By Judy Tsuchiura-Stumpf
I am a 62-year-old, disabled, minority female with more than 35 years as a professional in the nursing profession. In the performance of my duties, I became viewed as a threat by those who disregarded policy and regulations and was subsequently marked for removal from my position as a Public Health Nurse II. Rather than being dismissed, I was targeted with malicious intent and my career essentially destroyed. The intentional infliction and accumulation of emotional abuse culminated in an illegal exclusion from work, resulting in psychological injuries that have destroyed my validity, my sense of self and my purpose.
I have become immobilized by overwhelming injustice and I have become what I have always hoped not to become: an embittered, disenfranchised recluse. I have experienced the disillusionment and disbelief of conditional rights, privileges and injustice inconsistently applied by those in power based on my physical attributes and their self-serving perceptions.
I was born a Sansei, and I was raised to be American first (which translates into Nikkei, genetically Japanese, but culturally White/Western American). I grew up under a cloud of doubt and guilt. This was due to my parents’ evasiveness in response to my questions and curiosity fostered by their brief comments about “camp” to adult relatives and visitors (referring to American concentration camps for Japanese).
When I learned to read at three years of age, my parents ceased the spelling game and resorted to speaking Japanese in my presence. Intuitively, I learned to stop asking questions, never knowing what secrets my parents kept from me. There was detectable sadness to those conversations, and it wasn’t until I was 12 years old that I learned of the relocation of the Japanese, the concentrations camps and the sacrifices forced on my parents by American society. The pride I carried inside tempered the shame and anger that resulted from stereotypical teasing.
The hardships endured by my parents to leave a legacy of hope, survival, perseverance and triumph must not be forgotten. I have a moral obligation, for the sake of all minorities and disenfranchised persons, to effectively prevent continued discriminatory acts against them, similar to those affected upon me. The internalized shame that consumes me requires externalized concern and action to want to do what’s right, regardless of the threat of retaliation and attacks by others. For those of us who have trusted in the American Dream, we are misinformed if we believe that we understand everything about American justice. “Equality,” “equal opportunity,” “rights” and “justice” are simply words conveniently defined and applied by those with the power to do so.
Most minorities have a sharp sense for detecting condescension, manipulation, patronizing and insincerity on the part of the White majority. Personal prejudice and ethnocentric practices allow unwarranted discriminatory action with impunity. Misinterpreting or exaggerating the elements of a culture by parceling out those elements is detrimental to the understanding of the dynamics of experienced victimization. Condemning and/or disparaging patterns that stem from false summaries prevent the ability and the right to draw natural strength from culture.
Controlled, deliberate rational processes aren’t the only influences guiding behavior. Whether done knowingly or unknowingly, the lack of awareness does not excuse the practice of racial profiling. Implicit attitudes favor one group over another, while implicit biases cause differences based on race. Institutional discrimination or racism has its roots in the injustices fostered by White-Western culture to conquer and populate. The historical injustice must be recognized to analyze the present reality to ascertain whether the action elevates the value or status of one group over another subordinate group. This recognition promotes a just and equitable society where power, wealth, services and opportunities are enjoyed by all.
I have been the victim of deliberate indifference in my call for justice for the consequences imposed upon me for my actions. I have suffered retaliation for whistle-blowing, and yet those empowered to ensure this does not happen have failed in their duty. I am a victim of hostile employment practices imposed upon me by persons who have neither the authority nor experience to do so, yet those in power have turned a blind eye to these egregious practices.
I have been financially degraded and my career destroyed by those whose unethical and illegal practices I have challenged, yet there does not seem to be any respite for me. I have suffered emotional and mental injury as a result of hostile practices, and yet those in power have prevailed in accusing me of being mentally ill and professionally incompetent. In a culture of healing, I have been diagnosed as diseased. In a culture of ethics, I have been demeaned for challenging the liberties others take in tweaking my code of ethics for their own convenience.
I want to be a living experience of the true definition of the spirit of the law, instead of a guinea pig for the letter of the law. I want to live again. I want my life back.
Judy Tsuchiura-Stumpf is a longtime nurse with an extensive background in public health. She is a living legacy of the American Dream lost in the shame of the Japanese relocation camps. She lives in Central California and is currently fighting for restoration to her previous life.