Responding to Racial Violence, Acting for Racial Justice

"Reality is harsh. It can be cruel and ugly. Yet no matter how much we grieve over our environment and circumstances nothing will change. What is important is not to be defeated, to forge ahead bravely. If we do this, a path will open before us." -- Daisaku Ikeda

As Buddhists who stand for racial justice, we are aghast at the visage of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi flag bearers who marched onto a college campus and committed assault and murder in broad daylight. We are aware of the ceaseless racial violence against African heritage, Latino heritage, Arab heritage, Indigenous heritage, Asian heritage and other people of color that is happening both in plain view and covertly.  Facing this reality, it is hard to stay present with the tenets of Buddhism: that all people are good and possess the Buddha nature, that we can be the master of our troubled minds and anguished hearts, that compassion is both the source and the product of enlightenment.

Because we are committed to racial justice we will stay present with these truths in order to plant our feet firmly in our freedom from white supremacy and neo-Nazism.  Facing the dukkha of racial violence, we will remember that suffering is the first noble truth precisely because it is the sounding bell that arouses our awakening. We awaken to the reality that the acts of racial violence in Charlottesville and elsewhere exhibit the perpetrators attempts to cling to White peoples’ historical global domination of people of Asian, African, Indigenous, and Latino heritage.  We stand in our freedom knowing that what White Supremacists seek to cling to is not only impermanent illusions of power but also counter to the fundamental interdependence of all beings.

As Buddhists who stand for racial justice we are strengthened by our ability to use our observer mind to recognize that our lives are bigger than anything that threatens us. As people of color who face the peril of racially motivated aggression constantly in our daily lives, we can and do rise above these interactions and observe ourselves as full human beings capable of flexible thinking, courage and trenchant wisdom that informs our actions. We observe the cowardice that grips those who would attack us and we remain composed in and of our enlightened minds.

We offer our voices to the chorus of condemnation of the violence.  We offer our active compassion to the victims and survivors. We also offer our profound and unceasing commitment. We commit to using our sagacious minds to navigate our own safety. We commit to using and creating opportunities for enlightenment and healing for all people. With enduring, fierce Metta towards ourselves, we as Buddhists of color commit to freeing ourselves from any internalized racism that would have us defer to or be defeated by White supremacy. We commit to supporting White people in freeing themselves from craving power over others and clinging to a sense of self and others that is based on ignorance of the truth of interdependence.

We commit to the following action plan towards the realization of these commitments and ask you to join us in doing so:

As Buddhist people of color we plan to:

Practice together and dialogue about using our practice to stay safe while staying fully engaged and acting powerfully and positively in the world.

Practice together and dialogue about using Metta towards ourselves to resist the internal pulls towards hopelessness and self-destructive or escapist behavior that has historically been the only coping mechanism left to people of color targeted by violence.

Practice together and work on allying each other as people of color by offering profound Metta to each other within and across our Latino, Indigenous, Asian, African and Arab ethnicities.

Teach and lead in the world via events we organize to teach our fellow beloved people of color how to use Buddhist ideals to augment their safety, emotional well-being, and resilient stance for justice.

Teach and lead in the world via events where we educate communities as a whole about how to use Buddhist ideals to wake up to our inherent freedom and our power to help others awaken to theirs.

Please join North American Buddhist Alliance for its series of online sessions starting Monday September 11th at 7 pm EST where we will focus on practicing loving-kindness towards ourselves and waking up to our mission as Bodhisattvas in times of racial violence.

The following session will be held on Monday October 9th at 7 pm EST and will focus on people of color envisioning a world embracing inclusive sexual orientation and gender identity.

Finally, NABA will host a November panel on racial justice with leading Buddhist teachers. Stay tuned for more details.

Prepared by Dr. Kamilah Majied on behalf of POC Buddhists for North American Buddhist Alliance