Radical Dharma: A Review

RadicalDharma_Cover_sm350America’s racial sickness has become especially vivid in recent months. Whether it’s the execution of unarmed black people by police, retaliatory violence against police, the disruptive resistance of the Black Lives Matter movement, or the appearance of an openly racist demagogue as the presidential nominee of a major party, anyone who may have supposed that we live in a post-racial society must surely have been disabused of that notion by now.

The question is, what are we to do? It seems clear that body cameras and better community relations by police departments will be insufficient to address the lingering specter of white supremacy that continues to haunt our society. The fiction of racial difference is built into the foundation of our economy and our culture as the necessary justification for the brutal exploitation of some for the benefit of others. Over the course of centuries it has become so pervasive that its perpetrators are often blind to it and their complicity in it, and even those oppressed by it may participate in its reproduction. Race, with the values of domination and violence that inform it, is the air we breathe, so overwhelmingly omnipresent that it is difficult to see or think outside its boundaries.

Those of us in largely white dharma communities can be especially perplexed by race. Our intention is to see past the ego-driven fictions of all identities, to experience our connection with all beings and to cultivate compassion and love. So we may respond with confusion and resistance when we are told that our communities and behaviors also reproduce whiteness as dominant and normative. We may attempt to engage in diversity initiatives, with varying degrees of success. But we are often unwilling to do the difficult, uncomfortable work of confronting the racism in our own hearts and minds, and to listen deeply to the pain in the voices of the marginalized people in our society.

Into this bleak time, Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, by Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah, PhD, arrives like the blessing of a bodhisattva. Combining essays by the authors with transcriptions of discussions in dharma communities as part of their Radical Dharma tour of four American cities, the authors, three dharma teachers of color, argue that, while American Buddhism is part of the problem of race, dharma practice itself is also part of the answer:

Buddhist thought has positioned itself for millennia to analyze the complex system of the construct known to us as the self. It has as its goal the unearthing of the bonds that tether us as individuals to seemingly endless cycles on micro and macro levels of unnecessary suffering. It proposed practices that seek to expose and cut through the unwholesome roots of needless suffering. It heralds the ever-present possibility of personal liberation and the resulting resilience, depth of capacity, peace of mind, strength of heart, and wise action.

The problem with traditional resistance movements, the authors note, is that they inadvertently reproduce the values of the dominant culture they seek to disrupt:

Even as the effort is meant to liberate, its current methodology, though evolved substantively by way of historic learning and ancestral wisdom, was forged within the very same constructs it seems to undermine: orientations toward divide and conquer, competition over cooperation, power over rather than with us and them.

Their prescription is, to my mind, a textbook example of what engaged Buddhism would look like. We must begin by cultivating love and acceptance, most importantly for ourselves, for only with these qualities of mind and heart can we have the inner resources to look deeply into our own brokenness and the suffering of others. Then we have to allow ourselves to be in the uncomfortable spaces where racism can be confronted and explored, where we can deeply know the dukkha of racial oppression and allow ourselves to see the greed, hatred and delusion that produce it.

This book situates every person who claims the lineage of liberation–whether personal or social–within a tradition of radical social transformation, both as bodies moving against the stream and as bodies that bear the wisdom, witness, and wounds of intersecting and overlapping structures of violence, policing, and erasure. Every body bears these wounds, so when we bear witness to suffering, we bear the wisdom–prophetic wisdom–of liberation from that suffering. And we bear it together.

One of the many insights Radical Dharma offers is how some Buddhist doctrines can be perceived by people of color. Here, for example, is Lama Rod’s take on no-self as it is used to dismiss questions of identity:

There is a distrust of identity in dharma communities. Part of this distrust is an authentic desire to transcend ego-based identifications that keep us rooted in dualistic suffering. However, most often I experience this distrust as a strategy to control and gain power over who has a right to talk about dharma in spaces and how dharma is talked about. When bodies are controlled, then there is less chance that the dominant group will be made uncomfortable having to tolerate a dharma expression that reminds them of their implicit role in the suffering of underrepresented groups.

When I am able to walk in the door embracing all aspects of my intersectional identity while allowing myself the grace to teach through my identity, I am transmitting a dharma from my experience of being at home in my body, where I am least likely to reproduce psychic violence by offering dharma through a mind that denies and rejects vital parts of myself. When I am not aware of my difference, I am not aware of yours, and therefore I share a dharma that does not see you as you are, conferring a kind of judgment that says that part of you is not welcomed in this space and that thus becomes violent. This is the experience of folks from oppressed communities in sanghas now.

Frankly, this idea would never have occurred to me if I had not read Radical Dharma. It is an example of how even our highest ideals — whether American tenets of equality and color-blindness, or the Buddhist concept of anatta — can be used as barriers to shield us from the suffering of others and our complicity in it.

