August 19, 2013

Racism with a Smile

Lori Pierce

The current media vogue is to construe racism as something neo-Nazis, skinheads, or other marginal bigots do. This absolves the rest of us from taking responsibility not just for individual acts of discrimination and bias on a daily basis, but also for the ways in which white supremacy reinforces and guarantees white skin privilege. Racism in the US is not primarily about individual acts of ill will. One can be benign, neutral, open, accepting, and friendly to people of color and still be participating in the perpetuation of racism in this country merely by not actively working against racial hierarchies.

A good working definition of racism comes from Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s Racial Formation in the United States. There they argue that racial projects "create or reproduce structures of domination based on essentialist categories of race." All white people need to understand the multiple ways in which institutions in this country reproduce structures of domination that are harmful, dehumanizing, or downright dangerous to people of color.

We must make a commitment to work against racism on a daily basis. We all must be as committed to anti-racist work as we are to our daily practice. In fact, I believe that for American Buddhists, being committed to anti-racist work must be our daily practice. Our country is so fundamentally dysfunctional with regard to race, racism, and racial ideologies that we no longer recognize the degree to which it structures and influences our daily life. This is especially true for white people who enjoy privileges and unearned advantages on a daily basis, and therefore effectively discriminate against people of color. It is not enough to be sorry or to go out of your way to smile and be friendly. Racism is not about personal feelings and therefore anti-racist work requires that we move beyond feelings and emotions to action and advocacy. We must constantly be vigilant and speak out about the root causes of prejudice and discrimination—racial structuring based on white supremacist beliefs and practices in our institutions.

We must educate ourselves about these issues. Racism in the United States is now and always has been a white problem, and therefore it is incumbent on white people to talk amongst themselves about how they propose to solve this problem. Waiting for people of color to enter white spaces in order to educate white people about their blindness to racism is arrogant, patronizing, and disrespectful. Feminists have, for years, called men to task for not taking responsibility for dismantling patriarchy. The same is true for the responsibility white people must take for dismantling racial hierarchies.

Lori Pierce is associate professor of American Studies at DePaul University, where she teaches courses on Asian American history and American Buddhism. An earlier version of this statement appeared in the pamphlet “Making the Invisible Visible: Healing Racism in Our Buddhist Communities” (pub. 2000).

For more discussion on racial issues in our communities, see this month's retreat, "Real Refuge: Building Inclusive and Welcoming Sanghas." East Bay Meditation Center teacher Mushim Patricia Ikeda explores perceptions of racial, sexual, and class diversity in our sanghas and expands on what it means for a community to offer real refuge.

 Image courtesy of Flickr/quapan.

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
DB's picture

Well folks we live in a world of staggering inequality. People don't seem to need much of an excuse to hate one another and perceptions of social difference are hardwired and not easily dislodged. I remember traveling through Kenya with an asian woman who was clearly the victim of discrimination by blacks. And having worked within institutional, corrections and homeless services centers one can witness plenty of hatred between Native American and Black street gangs. I remember treating a hospitalized patient, a disturbed, homeless, addicted black woman who looked me straight in the eyes with a face full of hate and yelled "Craker! Honky!" she wasn't fooling around.
But anyone, I repeat anyone with my color of skin who cannot appreciate the staggering benefits of whiteness, really has NOT thought very deeply about these things. Traveling in African, third world countries, I am an instant celebrity. Feared, respected, admired. For anyone who doubts it, I suggest looking at the America criminal justice system. A system that overwhelmingly brings the pain to poor people of color. I suspect for many of us this is not merely academic. How many of us white professionals would have our current jobs, lifestyles, loans, and licenses if DRUG LAWS were equally enforced. Ha ha, thats a good one. Take your hard workin, "I earned everything myself" ass to prison for a couple years cuz of that weed, coke, ecstasy you smoked in college, or last week. We'll see how hard you work in prison. Work it! Yeah. The warden likes when you work extra hard to earn everything you get.

workbc9's picture

"Racism in the United States is now and always has been a white problem"

What if I'm not-white and am racist towards white people?
Or if my family is from south west Mexican descent but they don't trust black people, because my father and brother were mugged and beat up.

, "and therefore it is incumbent on white people to talk amongst themselves about how they propose to solve this problem."

