Many thanks to Justin Whitaker for his post on Buddhism and race in America. Also thanks to Maia Duerr for continuing the discussion and providing resources. I never thanked John Pappas either—from back in 2009—but he’s also gone out of his way to educate himself about situations where he’s been bitten, and he’s been happy to share what he’s learned, no less. I am deeply moved by the efforts these individuals make (among other allies out there!)—precisely because they don’t have to, and also because I believe that they have a greater influence among white Buddhists than I do.
Also on my mind are broader thoughts on issues of identity, race and culture. I was inspired by stories of white people without “white names”—particularly, a white American football player who identifies as Japanese American, and a white herbalist with a black name. These stories highlight the fluid ways in which ethnic identity can operate. To an extent, your identity is how you see yourself. But it’s what other people say you are. For most of us, the reality is somewhere in between.
I’m of the mind that the same issues apply to groups of people. When a sangha decides to “strip Buddhism of it’s cultural baggage”—is that an identity statement?