The value of this book cannot be overstated. It is a primer on how racism functions in our society; it is a collection of individual stories of how white supremacy has touched and damaged the lives of people of color; it speaks to the intersectionality of racial oppression with sexism, homophobia and transphobia; it is an examination of how these dynamics play themselves out in contemporary dharma lineages and communities; and it is a fierce call for real action, for a commitment to personal liberation as a necessary precondition for social liberation.

By the grace of many Eastern traditions, teachers, and ancestors, white Western dharma communities have at their disposal profoundly liberating teachings and practices that have the power to sever at their very root the destructive behaviors and thought processes that we inherit by way of our birth into human bodies. But we have largely refused to turn the great light of this collective wisdom of mind, body and spirit onto the systems that bestow unearned privilege, position, and profit. In so doing, we diminish the precious truths we have chosen to steward. We must take a stand.

The book serves all these varied functions with intellectual integrity and emotional honesty, and is an intense and engaging read. Best and most precious of all, however, Radical Dharma offers hope. Not false or easy hope, for the suffering we face is vast and the way forward uncertain. But it points to a path of real transformation, and reminds us that the dharma practices Buddhism has brought to us can help us find the courage and will to walk that path. It points to the possibility of a transcendent movement based on love:

Transcendent movements require people to organize around issues beyond what people perceive they are affected by. How do they do that? People have to experience their interdependence. To recognize that any limit in your ability to love limits my ability to love. One has to penetrate the truth of interdependence such that I am moved to a place in which I am not doing something for you, but it is actually about me, which is tied to you because there is, in an absolute sense, no separation.

This is the basis of Buddhist ethics, practically applied to one of the most crucial issues of our times. May the work begin.

No Comments

  1. Gregory Clement on August 5, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks for a thought-provoking piece Mark. I hesitate to comment since the book and your comments are perhaps aimed at an American audience, but in the absence of other responses perhaps I can get the ball rolling.

    Lama Rod’s language is pretty opaque but as far as I can make out we are being encouraged to see identity politics as a good thing. He says,

    “There is a distrust of identity in dharma communities. Part of this distrust is an authentic desire to transcend ego-based identifications that keep us rooted in dualistic suffering. However, most often I experience this distrust as a strategy to control and gain power over who has a right to talk about dharma in spaces and how dharma is talked about. When bodies are controlled, then there is less chance that the dominant group will be made uncomfortable having to tolerate a dharma expression that reminds them of their implicit role in the suffering of underrepresented groups.

    When I am able to walk in the door embracing all aspects of my intersectional identity while allowing myself the grace to teach through my identity, I am transmitting a dharma from my experience of being at home in my body, where I am least likely to reproduce psychic violence by offering dharma through a mind that denies and rejects vital parts of myself. When I am not aware of my difference, I am not aware of yours, and therefore I share a dharma that does not see you as you are, conferring a kind of judgment that says that part of you is not welcomed in this space and that thus becomes violent. This is the experience of folks from oppressed communities in sanghas now.”

    Not convinced. The Lama feels that his dharma friends are trying to keep him quiet and stop him from making them uncomfortable by reminding them of their ‘implicit role’ in causing the suffering of others. What is an implicit role? Does he perhaps mean, ‘You are to blame because other people who share your skin colour do bad things’? Sounds like a textbook example of racism to me.

    The second paragraph is inflated verbiage and muddled thinking. He ’embraces’ his identity. Perhaps he means self-acceptance. Sounds good. He goes on to say that failing to be aware of his difference from his listener would lead to a ‘violent’ judgement that the listener is partly not welcome. Incomprehensible.

    My understanding of dharma practice is that we attempt to see things as they really are and not in terms of conventional labels. This is the exact opposite of identity-based thinking. I have a new Iraqi neighbour. I could see him as an immigrant, a Muslim, a man with darker skin than me. Or I could see him as a kind and friendly man who enjoys gardening and loves to exchange seeds, plants and ideas in his broken English. I hope he can see me in the same way (well, perhaps not the broken English bit). How sad if we couldn’t get beyond the identity bit.

    • Michael on August 8, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Yes, but if your Iraqi neighbor’s personal history were to include suffering at the hands of US/UK occupation forces or discrimination and abuse due to his immigrant status, you can’t just ignore that by saying “well, I don’t see you as an immigrant so you can’t be upset about that history” and hand-wave away any criticisms he might have of Western actions in his home country. That’s all just an example, but it’s kind of a perfect example of what Lama Rod is talking about in that quote.