So the person who commits harm/an injustice/ violence against another person (the victim), should figure out themselves, without insight from the victim, how to compensate the harm.
So we should ask the rapist or murderer what they think their crime was, what the punishment should be, without insight from the victim?
Don't go outside from the classroom because there area lot of sociopaths out there that would love this philosophy.

"Waiting for people of color to enter white spaces in order to educate white people about their blindness to racism is arrogant, patronizing, and disrespectful."

So is the person who is a victim of an insult/injury is not responsible to seek equitable recourse for the injury.
If a person has anger, hate, fear, racism in their heart they shouldn't they try to resolve the internal (or external) just wait for the person who has caused you "harm" to "figure out" whats in your heart and what they did to you, and wait for them to come to you with restitution and release all the pain and suffering.
yeah right.

Good thing I didn't go with that plan.

Uh miscommunication, like not including the thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints of the other person in the dialog, makes it hard to resolve problems.

Tricycle, this blog/article seems out of place,
If I am a victim of racism. how does this article help me and others?
If I am a self realized racist, how does this help me and others?
If I am closet racist, how does this help me and others?
If I am none of the above, how does this help me and others?

"Racism is not about personal feelings and therefore anti-racist work requires that we move beyond feelings and emotions to action and advocacy"
What action?Advocacy?
We should act, before understanding, addressing our emotions and feelings?

So if I'm angry at someone who injured me, i should just act?
what about mindfulness.

Lavender's picture

I'm disappointed to see so many individuals here of all places clinging to such a narrow understanding of human nature. Let's assume we know without a doubt that a particular individual is in an unfavourable situation entirely as a result of their own actions. Who does that person represent? Do they represent every other person, or an arbitrary percentage of people, who belong to the same category - be it based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.? If we're being honest with ourselves, we have to answer no, and we have to try to remember this every time we make generalizations or assumptions when it comes to the goodness and moral standing of other human beings. Ultimately, we're all individuals who deserve to be understood before we are judged. Society is better off when we practice empathy because only then are we able to address the root causes of certain behaviours.

For example, if my hand knocks a greasy spoon to the ground, what made the spoon fall is contact with my hand. But suppose my hand jerked forward because someone accidentally knocked my elbow. And suppose they did that because they were startled by a barking dog and had an involuntary spasm. And the dog barked suddenly because... The point here is that when we witness someone performing an action or being in a particular state, we may not know the whole story. Perception,environment and situation are interconnected. There is no either/or dynamic to the origin of this problem. You simply cannot realistically expect a group of people, who on the basis of who they happen to be, who have been denied a decent education, healthy food, living wages with job security, affordable healthcare - groups who are often surrounded by or suffering from abuse of all forms, violence and exclusion - to act as though these things aren't happening to them. This is essentially akin to looking at a rampant bacterial infection (a system that creates and then perpetuates inequity and therefore chaos) and thinking, 'Hm... This is a bad situation. It needs to be addressed. But since someone should do something about it, someone will - or if they don't, well, they should - so it's not my problem and I hold no responsibility.' The point is that those who are privileged are in actuality in a position (mentally, physically, financially, socially, etc.) to actively counteract inequities; anything else does nothing to improve the problem and could in fact worsen it. Action that acknowledges this is called anti-racism and/or anti-discrimination - and yes, it is the responsibility of us all. So what is our solution? To do what we can to love others and show compassion to those who for whatever reason are not in a position to do so themselves.

celticpassage's picture

Some comments:
My comment that there is no such thing as collective karma has already addressed the issue of judging individuals based on a perception of a group.

I don't think you or anyone else has the moral authority to tell other people what they should be doing or what their responsibilities are as you did: "and yes, it is the responsibility of us all".

As an aside, I don't find any examples of Zen masters sitting around telling each other what each of the others should be doing.

I think everyone knows that situations aren't either/or (i.e. black and white).

"Society is better off when we practice empathy because only then are we able to address the root causes of certain behaviours."
I don't think empathy (the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another) allows us to address the root cause of behaviors at all, and may actually interfere with addressing issues. In addition, I'm pretty sure the root problem of 'certain behaviours' can be addressed without empathy.

There are also a host of assumptions and proposed solutions to those assumptions in your comments.

Besides those minor comments:
There is a long tradition of not getting involved with politics, or society by people who were presumably enlightened. It is a viable position and one which I would be perfectly comfortable taking or seeing others take.

Dominic Gomez's picture

"show compassion to those who...are not in a position to do so themselves" is Buddhism in action. Thank you!

mahakala's picture

Journalism or Sensationalism?

