The brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and so many other people of color by police officers in recent years are part of a long history of state-sponsored abuse and violence directed against people of color in the U.S. George Floyd’s death led to massive protests in the U.S. and throughout the world against systemic racism in the criminal justice system and society more broadly. The most recent incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a police officer shot James Blake, an unarmed man, seven times in the back while his children watched, has led to further outrage and protests.
The scale and level of support for the protests have been breathtaking. Public opinion, at least for now, has moved strongly in support of the protest movement, despite the efforts of President Trump and his supporters to demonize and marginalize the protesters as radical, violent Leftists. Reflecting the potency of the protests, many social institutions and organizations have responded by attempting to come to terms with the ways in which systemic racism and individual bigotry continue to harm people of color.
In this context, Buddhists of all lineages, including secular Buddhists, increasingly understand the need to confront racism and other forms of oppression. While some Buddhists have become active in social justice and racial justice movements, there is also a growing recognition of the ways in which Buddhist meditation centers and sanghas in the West which were founded and led by ‘convert’ Buddhists’ perpetuate and reinforce racism. This has led to a serious examination of how we, as Buddhists, need to transform our own behavior and the functioning of our centers and sanghas.
Below is a compilation of useful resources selected from Buddhist meditation centers and other sources to aid us in the process of confronting racism in the Buddhist community in the West and in society. Several centers and groups in the United States have been particularly active in this regard, including the East Bay Meditation Center, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Common Ground Meditation, the Insight Meditation Society, Spirit Rock, and the Insight Meditation Community of Washington.
Books by Buddhist Teachers of Color
In the last several years Buddhist teachers of color have insightfully explored key issues related to racism, as well as anti-racist struggles in Buddhist communities and sanghas in the West. In addition to discussing their personal experiences as teachers of color, they have provided us with new perspectives on the relationship between core Buddhist insights and the need to challenge all forms of racism within Buddhist communities.
- Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out by Ruth King (2018)
- The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness by Rhonda V. Magee (2019)
- The Way of Tenderness: Awakening through Race, Sexuality, and Gender by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel (2015)
- Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger by Lama Rod Owens (2020)
- You Belong: A Call for Connection by Sebene Selassie (2020)
- America’s Racial Karma: An Invitation to Heal by Larry Ward (2020)
- Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah Ph.D. (2016)
- Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams (2000)
- Awakening Together: The Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community by Larry Yang (2017)
Articles by Buddhist Teachers on racism and the anti-racist struggle
These articles offer us an analysis of how racism affects the Buddhist community and society as a whole. In addition, the authors discuss the ways in which white people can challenge ‘white privilege’ and become allies of people of color in the effort to transform our sanghas.
- Facing My White Privilege by Tara Brach
- Buddhists and Racial Justice: A History by Ann Gleig
- Healing the Broken Body of Sangha by Ruth King
- How Mindfulness Can Defeat Racial Bias by Rhonda Magee
- Understanding Race and Racism by Sebene Selassie
- The Work of Diversity: A Deeper Engagement an Interview with Sebene Selassie
- Healing Racism and Ways to be of Service to the Black Community In This Time of Need by Deborah Eden Tull
- Your Liberation Is on the Line by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams
Websites with resources on anti-racist struggles
The BIPOC Project aims to build authentic and lasting solidarity among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), in order to undo Native invisibility, anti-Blackness, dismantle white supremacy and advance racial justice.
White Awake: Waking ourselves for the benefit of all, White Awake combats white supremacy by focusing on educational resources and spiritual practices designed to engage people who’ve been socially categorized as “white” in the creation of a just and sustainable society.
Showing Up for Racial Justice, SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals working to undermine white supremacy and to work for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.
Education For Racial Equity is a cross-racial and inter-generational non-profit organization committed to illuminating and dismantling the system of white supremacy, globally. Guided by the principles of both Anti-Racism and Anti-Racist activism, we take a multi-faceted approach to systemic change. ERE creates opportunities to develop awareness of the nature and function of whiteness/white supremacy, its impact on all peoples, and how it intersects with other systems of oppression. Our intention is to support integrated and embodied change within ourselves and those who work with us.
Ruth King website of an insight meditation teacher, emotional wisdom author and life coach – helps thought leaders become more mindful of racism, its impact, and our potential.
Milagros Phillips speaker, author, coach, creator of Race Demystified; Ongoing Workshop: Healing from Racial Trauma
Books and resources on racism and anti-racist struggles
These books are must reading for those who want to understand the history and continuing impact of racism in our society.
Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Coates, Ta-Nehisi, Between the World and Me
Irving, Debby, Waking Up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
Kendi, Ibram X., How to Be an Antiracist
Stevenson, Bryan, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Trepagnier, Barbara, Silent Racism: How Well-Meaning White People Perpetuate the Racial Divide