      Race is a social construct, but we still live in that social construct so we can’t just choose to ignore it because it doesn’t make us comfortable to admit that it’s there. We have to work our way OUT of that construct before we can say it’s not there anymore.

      Regarding the implication of blame for being the same skin color as others who do bad things, that summation completely misses the mark on what Lama Rod is talking about. As a white American, I benefit from our country’s history and foundation of white supremacy. I never owned a slave and I never participated in a lynch mob but that doesn’t mean my status as a white male hasn’t benefited from that past. It’s been statistically proven that I’d have a better chance at getting a job as a felon than a black guy with no criminal record. And though whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate, blacks are far more likely to be imprisoned for drug use. That’s not some abstract difference. That’s day-in-day-out reality on the ground.

      While I’m not a fan of identity politics run amok like it has, we can’t expect people to hide the parts of themselves we find discomforting or off-putting. Otherwise, we’re telling people to lie to us. That doesn’t mean we have to accept every criticism leveled against us or the concepts and institutions we hold dear, but we have to listen to them and acknowledge them if we want to work towards dismantling the construct so we can move past it.

    • Mark Knickelbine on August 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Gregory, thanks for participating in the conversation. Michael does a good job of responding. Part of the reason Lama Rod’s comments may be opaque is that they are taken out of the scaffolding of their context in the book. The “implicit” role is one that’s not explicit. I may not be refusing blacks admission or not hiring them, but I benefit from a society where other people work very hard for very little so my family and I don’t have to. I got to go to college, have a career, live in a community where everyone looks like me, have cops trust me when they pull me over, and so on. That is only possible because other people are being exploited, and race is one of the prime tools we use to justify the exploitation of others.

      As far as the difference, race is not just an abstract identity, especially not to people who are abused and exploited because of it. Being racialized can threaten their safety and ability to thrive. If I presume to live in a color-blind society, or practice in a sangha where we have transcended all identities, including race, then I’m telling that racialized individual that something central to their survival doesn’t matter and doesn’t belong. This is not simply about race. If I don’t see, accept, and embrace every part of what I’m carrying (especially when its source is greed, hatred and delusion) then I can’t work on letting it all go and being liberated from it, and I can’t really present a true heart of compassion to others. May we all one day be fully liberated from the hateful fiction of race. But we’ve got a lot of work to do before we get there.

  2. Michael on August 8, 2016 at 8:57 am

    This book looks interesting and I’ll definitely have to check it out. Thanks for bringing it to our attention!

  3. Gregory Clement on August 9, 2016 at 4:30 am

    I can tell we are not going to agree on this but let’s chew over some of the ideas.

    Michael says, “you can’t just ignore that by saying “well, I don’t see you as an immigrant so you can’t be upset about that history” and hand-wave away any criticisms he might have of Western actions in his home country.”

    My neighbour hasn’t referred to the war but if he did I would not tell him not to be upset. I would not wave away criticisms of Western actions. I would however regret it if he saw me as merely a representative of my nation, and would think it wrong to see him similarly.

    Why? Well because it would be unjust. He would not know for example whether I supported the war or was strongly opposed to it. Did I vote for the party in power? Did I campaign in the streets against the war? Was I perhaps working in Australia at the time? Equally I would know nothing about him. Was he a member of the ruling elite in Iraq who were killing and brutalizing their own population? Was he an opponent of the regime who was imprisoned for his political agitation? Was he already living in this country and part of our political process? Perhaps we were both private individuals leading quiet lives and without the power to direct national events.

    You point out some of the ways that blacks are disadvantaged compared with whites, for example in job opportunities and criminal sanctions. I don’t dispute this at all, but I am not an employer or a judge. Let’s work to create a society where all are treated fairly. We won’t achieve that by blaming the innocent. Women often seem to have a poor deal in Muslim societies. I wouldn’t blame my Iraqi friend for that. I might perhaps (if I knew him a lot better!) criticize him, if he individually treated women badly.

    Mark, you say that you benefit from an unjust society. That is true. Are you trying to maintain that injustice or to break it down? If the first, you are to blame: if the second, you are not.

    I would not want to tell people that something central to their survival doesn’t matter. I might try to encourage people not to cling to rigid categories that divide us but to learn to see our common humanity. At the supermarket today I saw three members of staff solving some problem in a group together. Two young, one old. One male, two female. One black, one brown and one white. Smiles and good humour all round. ‘Identities’ forgotten.

    • Michael on August 9, 2016 at 9:43 am

      I think you’re mistaking “acknowledging” someone’s perspective for “accepting” it. I also think you’re seeing things as more abstract than they are.