Buddha Power!

hnpeck's picture

The problem is culturalism...not racism. Today, the race of someone is irrelevant. What invites problems is culture.
When the Black culture has a 73% single mother birthrate and a 50% high school dropout rate, it fosters generational problems that effect entire communities. I live an hour from Philadelphia, and used to live in Phila. I watched for years with fascination the national conversation about "race".
Black community dysfunction that equates to crime, horrible schools, community breakdown and resources depleted... can all be traced back to the two above noted statistics.
Asian and Indian communities are flourishing because the majority ("white") population and the laws of our land are welcoming, encouraging and so, so supportive of all people with opportunity like no other country offers.
But the familial dysfunction of the Black family is a scourge that creates problems with far reaching tentacles.
Buddhist thought should look straight on at this issue, not create excuses and historical blibber blabber.
The problem is today.. created by people today that, YES!... if they got their shit together, the doors of opportunity would swing wide open!!!!

DaughterOZ's picture

I have to agree with hnpeck. While there is a huge problem with racism in our country, I believe that the Black community needs to start finding power within and changing their own community and dynamics. I have lived in Cleveland and grew up in the inner city, and I can tell you first hand that many of the problems I have seen personally were because of our own actions and the complacency n our own communities. Individually, I have seen Blacks rise up and do great things for themselves. Collectively in our own neighborhoods that are most vulnerable? Not a chance. And I think there lies the problem.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Back in the day the Black Panthers kicked it off. Black churches struggle to get the message across. A more powerful internal force is needed. This dynamism is ignited when each individual wakes up to and accesses his or her Buddha nature.

Dominic Gomez's picture

So if 3/4 of white unwed mothers are always pregnant and half the kids they produce don't finish high school, they can be maligned by the rest of us?

celticpassage's picture

hnpeck, as I understand, is drawing attention to the role blacks themselves play in their own condition; which I think is a valid point that most people are very afraid to make because of the rabid liberal agenda of trying to make saying anything that might offend someone a crime punishable by imprisonment.

Unfortunately, if a person suggests blacks are partly responsible for their own conditions, which is undoubtedly true, everyone assumes that the person is a blatant racist followed by the usual story about white power and privilege.

It's been noted before how other groups (Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Irish, etc.) don't seem to have the same problems in America that blacks do (despite the headstart programs etc.)

Dominic Gomez's picture

Japanese-, Chinese-, Italian-, Irish-, etc.-Americans were never enslaved then released into an alien culture.

celticpassage's picture

I see. So somehow if your ancestors happened to be slaves, that affects one's ability in later generations to adjust more than other oppressed groups (Irish, Italian, etc.) and also absolves said individuals of personal responsibility for one's own situation. Seems to me, such a view isn't very Buddhist; passing responsibility for one's own karma to others like that. But hey, I guess black karma might be different.

Dominic Gomez's picture

It's only been 150 years since Emancipation. Black people in America were considered non-humans for at least 225 years before that. Perhaps you can help change societal attitudes (collective karma) towards people of color, don't you think?

celticpassage's picture

There's no such thing as collective Karma.

So if 5 generations isn't enough to ameliorate this mythical "slave effect", then how many generations do you think it will take?

JoseBuendia's picture

Of course there is such a thing as collective karma. You should study a little more.

wtompepper's picture

Of course karma is collective! Otherwise, there would have to be some kind of transcendent and enduring "self" for individualized karma to "stick" to. celticpassage just likes to pronounce on topics he is woeful ignorant about--usually including simply asserting that Buddhist terms "really" mean what he would like them to mean.

celticpassage's picture

Perhaps you can explain where this collective karma collects.
But besides that, of course there is a transcendent and enduring self: an Anatman.
Your inability to recognize it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Or because you think Buddhists are making an error in thinking so, doesn't mean you're right.
More than likely, you're wrong about both.

Danny's picture

Where "collective karma" collects, quite naturally, is in our ideologies; our ideologically shaped actions we take in the world--their ongoing effects shaping actions of future subjects. Nothing magical or mystical in this explanation. Can you explain what you mean by a transcendent and enduring self? Do you mean a soul?

Dominic Gomez's picture

Blacks aren't the only ones with karma. Each individual can take responsibility to change our collective karma as a nation. Slavery's repercussions affect all our endeavours.

celticpassage's picture

To help you open your mind, you shall write 500 times:
"There's no such thing as collective karma."
"There's no such thing as collective karma."
"There's no such thing as collective karma."

