In lieu of the snarky post, here are just some thoughts on some previously posted comments. When I write about the marginalization of Asians in Western Buddhist institutions and dialogue, a common retort is that Buddhism has nothing to do with race—it is about the path to the end of suffering. We all suffer regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and many other factors. The promise of Buddhism is likewise applicable to all of us, regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and many other factors. In this sense, we are all the same in our potential to attain complete liberation. I couldn’t agree more.
This “all the same” line is, however, a non-response to the issue of the marginalization of Asians (among others) in Western Buddhist institutions. At both the institutional level and at the level of discourse, we aren’t treated the same. I’ve posted repeatedly on the paucity of Asian Americans as writers for Shambhala Sun, Tricycle and Buddhadharma. There is also the disgusting
white Western savior rhetoric, where the West will come to save Buddhism from those backward Asians. There is the equally disturbing “separate-but-equal” refrain that all the various Asian communities are fine, but that Western Buddhists should create and nurture their own separate group—eerily similar to the argument for Orania.
We need to eat away at the systems of oppression and privilege that underlie the white dominance over Western Buddhism’s non-white majority. I focus on Asians, and Asian Americans in particular, not just because I’m Asian American, but also because the asymmetry is fairly blatant. Many similar issues apply for other non-white Buddhists as well. The effort to make a more egalitarian community will involve more outreach to include its less privileged members. This struggle will also involve renouncing privileges we take for granted. Doing nothing, yet saying we are all the same, merely amounts to the perpetuation of this system behind what is either a lie or woeful ignorance.