      In the scenario of your fictionalized neighbor (I call him that because I’m assigning him a fictional history for the purposes of this discussion), his distrust would likely come from actual events that he had seen and/or actual acts carried out against him by people wearing the flag of your citizenship. Or he could have been attacked after getting to your nation by people who look like you and has, as a result, become suspicious of the intentions of those who look a certain way. Is distrusting people because of the actions of a few a just approach? No, but it is a result of real suffering. Aversion to someone or something that has strong parallels (real or perceived) to something that threatens one’s very life is a natural human response.

      One doesn’t have to endorse this approach in order to acknowledge the reasons for it. Criticizing someone for having such an approach as a result of a history of pain does nothing to help the person heal. Also, by listening and acknowledging the person’s pain and their responses to it, you might just learn something about yourself and some aspect of your own life you may have taken for granted. Westerners, in our relatively safe corners of the world tend to take a lot of information about what’s going on in the “outside” world at face value. Sometimes a challenge to those perspectives, though uncomfortable, can help us better understand the world.

      I’ve heard a lot of anti-white-straight-American-male rhetoric from a lot of different places. It was tough to hear at first, but once I realized it was not necessarily a statement of fact against me as an individual but an expression of anger, pain, frustration or hopelessness from those speaking it, it started to make sense and stopped feeling like insults. I’ve actually been able to have conversations with a few people about these issues. Sometimes I’ve changed someone’s perspective on things and sometimes my perspectives were changed. Sometimes the conversation ended with no forward movement. But I feel like I am better for those experiences.

      • Gregory Clement on August 9, 2016 at 1:19 pm

        Well said Michael. I think we are almost agreeing. When someone has suffered they may well feel resentment against others who resembled their tormenters. It is, as you say, unjust but understandable.

        Criticizing is rarely a good way of helping to heal wounds. Compassion and understanding is the thing. But this does not mean passively going along with the other’s inappropriate thoughts.

        A friend has been through a painful marriage break-up. It has left him with a bitter and negative view of all women. You don’t tell him he is an idiot but you do try to coax him into a more realistic and balanced view. You certainly wouldn’t nod encouragingly when he talks about the ‘implicit’ role of all women in his suffering.

        I know well the kind of rhetoric you refer to in your final paragraph. I find it hard not to challenge it because it is an exact replica of what it attacks. The rhetoric criticizes stereotypical thinking (‘All blacks are like this. All gays are like that’) but it uses exactly the same type of thinking (You are white/straight/male so you are to blame). You can’t fight racism by being racist, or challenge sexism by being sexist.

        Thanks for your ideas.

        • Jennifer Hawkins on August 9, 2016 at 7:47 pm

          Gregory:

          As you remember a while back, I pointed to how many of your comments suggest subconscious bias. I believe that you aren’t consciously bias, but this whole thread contains comments that point to that subconscious bias. I have a lot going on right now, so while I have been watching this thread since the beginning, I literally did not have the strength to sit and try to write a piece that I thought would have any hope of getting you to *consider* that you might not have a proper understanding of race / bias. I literally asked Mark to handle it, but Michael got here first, and both have done an amazing job. (Thank you both – it is so exhausting to have to deal with this all the time)

          Again, I’m more than willing to believe that you harbor no conscious ill thought and that you are generally a good person. I really do. However, “being in the UK,” doesn’t make your experience with race all that different from that of many American experiences. “We’ll just have to disagree,” doesn’t somehow bolster the opinions that you are clinging to. (And I do mean clinging to).

          First: The “I only look at people and not their identities” is referred to as “color blindness” within dialogues on race. “Color blindness” literally doesn’t exist. You may not be conscious of your perceptions of people’s race, gender (etc), but you have them. Study after study shows just how deeply the instinct to distinguish and to be more positive to “similar” has been selected in our brains. (E.g. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/are-we-born-racist/201110/the-genius-infants-are-we-really-born-racist ) There are a lot of well-meaning people who believe in “color blindness” and believe that they have achieved it. But in all honesty, no one short of a Buddha or Boddhisattva could. And people that aren’t willing to *consider* that “color blindness” doesn’t exist and aren’t willing to *actually try* to be more mindful to discover their subconscious / automatic associations actually help racism: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/02/colorblindness-adds-to-racism/

          • Jennifer Hawkins on August 9, 2016 at 8:09 pm

            Second: It’s not racist or bigotted to try to draw attention to the fact that the vast majority of people have subconscious bias. Anyone who has subconscious bias contributes indirectly to discrimination by all of the tiny little acts, words, and thoughts that they have every day, but don’t realize. By not putting in the effort to notice these biases, they allow them to continue. We aren’t going to get to the “promised land” where there are no biases or identities until we can start considering our own biases, until we find them, and until we deal with them. Clinging to the idea that there’s “color blindness” and that “racism is over” because you don’t personally experience it or notice it is the major cultural phenomena that are hindering our collective progress to that “promised land.”