Dominic Gomez's picture

Uh, you have 497 lines still to do, CelticPassage. (Such karma you have! ;-)

bardo's picture

As someone who works in prisons as a Buddhist volunteer I can tell you with 100% certainty that racism is not just a "white" problem. In fact, in some prisons, white people are far less guilty of racism than other races as they are the minority. Whatever race is a majority tends to be the most racist. I also live in the only state in the USA where whites are a minority and other races definitely are equal to or more racists than whites. All this being said, I agree that whites have led the way throughout history in being racists. But in Buddhism, it is not possible to be racist and practice Buddhism. A Buddhist who is racist is simply not following the way of Buddha. Of course, that could be said of all the other religions. I prefer to treat all people the way I treat myself, with compassion and wisdom and without regard to race, sexual preference, or religion (or lack of religion).

chenma's picture

In Buddhism we are training in universal compassion, to love all living beings equally. Racism shows us where we need to improve. Our path is a personal one and we all need to look at our own mind and see where we need to grow and change. This discussion is very helpful from that perspective. Thank you everyone.

garypinette's picture

I guess I am just somewhat amazed at the angry tone of so much of the above.

bhb21's picture

this is the second poorly written, unprofessional article on race, following the T. Martin article a few weeks ago. there is racism everywhere and every race is guilty. i have lived in foreign countries and experienced it against me. majorities of any kind will tend to dominate and if not careful get full of themselves, a problem in many areas not just with race and perhaps related to ego.
laws against do not cure it. we are getting much better but it is an individual issue solved on an individual basis.
whoever is in charge of selecting articles needs to do a much better job. writers need to stick to what they know and can prove or submit as these as a letter or opinion.

tsmeisen's picture

Best first step along this important path: read everything you can written by Tim Wise!

aewhitehouse's picture

Tim Wise is another self-loathing race-baiter who has made a living of fostering division and thought policing.

aewhitehouse's picture

Very disappointed to read this entry which basically just propagates the neo-liberal practice of turning over rocks and inventing asinine concepts like "white privilege" to root out so called racism. We need to look past this continued victimology and examine the cultural issues that keep these issues of race festering, rather than the "engaged Buddhist" crowd trying to foist their hard leftist brand of shame on people who have done nothing to deserve it.

"Unearned" advantages? Please. I grew up in a lower, lower middle class Jewish home in the bible belt of the United States and was subject to anti-Semitism on a daily basis. I worked to earn a college degree and made $12,000 per year my first job out of college. I now have a wonderful family, a great home, and a rewarding (right) livelihood and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit still and be preached down to by some race-hustling "engaged" Buddhist blogger about my "unearned" advantages. Good grief.

wtompepper's picture

Don't fool yourself that you "earned" your comfortable life. The wealth of the previous generation, who had job security, unions, health insurance, pensions, was paid for by U.S. imperialism. Sure, you may have "worked hard," but no harder than today's college graduate who works full time at Home Depot or Walmart for minimum wage and can't afford rent on an apartment. College degrees were briefly more available because of the post-WWII economy and the GI bill, but now Obama wants to link federal financial aid to the "economic stability" of the colleges graduates--essentially guaranteeing that only those who can get into the elite colleges of the upper class will get financial aid, and the rest will have to pay more for worse and worse educations. Wake up and think! No single person could "earn" a "great home and a rewarding livelihood" by their own effort.

My parents, and my in-laws, always use this argument against affirmative action. They never went to college, got unions jobs with regular pay increases, health insurance, and pensions, and after forty years they retired to live the last 25 years of their lives in idle comfort. They are convinced that if minorities (not to mention their own grandchildren) weren't so lazy, they could do the same.

Nobody could individually earn the life of luxury that the American middle-class of the post-WWII era lived. It was earned by violent exploitation and plundering of the world's resources, and by the enormous national debt. We are all interconnected, in every, if you want to sit back and enjoy your "hard earned" comfort, you should at least have to HEAR about all the forced suffering of others that made it possible.

aewhitehouse's picture

So I spent four years working full-time and staying up until 2:30 a.m. studying yet you are saying "you didn't earn that"? Sounds awfully familiar to me.

The rest of your diatribe is long on revolutionary speak which fires up the occupied Occupy crowd, but short on facts and examples.

