VOX POPULI: Do We Still Have a Sense of Pride in Our Heritage?



When I read the press release announcing the particulars of the intention of selling Keiro to the new outfit, I almost gagged and wanted to cry. Does anyone buy into the PR crap in the first couple of paragraphs? Phew, I wondered how much they paid a professional PR firm for that stuff.

I want to address two issues that I’m most sensitive to. The first is class. As a lifelong member of the working class’ lower section, I’ve supported Keiro and its concept since Fred Wada and gang promoted it. I could never pledge much coin of the realm, but I have supported in any way I could. And in the early days, there were some slots reserved for folks like me.

Today? One never hears about such thangs and the price tag to get in now is outrageous from what I’ve heard. I need to remind y’all, we are NOT all middle-class!

The second issue is called race. In the left we call it the national and colonial question. Which just means for the white man/“American” to justify putting us down, they had to invent a category that made us less “human” then them, thus “race.” And then “they” invented another category, “honorary white.”

These “honorary whites” came into our community and institutions, took control with their ideas that came from the “American corporate culture and philosophy” and then demanded that our community pay them the “white man’s wages” to be “competitive.”

Then what happens? We get all this “monku,” they get these six-figure salaries at the top, the bottom is barely getting minimum, and there is all this talk from residents and patients about getting ripped off. The bottom workers don’t speak Japanese (this is a cute way of saying they ain’t buddhahead). In fact, any non-elite or not degreed buddhahead that wants to work there, not volunteer, doesn’t have a chance. That’s what I hear.

And the place looks like this. The custodial, maintenance and food service workers are mainly you-know-what. The “professional/technocratic workers” are mostly our educated elites, and the very top are our “honoraries” who know how to milk this system, but don’t know much Japanese language skills and can’t/don’t communicate well with our whole community.

On a personal level, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of being a part the 2015 24th annual 250-mile Lil Tokyo-to-Manzanar Spiritual Unity and Prayer Run. One of our dedications is to the healing in our community of the tragedy of the rift caused by World War II. I won’t get into the particulars of the post-traumatic stress of the camps as that’s slowly being worked out. But we know that its effects have shown up on the individual level as well as community-wide.

One of the clearest examples on the community level is the split of the Japanese-as-the-first-language portion and the English-as-the-first-language portion from each other.

So, we see that the “liquidators” have in my opinion left out the Japanese language/cultural ramifications in their calculations. It seems they have forgotten that there’s about 150 million folks on the other side of the pond and they (we) are still coming over. And at some point in the near future, “they” will outnumber us.

Of course, truth be told, this is not the first time and probably not the last that we’ve been ripped off. I often wonder what happened to the “old men’s home” on Evergreen in Boiled Heights that Prince Chichibu, old Emperor Hirohito’s younger brother, gave to our community to care for the indigent old men, or how the old Japanese Hospital on First got sold privately when it was publicly subscribed thru the sale of stock, or what happened to the funds when old City View Hospital was sold.

I’m not sure if any of it went into Keiro. Interesting speculation, isn’t it?

The question that stands out in my mind is: What are the prime movers getting out of this? I mean, the common knowledge is that you get stock options, maybe a seat on the their board, a management position or a hefty payoff. It’s like the fiasco at the JACCC when the white guy resigned, he had a contract, they had to buy him out, and “they’ve” dummied up.

Don’t folks realize that we may forgive, but we don’t forget? Remember these old sayings? “Don’t bring shame on your family name” and/or “Don’t disgrace our race.” I remember hearing quite a bit of that at one time.

What I’m getting at is this: The corporate culture that is being promoted is not healthy for us. What we need, and what I believe the vast majority want, is more democracy, more openness. We don’t need elitism, secrecy, snobbishness, greed, sectarianism, lack of self- respect (wannabeism).

What we need, as an example, is a throwback to the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee kind of thinking and practice, not going along with the flow. All that got us was a lot of gratitude, applause and Gold Star moms. Me? I’d rather have them all here with us now, less gratitude and applause, but thas all right. Ya kno wot I mean?

If there is anyone out there who thinks like we have a stake, lets get together. The easiest way to reach me is to come to J-Town on the fourth Friday of the month (this month it’s the 26th) between the hours of 5 to 6 at Sakura Crossing between Second and Third streets on San Pedro Street in the heart of Nihonjin Machi/Lil Tokyo at the Lil Tokyo Peace Vigil.

The suggestion that I have is that we demand that all management staff, all workers, professional, technical, maintenance, all residents, all patients, all volunteers — in other words, all those directly affected — be encouraged to speak their minds, pro or con. And last but not least, that all the board tell us what they’re thinking. I want to say, “Shame on you,” but I won’t until I hear your individual answers to the question.

My life partner/wife, Misako, just showed me a major article in Japanese about this Keiro fiasco, and it says that Deputy Attorney General Wendi A. Horowitz is soliciting comments from the public. Stuff can be sent to her at this address: 300 S. Spring St., Ste. 1702, Los Angeles, CA 90013. I read the English article and that’s what I responded to. Did I miss this call for comments from the public?

These comments must be sent to her by Friday the 26th. Frankly, I believe direct action in one form or another is just as important as relying on the gov’t. So, if you feel like it, hook up with me.

Opinions expressed in Vox Populi are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



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