            To bring this into a more specifically Buddhist context: Gotama Buddha didn’t encourage people to ignore their clinging, their aversions, their delusions. He encouraged people to fully realize them as the first step in letting them go / getting past them. People who are advocating “be color blind” and “ignore identity” – even though they don’t realize it – are basically saying to not be honest and mindful. We (all of humanity) are not going to get to a place where we don’t have these subconscious reactions to identity until we can start being honest: Yes, you notice them. Yes, they cause a response (which you can discover through mindfulness instead of saying “NO WAY COULD THAT BE TRUE”). And yes, they can be let go of now that we see them there.

            No one here is blaming you for the color of your skin (etc) – at least I’m not. This isn’t racism. This is trying to get someone to understand that by ignoring their own subconscious bias (which people of all backgrounds have) and not doing a thing to work on it, they are being deluded and are contributing to all of the thousands of microaggressions that lead to racism. Pretending that people of a certain background have had advantages because of that background helps racism. (E.g. In the US, the idea that “Black people must be poor because they don’t work hard” instead of understanding that wealth often builds on the existing wealth of a family – the family’s ability to invest in education, start ups, etc – and that since Euro American families have historically had this and African American families haven’t, it has lead to an ongoing disparity.)

            No one is blaming you for the horrors of Imperialism (etc). Taking a frank discussion of history and cultural trends “personally” is known in conversations on race as “White Fragility.” And you know what – I’m 75% White, so is my husband, so are all of our friends (most are “White”) – and dealing with the “fragile feelings” of European/ Americans is exhausting. I don’t blame myself or my husband or our friends for slavery. But if any of us aren’t willing to really sit down and consider how that shaped our individual lives and our biases, then I blame any and all of us for being so fragile that we’re denying reality rather than being honest enough to work on it.

            If I have any criticism of you / your comments in this and other threads it’s that you cling to your ideas and will not listen to or take seriously what those most affected by racism (for example) are trying to say about racism. You aren’t open to getting past knee-jerk defensiveness (fragility) to accept that having subconscious bias doesn’t make you a “bad racist person.” Someone pointing it doesn’t make them “a bad racist person either.” Being so unwilling to consider the idea, to find your biases, and then to actually honestly deal with them makes you one of the people who aren’t doing anything to stop racism. It starts with the individual. I have an issue with people who would rather cover their eyes and ears and hum than be willing to think about things that are hard to think about and to see things about themselves that they aren’t comfortable seeing. If we want to end bias, we’re going to have to learn that it won’t always be comfortable. It takes work. In this way, it is exactly like meditation.



          • Gregory Clement on August 10, 2016 at 7:14 am

            Thanks Jennifer for taking the time and trouble to give such a detailed response. I think I agree with about three quarters of what you say. Here are some comments…

            Subconscious bias. I am sure that you are right that everyone has subconscious biases both on racial matters and many others. You and I are no different. As you imply one of the functions of meditation is to help us become more aware of our biases and hopefully overcome them. I don’t think I have ever denied having biases. You are right that racism is a common experience of life in the UK although the details and forms of it will be different from those in the US.

            You are correct in saying that there is nothing racist about drawing attention to subconscious bias.

            I’m not sure what you mean by ‘colour blindness’. It is not an idea I’m familiar with. I certainly don’t think that ‘racism is over’ and I do personally notice examples of it, though I don’t think I am often the victim of it.

            I agree with you that the Buddhist path is not to ignore our mental failings but to try to see them clearly and to let them go.

            I think we start to part company with the phrase ‘advocating …ignore identity’.I presume you are talking about ones own identity. What is my ‘identity’? Out of the hundreds of things you could say about me (musician, teacher, Buddhist, Northerner, vegetarian etc) is my skin pigment the most important? If you want to know my character, outlook, my strengths and weaknesses is it my skin colour that you need to know?

            The trouble with the subconscious bias approach is that we don’t know who’s got it. We end up assuming it is present in a certain category of people. We invite these people to look into their hearts to find this bias. If they can’t, they must look harder since they are probably in denial.

            Does this approach do any harm? I think so in two ways. One is that it risks irritating people of good will. (You refer to it a bit mockingly as ‘White Fragility’.) This might make them less sympathetic to your cause which would be a great shame. More subtly it seems to legitimize a way of thinking which puts people into categories instead of treating them as individuals, which is what got us into this mess in the first place.

            Is there another approach? Yes. Challenge bad behaviour when people behave badly, rather than chasing ghosts through the labyrinth of their subconscious.

            It is a bit hurtful for you to say in your last paragraph that I am one of those people who isn’t doing anything to stop racism. I have over many years worked with thousands of children of many races and have always tried to model respectful and compassionate behaviour. We would have to ask them whether they thought that was a helpful contribution.

