JamyangTashi wrote:The question then becomes: how can people interested in such a path be found and encouraged in a helpful way?
Since you asked a sincere question, I'm willing to give it another shot.
Buddhist practice includes abandoning identity views of every sort, which includes abandoning views of oneself as a particular race or attachments to a particular culture,
You won't get anywhere saying things like this, especially not to black people, especially not black people that are descendants of the Africans brought over during the slave trade. We have already
had our culture ripped from us, forcefully. You know how white Americans can say they are Irish, Danish, French, etc.? Most of us cannot say
what our ethnicity is because we have no idea where our ancestors are originally from ("African-American" is a vague nationality
because Africa is not a country, it's a continent). That is very destabilizing. We had to recreate a culture as a survival skill. It's bad enough that we had to adopt the slave owner's religion to get any kind of spiritual nourishment at all (to the point where the original practices were thinly disguised as saint veneration in some areas), but to have white dharma teachers say we have to let our culture once again slip through our fingers yet again is a replay of painful history.
I say "white dharma teachers" because I have honestly never heard any of the monks I know who are people of color say that before. In my sangha, we celebrate culture through the practice, mannerisms, postures, gestures, language, and of course, the food. The people go there, in part, because they get to celebrate the different Asian cultures in an environment where, for example, they won't be looked at strangely for speaking their own language, being looked at strangely for speaking English with their natural accent and dialect, and where they aren't made to feel like "forever foreigners".
Like I touched on before, it would be impossible to practice Buddhism without any culture. Just like the Dharmakaya, culture is basically where we move and breathe. Trying to extract culture from the dharma to make it "pure" is actually a western cultural decision, based on Protestant-driven anxiousness to find the "pure" way, the "original" way, etc. I practice the Mahayana way--I have long abandoned the concept of "original Buddhism" or "purity".
I think your sentence is in error, and is the religiousity I was referring to. I "know" the skandas are not "me". That is the "enlightened" reality. There is also conventional reality, which while still residing in samsara, we have to face it and understand, especially if we want to benefit others. This is the reality where black people feel alienated for the reasons I said in my original post. This is the reality where we face racism and racist microagressions on a daily basis. This is the reality where young black women like Renisha McBride are shot in the face just for knocking on someone's door for help.There have been others.
Conventional reality is what I was addressing, so while I do think this statement is theologically wrong (especially as applied to Mahayana practice for laypeople, which has always been moderate and has helped people cope with conventional reality), but this isn't even what I was talking about.
The original post mentioned specific and actionable points that while relevant to people of color are also relevant to the religion as a whole
Given that Buddhism is a religion where the majority of practitioners are
people of color, what would be the difference?
A revival of the culture of actual homeless teachers living in urban environments would be quite a shift from this pattern,
No one has to be homeless
And it's not enough to have more dharma centers and sanghas in areas where there are more people of color, but it is important that whoever is in charge actually listens
and takes an honest evaluation of the needs of that community as communicated by the people who are apart of it, as well as apply introspection to see how he/she is helping or hindering that. This is especially true from white teachers, as well as teachers who are a different race of poc than who they are serving.
Recent posts are more abstract, talking at a very high level about a complicated issue. The different experiences and backgrounds of people reading such a high level and abstract discussion will lead to very different interpretations because many readers are unfamiliar or unaware of the concrete examples that lie behind these abstractions. To the extent that different readers are aware of specifics that can flesh out the abstract concepts, those specifics might not agree.
I laid it out pretty plainly. I think it is only seen as abstract because I chose to focus on lived black experiences and some steps we (black people) can take to better make sense of things. Unless you mean the question of "why aren't there more black and other poc Buddhists?" If so, this question is not really a concern--they are plenty
of black and other poc Buddhists, they just prefer their own spaces most of the time. I see nothing wrong with this, especially in our religious practice, which is supposed to be our refuge. Wanting us to instead go to white sanghas arbritarily just so
white people can be "educated" is further objectification*. We aren't specimens to have around for "educational opportunities", we are people. If people want to be educated, there is Google, books, blogs, videos, and maybe other resources they can check out. If any person of color wants to explain something to you (like I am right now), appreciate it, listen, and realize this is a courtesy
, not a requirement
. In the meantime, let us do our thing.
(*Though, I know some people of color like arun of "Angry Asian Buddhist" points out that mainstream American Buddhism should include more Asian-American voices and povs outside of famous lamas since Asian-Americans are Americans. But this isn't treating people of color as tokens (if done right) as much as it is letting all
Americans move and drive the future of American Buddhism, not just the privileged Americans.)
Also, some sincere observations about the bolded parts of your quote above:
1. If posters didn't know what I was referring to, Google searches actually turn up better responses than I have given here, but even still: if it was so complicated and hard to understand, why wasn't I asked to clarify? "While that may be true, but..." is not a request for clarification, and neither is "[Racism] is only an issue if you want it to be." The latter statement is especially dismissive because it implies that the racism poc face is somehow our fault, and it wouldn't happen if we didn't want to be an issue for us. I don't know any person of color that wants racism to be an issue
2. What specifics don't agree, though? This discussion has to do with racial and cultural experiences, which should be approached as an anthropologist would, which is listening to people share their experiences and ask them about it if necessary. This is not a "hard science" where people disagree with me about facts about my own lived experiences
. It would be like you telling me the full name of your mother, and me saying "That may be true, but her name is actually Agnes." How would I know? I'm not your mother's daughter
So to be clear, if people want to encourage convert poc Buddhists, listening
to them is a great first step, whether it's the written word, videos, or people offline sharing with you (I'm using the plural, impersonal "you" here). Reflecting
about how you may be complicit in racist (or other discriminatory) structures is a good next step. As you incorporate listening and reflection into your practice, and seeing how all of this unravels, you will begin to see your role more clearly. It all depends on individual circumstances, as well as on a person's ethnicity. We're not all the same.