May 23, 2011

Asian American Holiday Musings

Of the five holiday interviews I’ve conducted this year (Magha Puja, Ohigan, Thingyan, Songkran and Vesak), each one has reached out to a different Asian American voice in a different part of the world.

The goal of the holiday interviews has been to expose my readership to the diversity of Asian American Buddhist voices and to let these voices speak for themselves. For those of us who have limited contact with Asian Americans in the Buddhist community, our understanding of Asian American Buddhists far too often comes from poorly-deduced conclusions penned by non-Asian authors. I’d like to think that these interviews provide plenty of evidence that we might actually have some unique perspectives to offer.

Take for example the recent Southeast Asian New Year celebrations (i.e. the Other Lunar New Year). If you were to refer solely to the descriptions on Barbara’s Buddhism blog (“think egg hunts at Easter”) or in a comment left on this blog (“it’s really not a Buddhist holiday”)—both accurate but superficial and incomplete perspectives from outsiders—you would have missed out on the viewpoint of the Thai American meditator who takes this holiday as an occasion to renew his Buddhist practice or the Burmese American student activist who sees the new year as an opportunity to embrace the precepts, generosity and respect.

But I have a humiliating omission to confess. For all my dedication to highlighting the voices of Asian Americans, I’ve actually failed to bring forward the voices of our community’s largest demographic.

Namely, women.

All of the people I interviewed in the past are men who I met and interacted with online. The vast majority of Buddhist bloggers are men—a proportion that is even more extreme when we look at Asian American Buddhist blogs. It’s not prohibitively difficult to reach out to our Asian American Buddhist sisters—it just takes a little more work. I have to step out from behind my fig leaf of pseudonymity and actually reach out beyond the Buddhist blogosphere.

My only excuse for not having a Gotan-e post was that I had made the commitment to interview Asian American Buddhist women, and then I was too hesitant to take that extra step. This excuse is not a good one, and I’m not going let this opportunity slip by.

My plan is to continue to reach out for this interview—simply because it’s worth taking that extra effort to reach out to the women in my community. It’s worth the token sacrifice of my pseudonymity to bring a fuller diversity of Asian American Buddhists to the readers of this blog. It would be shameful to do otherwise.

If you’ve gotten this far, I’d also encourage those of you with your own blogs to take a similar step. This month is Asian Pacific American Heritage month, a celebration the United States established to spend a little extra time noticing the contributions of its APA citizens, and so it would be great if the Buddhist blogging community took advantage of the eight remaining days in May to spend a little time—maybe just one post—recognizing the voices of Asian American Buddhists.

I encourage you all to celebrate this month by publishing an interview with or a guest blog by an Asian American Buddhist.

Of course, you could reach out at any time that works for you, but just as it’s never to soon for me to publish the voices of Asian American Buddhist women, it’s never too soon for, say, Danny Fisher or Jack Daw to publish that interview with or guest post by Asian American Buddhists. When was the last time you did so? In fact, if you’re someone who agrees with absolutely nothing I write here, then here’s a fantastic opportunity to invite an Asian American Buddhist to post about how they think my blog is full of crap!

Ultimately, if you really believe that we are also American Buddhists, then please welcome us into your blogs as you welcome other American Buddhists. Let’s celebrate this month together.

1 comment :

  1. Hi Arun,

    Just came across this post thanks to a link from Justin Whitaker... I'll do my best to take you up on your invitation. In fact... can I do an email interview with you?! Let me know... drop me a line at maia.duerr [at] gmail [dot] com

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