            Many thanks for all your ideas.



  4. Jennifer Hawkins on August 10, 2016 at 9:27 am

    @Gregory:

    “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘colour blindness’. It is not an idea I’m familiar with.” It’s pretty well defined above. And if the above isn’t clear enough for you, why not try googling the term. Typically, if you aren’t familiar with something and don’t understand it, it’s best to do some research to try to figure it out.

    “The trouble with the subconscious bias approach is that we don’t know who’s got it.” Yes we do. It’s everyone. Every single person does. It’s been shown by research repeatedly. If you don’t believe that, then again, follow any of the links I’ve given you, read any of the articles and books on the subject here on SBA, google it.

    “You refer to it a bit mockingly as ‘White Fragility’.” As I said above, it’s a real term and a real phenomenon. If you don’t understand it or aren’t familiar with it, then google it.

    “Challenge bad behaviour when people behave badly.” I absolutely agree. That’s why I’m challenging the idea that you (or anyone) can be “color blind.” That’s the idea that you are advocating and if you google it (if you actually aren’t familiar with the term), then you’ll find plenty of evidence. I’m challenging the idea that it’s “racist” (or bigotted) to call attention to these matters and the actual harm it does. Ending bigotry isn’t “my” cause – it’s everyone’s cause. Allowing “good hearted” people to continue to think and act in harmful ways doesn’t help the cause or end the bigotry being battled. Maybe you’re good hearted. But believing in “color blindness,” claiming that pointing out real issues is “racist,” (being “fragile” – google it), not being willing to reconsider your positions when at least 3 people are calling you out on it, not being willing to do a minimum of research on topics that you claim not to understand (no matter how clearly they’ve been explained to you), saying “well, I haven’t heard that term, so I’m just going to say it’s wrong,” saying “I don’t understand the American experience with race, so whatever” instead of TRYING TO LEARN ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE – they all contribute to harmful behaviors that continue racism. Not calling out the “good hearted” people who are still accidentally or subconsciously doing harm to knock it off (because they have good hearts) would be wrong. When multiple people again and again tell you about their experience and you shrug it off – that’s behaving badly. When you “contribute” to conversations on race and multiple other people point you to issues and point you to resources to learn about those issues and you just don’t bother to try to understand and come up with “I’m in the UK” or “I somehow didn’t understand that basic explanation, but don’t want to bother to look for a better one via google or something,” it’s bad behavior. If you want to help, then listen to the people who are trying to tell you about their experiences. If there’s something you don’t understand, then don’t just wave your hands – google it. Understanding is the beginning. If you can’t understand and aren’t willing to try – it adds to the problem. Your last bit is also a familiar argument generally referred to as “I have Black friends!” It’s another bad argument.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t feel like letting you off the hook. Again and again people have tried to explain to you. You claim not to be familiar or to understand. If that’s true – then try listening and researching. If you go, “Well I don’t get it, so I”m going to disagree” and end there, then that’s bad behavior and isn’t helping. If you have a good heart, then stop being defensive (“fragility” / “harm your cause”) and start listening and learning. Claiming to be in the UK is an excuse. Claiming not to get terms and explanations and then not researching them, but continuing to comment on the topic when you don’t seem to understand basic ideas is bad behavior and not helping. I don’t go into a conversation on nuclear physics and say, “Well, I don’t get the term ‘alpha particle,’ so I am offended and disagree and won’t actually listen or look into it.” That’s bad behavior. It doesn’t help OUR cause. And I don’t feel like letting you use flimsy excuses to run off and cling to your ideas without examining them. If you want to post “helpful” comments, then put in some effort or get called out.

    • Gregory Clement on August 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      I’m sorry to have upset you Jennifer. I think it will be better if I don’t respond to your posts in the future.

  5. steve mareno on August 15, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    What is happening today is what has been happening. Cause and effect, and please, don’t expect anything to change (except for the worst) because a few people sit in a room on a cushion sending out “peace”. This is not being fatalistic, it is being realistic.

    This country (the US) has been a racist, violent country from it’s very inception, and has been ruled by tyrants who used the most extreme violent means possible to get what they desired. Mob mentality has led us to where we are today, combined w/ fascism cleverly disguised as democracy. Whatever peaceful understanding the original inhabitants of this part of the world had w/ the earth and it’s living beings disappeared the moment the invaders showed up w/ weapons and armies. The near extinction of those people, the later enslavement of the blacks, the forced labor camps of the Asians, the incineration of hundreds of thousands of Japanese by nuclear weapons ….the list of repression and atrocities is too painful and too long to list here. It’s not just us of course, it’s the result of power. Like Voltaire, all we can do in the end is tend our own garden while the earth burns. It’s out of four hands at this point.