Rob_'s picture

If you want facts and examples, how about you play by the same rules? Most of what you've posted on this topic are mere ad homs.

"Tim Wise is another self-loathing race-baiter"

"propagates the neo-liberal practice of turning over rocks and inventing asinine concepts like "white privilege" to root out so called racism.

"the "engaged Buddhist" crowd trying to foist their hard leftist brand of shame on people"

"be preached down to by some race-hustling "engaged" Buddhist blogger"

"The rest of your diatribe is long on revolutionary speak which fires up the occupied Occupy crowd"

Do you have anything constructive to contribute except name calling? You could refute or disagree with someone quite easily by explaining yourself instead of lazily calling what they say a diatribe. Your short personal life story doesn't refute some very real inequalities in our society. Based on race and/or anything else.

You even seem to acknowledge some kind of inequality, "We need to look past this continued victimology and examine the cultural issues that keep these issues of race festering" ... Or perhaps you feel there is no problem, they're just "festering" because of neo-liberal, engaged Buddhist, shaming, revolutionary speak people?

I can't be sure, you don't explain yourself very well.

Danny's picture

You make it sound as if everyone worked as hard as you, studying all night etc., then they could be just as financially successful as you--for the sake of argument, lets consider that to be true. But WHO then, will fill the tens of millions of jobs that pay poverty wages such as the restaurant and other service industries, the farmers that produce our food, construction workers that build our beautiful homes, sales workers--all of these services that we, that our society demands? Who will do the work?

wtompepper's picture

Maybe it sounds familiar because it's true? I did the same thing, but certainly my comfortable standard of living is more a result of capitalist exploitation than of my hard work. I don't work as hard as an Appalachian coal miner, but I have a better standard of living. The amount of work you've done in your life wouldn't possibly be enough to make all the stuff the average middle-class American has. Get honest! Americans' wealth is a result of exploitation and theft, no matter how much we want to kid ourselves that we deserve it.

You want an example? How about the fact that the same quarter that Apple paid record dividends, the New York Times reported on the 80- hour work-week and horrid living conditions of the factory workers making iphones? But surely those Apple engineers worked full time and studied at night, so they deserve those huge profits, right?

zumacraig's picture

These types of responses are interesting to me. I easily want to quit thinking and agree. But that's not faithful buddhism. So my response to the above is that I don't see the article above denying your struggle. At the same time, the article does invite us to see that even if we are/were white-poor, we still may have privilege. What keeps racism festering is precisely what you say we should do. I've come to see that it is my inability to actually listen to the black experience in America and thinking they should just 'get their shit together' that has perpetuated my angst about racism in America.

All that said, race and it's arbitrary hierarchy is absolutely necessary for capitalism. If we can talk about that, then we might as well be talking about anything else.

aewhitehouse's picture

Too bad you have an inability to "listen" to the black experience. I actually do have that ability and have listened and come to the conclusion that some people, not just black people, really do need to get their shit together.. And nice little Buddhist way of impugning my thought process and intellect.

And coming from a white-poor background, I had no affirmative action on other ongoing set-asides other so-called protected classes have, and no one listened to our experience.

zumacraig's picture

Thing is, those in poverty do 'get their shit together', otherwise, they would be dead. The fact that you went to college, could pay for college and now have a job indicates a much different starting point than those you're asking to 'get their shit together'. Not to mention the fact, you didn't have to worry about the color of your skin in all your hard work. You have no idea what that is like. You don't.

Of course, all of this not withstanding the comments above about racism being one of many necessary smoke screens to keep the evils of capitalism alive and well. Indeed, your starting position allowed you to reap the spoils of much more exploitation and suffering that made your hard work possible.

Your arguments just don't hold up. Think it through and then think it through some more. Dare I say, that would be a step in the direction of a Faithful Buddhist practice.

thinkpaz's picture

Racism is like a social cancer whose cells are neutralized in one area only to spread in another. And, to say "racism is not about personal feelings," is to misdiagnose the problem all together. The personal feeling is the nucleus of this cancerous cell. It's fueled by misconception, misperception, fear, naivete and the unknown. What triggers racism? Color, culture, physical features, language, religion, social status, dress, mannerism, etc. There ARE differences between us, no doubt. The one universal link we ALL share comes from the Buddha himself (paraphrasing) All people want to be happy and all people want to rid themselves of suffering. Racism and all of its trappings won't disappear until we realize and integrate this fundamental truth. As a man of color I struggle and sometimes succeed in holding this world view. What goes for you; goes for me, too. Namaste...

