our legacy and heritage passed down to us by our visionary Issei and Nisei, our elders and ancestors, by the chief executive officer (senior management team?) and board of trustees.

I mean, who do these folks think we are, white? That we can disappear into the white mainstream, like the European nationalities and become a part of the “Pilgrims’ Progress”? Not unless we keep intermarrying out, into white America, is my take. Even then, I don’t believe we will/can disappear.

Firstly, is of course, U.S./American colonialist and racist thinking/ideology. Remember? If you ain’t white, you ain’t all right. Even through umpteen intermarriages, there will always be some of us who will be proud of our heritage and ancestry. And don’t forget, we will always have reinforcements from the mother country. We ain’t ever going to disappear, in my opinion and I’m damn well proud and happy about that!

Now I’d like to share why I feel the way I do. First, our legacy. My understanding of our Western medical heritage starts when we Japanese/buddhaheads (and all people of color) were colonial subjects of a racist empire, where all people of color were subject to segregation and contempt. In other words, we were ostracized by white society except to do their bidding. So much so that we could not get treated in any white hospital in the city; they had the only ones.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris

California Attorney General Kamala Harris

Visionary Isseis and the community, especially our Issei moms and grandmoms, wanted a modern option to childbirth, rather than only a midwife in their own homes, as a choice to giving birth to us. I was born in the Japanese Hospital on First and Fickett in August of 1936.

How did they finance this hospital? It is my understanding that these visionaries came up with the idea of selling stock for the hospital and its building fund. The result? A truly community-owned hospital.

This hospital was sold after WWII. Sold, it’s been said, by Nisei doctors who got control of the board and sold it without knowledge of the community stockholders. This was told to me by one of those stockholders, Frank Momii. After that, a new hospital was organized, City View Hospital, across the hill from the present Keiro retirement facility in Lincoln Heights.

Those old enough to remember know that this facility too was closed and sold, with a lot of bad thoughts and accusations. With the closing, our community got out of the hospital business.

Again, Issei and older Nisei, not necessarily MDs, stepped up and put forward another vision and legacy for the community, senior health care and retirement. Thus “Keiro Umbrella of Care” was built up and passed on to us in its present form of three facilities in L.A. and one in the South Bay. They seem to cover a wide span of needs for those who choose a Japanese-oriented care facility.

The lessons I draw are these:

First, that visionaries of our community saw that by meeting a need of our people, our reason and goal would be the same (i.e. a hospital, senior care/retirement facilities). Summed up — self-help to meet a need of our people. And by being self-reliant, relying on our own people, we wouldn’t be bothered by outside currents.

We would be able to determine our own future and needs, and therefore we would be able to defend ourselves. Self-help; self-reliance; self-determination; self-defense.

Second lesson — that we need to be more aware and involved. To hold people to whom we have given power and responsibility over our institutions to be accountable to those of us who care. In other words, I believe that without the community in the first place, these institutions wouldn’t exist at all. Therefore we have the right to call them out for a community review process.

Remember? This is not the first time this kind of sad-ass thinking and action was proposed. The JACCC was also subject to this type of thinking. As if our legacy and heritage could be bought and sold like an old car or house.

Maybe I can’t do anything about it, but I don’t like it and I sure as hell ain’t going to keep my mouth shut! Democracy!

Another perspective is on the issue of economics/profitability. In my opinion, because of its non-profit 501(c)3 status, the accounting should be fairly straightforward. Take a sheet of paper, fold it in half, on one side write down the amounts of all the monies taken in and on the other side, all the monies paid out. Because it’s a non-profit, these should balance out.

Now we have the spectacle of the chief executive, top managers and their board stonewalling the opening of those books, especially where the outputs are concerned. Such as the salaries of the chief executive and top managers, their perks and bonuses — you know, the whole ball of wax. We have to remember that these are non-profits, they rely for their funding either on us, the community, directly or from outside sources, in our name.

In my opinion there is no excuse for anyone in these 501(c)3 institutions to deny the community access to the books in critical and controversial times such as now.

I mean, did these folks who are denying us put up their own monies to be able to claim possession of these institutions like it’s their own private property? I think not. So I’m wondering where this kind of negative and obviously contemptuous thinking/attitudes towards us comes from.

So, let me share what I think. I have to bring in what I understand as our Brazilian compatriots of the Japanese diaspora and the analysis of their situation. This analysis was the result of serious thinking about their future, after the post-WWII kachigumi/makegumi fiasco, where they became the laughingstock of the world.

Their first premise was that each and every one is a free and equal human being and therefore has three options in our choices of lifestyles we want to live. One choice is to assimilate. To forget one’s own genetic and cultural heritage and to become a part of another community as if one had no past and try to take on the characteristics of the dominant or majority society that one wants to be a part of.

Another choice is to integrate. To live in mixed or otherwise non-homogeneous neighborhoods. To pursue a lifestyle of “live and let live,” practicing one’s own culture.

And finally, to separate. To live in concentrated neighborhoods of one’s own cultural and genetic compatriots, without the right to discriminate. Lil Tokyo right after WWII is a good example of what I’m talking about.

OK, given the above as my starting point, I see assimilationist-type folks coming into the community, probably because they couldn’t cut the mustard going head-to-head with white folks, taking over our institutions without the respect and love for our people, our history and our struggle to survive as a people.

These folks bring the white man’s colonialist culture and business ethics into our community and institutional life. They try to force us to accept alien ways based on selfishness, egotism and elitist disrespect — in other words, corporate capitalist culture, in my opinion.

What I’ve said doesn’t mean that I believe that our people don’t have these negative attributes. We all know that there are and we always have had “not nice people” in our community. The difference today is that these folks now dominate. In the past, there were always honest and principled people who spoke out and defended our future. I think that is missing now, although not completely.

Amongst revolutionary nationalists, it is our opinion that our communities were pretty much emasculated and broken with forced integration. Without a concentrated population, there is no strength, and no reason for being troubled about the future as an ethnicity/nationality.

This, in my opinion, is a part of the “American Dream,” with no sense of community and denial of ethnicity/nationality and therefore no sense of responsibility to any future of “our” people. This to me is the reality of the “post-racial” society they talk so much about.

How do we deal with the situation? The indigenous people of Turtle Island (North America) have this teaching: any decisions made today should be thought out with the question, “What will be the consequence/result seven generations down the road?” Obviously, I don’t think the decision to sell fits this description.

In the Oct. 28 issue of The Rafu, the headline states, “AG’s Office: Sale of Keiro ‘Not in the Public Interest.’” Then it says, “Exact reasons for denial of deal remain unclear.” Unclear to whom? For me, it’s clear as hell. I mean, you take a non-profit doing a public service to an ethnic community and sell the facilities to a profit-making outfit and think the services and target population are not going to be negatively affected? In my ’hood, it’s called “gentrification” and I want to thank Ms. K. Harris for this breather.

You notice I said “breather,” because as soon as she gets replaced, it’ll be on the agenda again. That’s how they work. If they fail, they’ll try and try again. With long bucks and influence?

Of course, in my opinion, the only real solution that has a chance is to promote that discussion about our future, using Keiro as an example for starters. Not a one-shot deal, where agendas can be manipulated, but a long-term series, where everyone and anyone can express our views.

Then maybe we can talk about Lil Tokyo. Have you seen our baby lately?

                                                                       Kokoro kara, Mo Nishida

 

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