    • Mark Knickelbine on August 19, 2016 at 7:35 am

      Steve, I think you paint too one-dimensional a picture of our history. There was slavery, and there is coerced labor and economic exclusion, and plenty of corrupt influence on our government. But there was also a war to end slavery, a civil rights movement, and many, many instances in which people stood up and made things change. Saying “it’s all fucked up and there’s nothing you can do about it” is a way to excuse one’s own culpability and inaction. It is what those who would have their money be the only power in our world want you to think.

      If we cling to results and illusions of our own power and control, we will become overwhelmed and exhausted. As Radical Dharma points out, what is necessary first is to learn to embrace our own experience with love. When we can do that, we can feel genuine compassion for others. Our action then is not motivated by wanting to change the world or banish evil; it is to respond skillfully to our own suffering and that of others. That impulse arises naturally when we let it.

  6. Linda on August 19, 2016 at 7:07 am

    One of the things I really liked about “Radical Dharma” was the idea of approaching discussions of racism, white privilege, etc. from the perspective of love for each other, and compassion. While that sounds good (sweet, Age of Aquarius-like) the authors didn’t just leave the subject in the land of woo, but gave the concept concreteness by suggesting that what we need to develop is communities where we are safe speaking our minds, even if we say something others find offense, or wrong, or we end up feeling a little stupid afterward. One of the points they made about this is that this is a new conversation we’re trying to have, and a difficult one, and we don’t always know the right things to say, so we’re going to make mistakes. If we can resist the temptation to back away when things get awkward, and instead stay in the place where we are trying our best to talk to each other, forgive each other for our reactions, try to open up and listen and take it in when others point out the error of our ways (rather than just focusing on how others are wrong), and maybe even accept that even though one person’s pain, measured on some chosen scale, is larger — for example, has more impact on their lives — than anothers, that doesn’t mean the smaller pain is insignificant and doesn’t need to be dealt with. If nothing else, the smaller pain is going to be a factor in how the conversation goes, and if it can’t be dealt with kindly and honestly, the conversation ends.

    This is hard work, and painful, but it’s what Buddhist practice is about: facing hard realities to get to better ways to live our lives, especially in community with others.

    I was surprised to find the concept of racism being well-addressed from the perspective of the effect it has on whites. From considering the very deeply hidden (from our awareness) impact on us of closing ourselves off from our humanity enough to not be constantly bombarded by awareness of the injustices we are part of, to the — possibly more visible to us — discomfort of feeling that absolutely anything we say or do is going to be examined for possible racist underpinnings, and we will be judged, it’s not a fun, free ride being white in a racist society either. Yes, all that is not as big a deal as the potential of being mistreated or even shot by the police as race tensions in an interaction escalate, but that doesn’t mean the difficulties for a white person should be ignored.

    What I didn’t find enough of in the book, and what I feel is really important to consider, is more effort being put into understanding what the other guys are saying, rather than reacting to what we believe — or have been told — they are saying. We are so caught up in the language being generated that I think we tend to forget the concept of “emptiness” — that words don’t have inherent meaning, and that they mean different things to different people. I argue (elsewhere, frequently) that telling people they are, or their behavior is, racist may be technically correct, but ignores what the word “racist” means to many: that one supports racial division and feels that certain races are inherently superior to others and should therefore be dominant. That is a racism that people feel very strongly is wrong, and to then be told they are racist begins by putting someone you want to listen on very reasonably defensive grounds. (I suggest “racialized thinking” or “racialized conditioning” as both more accurate and less aggressive.)

    It’s the same problem with “white fragility” — a term Jennifer has just introduced me to here, and that I can relate to Gregory’s reaction too — a term that isn’t a loving or compassionate expression of what Radical Dharma points out is perfectly valid to feel. “Fragility – 1. easily broken, shattered, or damaged; delicate; brittle; frail… 3. lacking in substance or force; flimsy” is derogatory, shaming, implying weakness, and that one shouldn’t feel that way. But if I’ve learned anything at all from my Buddhist practice, it’s that there is no “should” and “shouldn’t” when it comes to feelings, there is just dealing compassionately and wisely with whatever comes up, both in myself and in others. That it’s an accepted and well-known term doesn’t mean it’s a great one to use. It is mocking, and it’s going to tend to get a cold reception, defensiveness, and shut down conversation. Can we find a better term?