Danny's picture

Unfortunately, racism is necessary to capitalism. It serves as a "scapegoat" for the failure of capitalism to resolve its inherent contradictions. There must be folks who are poor and oppressed, so if they are seen as racially different we can endlessly pretend to be working on the "problem" while in fact, we are simply reproducing it. There is no such thing as "race" in the mind-independent world. It is an ideological construct, and we will never be rid of it so long as it serves to prevent people from addressing the problem of capitalism.

Dominic Gomez's picture

James Baldwin noted “It’s not the Negro problem, it’s the white problem. I’m only black because you think you’re white.” George Yancy reminds us that “the first American edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1798) described ‘Negroes’ as being cruel, impudent, revengeful, treacherous, nasty, idle, dishonest, and given to stealing.” To be fair, people of color who've behaved badly likely gave rise to such perceptions in the first place.

JoseBuendia's picture

"Racism in the United States is now and always has been a white problem, and therefore it is incumbent on white people to talk amongst themselves about how they propose to solve this problem."

Excuse me. This is complete horseshit. Racism is everyone's problem. The insidious part of racism is that it pervades society and infects each person's view of themselves and others. As Buddhists, we start working on problems on this sort by working on ourselves and understanding our how we are a part of society and how our prejudices are formed by the family and society into which we were born. This is true for practitioners of any ethnicity or class background. Then, we take our insights and put them into action -- with our eyes open and being willing to make mid-course corrections based on the feedback that we recieve from our world.

Conceiving of racism as if it is one dimensional, as if it is imposed on helpless minority groups by white oppressors who alone can fix the problem is not only naive, it is counterproductive. Malcolm X, and Stephen Biko gave their lives showing that this view is incorrect, that overcoming racisim is primarily about empowering Black people and that White people should simply get out of the way. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela adopted a somewhat more inclusive approach. But not one of these leaders conceived of racism as a "white problem".

I do think that Buddhists have a contribution to make to race relations in the US. But it will not be through reenforcing racial stereotypes of White people as omnipotent oppressors and Black people as helpless victims.

And, by the way, smiling and a kind word between fellow practitioners is a pretty good way to start a conversation between equals.

celticpassage's picture

Total nonsense

jackelope65's picture

Racism is not just a " white " problem. As a white person, I experienced life threatening racism in Hawaii. We must solve racism from all sides. Throughout history peoples of all colours have been subjected to racism. We all must strive to end racism throughout all aspects of life, including sangha

mahakala's picture

nigga, please... now you know how the victimized, oppressed minorities feel every day all over the world! power to the people! GO TEAM!

Dominic Gomez's picture

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
~Rudyard Kipling (1899)

Waikamachi's picture

Let us not forget that racism is also entrenched in Buddhism. As Maung Zarni points out in an article here in Tricycle, Monks in Burma are leading a genocidal racist campaign against the Rohingya. Add to that, Monks in Sri Lanka promote a racist nationalist form of Buddhism. Racism is a current reality in Buddhism.

wtompepper's picture

It's absurd to say that the institutions of the U.S. exist to perpetuate "essentialist categories of race." Race is a social construct, and functions only as a ruse, a tub thrown to the whale. The structures of our society exist to perpetuate capitalist wealth, and the very idea of race would be forgotten if it didn't help distract people from noticing this truth.

There are, numerically (not by percentage) more poor white people than poor people of color. There is no "white privilege," unless you are white and also affluent. The town I live in right now proudly proclaims itself the most right-wing town in New England, and many of my neighbors are avowed racists (they will admit this to me, because I am white, so they assume I sympathize). Still, they are far less uncomfortable with a Hispanic professional in a tie driving a BMW than with a white guy with dirty hands and a flannel shirt driving a pick-up truck.

This idiotic idea that the privilege is solely based on skin color only creates another divide--it excludes the hundred million plus Caucasian people in the U.S. who have no such privilege, who can't get jobs and live in poverty. Everyone just assumes it must be by choice, since they have all the 'privilege" of white skin, and could be corporate executives if they wanted to.

Wake up people! The issue is capitalism!

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

I'm just going to drop this here...

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thank you, Emma. Note that Buddhism began when a scion of a privileged caste became aware of those suffering outside his gated community.

deadbirdsaint's picture