I met these students in my Mandarin class at university, so I do have a wish to learn about Chinese culture. I have spent 11 months total living in Chinese monasteries-both in Taiwan and USA (City of Ten Thousand Buddhas). So while I cannot say I am an expert on Chinese culture or even well informed as it is exceedingly rich, ancient and complex, I do have more exposure to it than your average White Canadian.
You misunderstand when I say other considerations. To work as a peer councillor at my school, I underwent an intensive exercise known as Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Pioneered by Jane Elliot. I linked to her in another thread. Part of what I learned was that as a White male I should not generally take the lead in talking about oppression outside my position of privilege. That is my general rule. And I usually take the role of listener in these conversations as I aknowledge I am part of the priveleged group in my country of origin. I can change out of my robes when I walk the street (though perhaps out of stubborness but also a sense of commitment I never do.) People cannot change their skin colour.
However, I speak Tibetan and have lived with Tibetans for nearly 10 years of my life, and been involved in TB for over 17. I have seen bullet scars, heard heart wrenching stories of torture and know the perilous precipice of obliteration which Tibetan language and culture are facing. So, though I normally wouldn't say anything, in this case I do.
When the lama I translate for daily cannot confirm whether members of his family are dead, alive or in prison I cannot remain silent in the face of terrible misinformation widely believed by some in the Chinese overseas community and consider myself loyal to the teachers who have opened the door of dharma for me.
Just as I as an upstanding white man must facd the music of the racist foundation upon which privilege is built, even if those students are uncomfortable the horrible misinformation if the Chinese government must be exposed for what it is. Because I can speak Tibetan and have Tibetan friends, at least I can share some of my knowledge.
As I said,normally I know as a White man it isn't my place, but Tibet is burning so there are extenuating circumstances.
Thank you for the additional background information. For myself, I was born and raised in Hawaii and was not in a privileged class (even though I am white). In Hawaii, being caucasian or "haole" means you are actually in the minority. One of my best friends was Chinese. Another half Japanese-half White. On any given day I'd be exposed to first, second and third generation Chinese or Japanese people. Each generation of each ethnicity had different cultural norms you had to navigate. My neighbors on one side growing up were an extended Hawaiian family living in 3 houses and on the other side a Japanese family of 3 generations whose grandparents were from Japan. I also had Samoan and Filipino friends. My undergraduate degree is in Anthropology. I had little to no exposure to Christianity growing up, but was very influenced by Zen. This by way of saying that my upbringing is far removed from the normal racial and Christian milieu many in the west, or at least in the US, grew up with.
I've also been married to my wife, who is from China, for 15 years and have know her for 22 years. We have a teenage son who is, obviously, mixed race. Before we got married, I lived in China for 8 months and helped my wife make a documentary on Iodine Deficiency Disorder, working with an all Chinese crew. In 2004, we made another documentary, just her and I, with our son in tow, on the healthcare crisis confronting Tibetan women in Eastern Tibetan/Qinghai Province. I also took my refuge vows in 1997 with a Tibetan lama in Wutaishan. My wife has been a practicing Buddhist most of her adult life and counts several Gelugpa lamas among her teachers and friends (including some who were in prison for 20 years). After I got married, one of my Chinese-American friends from Hawaii was actually very angry with me and asked "why did you marry one of 'our' women?"
I have made two documentaries against war and America's culture of war, so I understand what it means to be passionate about a cause. And I understand what it means to see a culture subsumed by another. You have an affinity for Tibet, I have an affinity for Hawaii. The Hawaiian culture in many ways has been obliterated beyond anything Tibet has faced. I also feel very passionate about what we, the US, have done and continue to do to Native Americans. One of the most mind boggling conversations I've had was with a Tibetan shop owner in Colorado after I came back from China. I had noted how inexpensive a book on Buddhism he had in his shop was compared to buying it in China. Based on that and nothing else, he went on to ask me why I would go there, about how Chinese were barbarians who used human feces for fertilizer, etc. I asked him, as an America, why I should have more concern for the Tibetan issue rather than working to improve the conditions of Native American? And this is the part that boggled me, he said "Native Americans are stupid and are happy just to sit at home on their reservations and watch cable tv"
I had and have a great deal of sympathy and compassion for him, but I don't see the shop owner as being representative of all Tibetans. Only of himself. As are each of us. It's so easy to get caught in the trap of referring to people as a label, e.g., "Chinese overseas community", "White male", etc. What do these labels mean? I'm not asking from a mundane perspective, I know what they mean, but from an actual Buddhist or Vajrayana perspective? Are they real? Should they be reified? Each person is an individual, who comes to his/her station through a variety of causes that you can articulate much better than I. But even at a mundane level it's unclear. They are still your individual projections on a person. You're a white male. So am I. We have vastly different experiences and understanding of what that means. You talk of students in the Chinese overseas community. What does that mean to you? What does it mean to me? What does it mean to the people you are putting in that group? Etc. I mentioned it in another thread, but Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche gave an example of how we cannot see the same thing - he pointed to flowers on the table in front of him - and said we don't see the same flower, not just because we are not seeing it from the same perspective or distance, but because each of us comes from different causes and conditions. The meaning of that same flower is different for each person.
Though I love anthropology I moved into film/theatre and writing, including some poetry. My big focus is how do people make sense of themselves and the society around them, as well as how society does tremendous violence to the individual. That's why I can appreciate Justin Chin's book, even if I think he misses the mark in some ways. He's trying to figure out what it means to be himself in the world. And I have sympathies for those 2nd generation Chinese students (taking Chinese class because they are already separated from their culture, but not fully integrated into Canada's) who are/were trying to do the same thing too.
(I'd be happy to PM links to some of the documentaries I've referred to if you're interested - cool if you're not as well)