    The problem with “color blindness” is perhaps a little bit more complex. I fully understand those who reject that complete “color blindness” is possible — I agree that it would be factually wrong to think I can look at someone and not note color or all kinds of other attributes, so it’s wrong in that way. And I agree that it would be wrong — actually inherent to white privilege — to believe that the right thing to do is to ignore color in a way that pretends there is no difference in the experience of a white person from one who is black, or any other color or difference, for that matter. There are thousands of differences every day from birth to death.

    But I don’t believe that most people who say things like, “I don’t see color” or “I don’t judge you by your color,” actually mean those things. I think they are agreeing with what Prince Ea is saying in his poem “I am not a label”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGrrL4eoui0 that they are not judging solely on skin color, but that they are doing their best to see individuals as whole people, as best any of us can at whatever level of acquaintance we have, taking into account what little we might know of the likely differences in experiences but mostly considering behavior in the same way we would anyone. I don’t assume someone dressed in nerdy clothes carrying a physics book is going to have just the same behavior as a used car salesman, and neither do I assume that a black kid I encounter at the mall is going to treat me the same as some skinny white dude walking through the neighborhood with his pants hanging below his butt cheeks. Everyone I meet who says “I don’t judge you by your color” is simply meaning that they don’t see a darker skin color as meaning inherent inferiority because of race — and that’s all.

    There may well be people who believe they are “color blind” in the sense that is getting dissed lately, and I just don’t hang out with them (that seems likely). But my point is, that to give a blanket dismissal to every comment along the lines of “I don’t see color” without stopping to understand what people mean, is a failure to react with love and compassion — which I believe has to begin with listening, really listening, to what the other person is trying to express, without simply resorting to reacting to pop phrases. Maybe we need to find another phrase to replace “I don’t see color”, something that more accurately expresses the complex thought that — it’s my experience — is usually behind it, the one that in that video, Prince Ea took a whole four minutes to express so beautifully.

    My thought is maybe we need to ask more questions before dismissing what people say based on what the pop moment tells us they must mean. Remember that not everyone is the same, and equally, not everyone means the same thing when they use a popular phrase.

    • Mark Knickelbine on August 19, 2016 at 7:54 am

      Linda, thanks for joining the conversation. I think the answer involves each of us examining our intention as carefully as we can. It was interesting to me that Lama Rod quotes his own Tibetan teacher as saying he “didn’t see color,” and he does so approvingly, because he interpreted that as meaning, “don’t think I’m going to cut you any slack because you’re a black person.” In this as in every other area of my experience, I have to ask myself, “What’s my intention in saying this? Am I being motivated by compassion? Or something else.” Only I can tell if my heart is full of love or fear. Having this conversation with each other is vital, but we can only do it if we can hold ourselves and each other with compassion. That’s where the work needs to be done, and the perspective from which we should address such issues.

      • Linda on September 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm

        I do so agree with you. And I found Lama Rod’s Tibetan teacher’s meaning behind “not seeing color” a fascinatingly different one from the two more usual meanings it gets given.

        Great book, great post on it, Mark, much appreciated.

    • Jennifer Hawkins on September 14, 2016 at 7:39 am

      @Linda:
      http://www.buddhistpeacefellowship.org/5-big-problems-with-compassion-baiting/

      “Do wholesome speech and deep listening support peace and well being?

      I believe it. You probably do, too. Like me, you’ve probably experienced tastes of this practical wisdom — flashes of the Buddhist superpowers helping you navigate fraught communication. It’s a deep and joyful thing.

      At the same time, there’s a shadow side. I’ve seen no small amount of compassion-baiting that uses the kindness or non-harshness element of Right Speech to shut down valid criticisms and dismiss demands for justice. And that can be incredibly frustrating.”

      Avoiding the use of accurate terms is not more important than justice.

      And based on his long history of posting bias/racist comments and then not making any effort to change, it is extremely clear what he meant. It’s clear even within the context of this series of comments alone. This was not an instance of “hysteria;” it was a more than valid response to continued behavior and the nature of these comments.

      I understand what you are trying to do and the “place where you are coming from.” However, I’d like you to consider why a person who continually posts bias/racist comments (after many compassionate efforts to guide him) is the victim of me telling him the truth? Why is avoiding a real term more important than addressing the problematic attitudes and behaviors? What leads you to think that I have misinterpreted what has been said here? Have you really looked at it and the long history of his posts? If a person chooses to dramatically post about how they are leaving because I am not “courteous” (and what does that mean? Why am I required to smile and curtsy like a slave or retail worker in the face of basically racist comments?) instead of being willing to improve themselves and there behavior… how are they to be considered “victims” and me at all at fault? I did not force them to leave in any way and am fine with all of his comments on topics not related to race. Why does finally putting my foot down after months of talking sweetly and providing resources (only to have them ignored, excuses made, and racist comment continued) and saying, “Look. This is what you are doing. It’s not acceptable. I’m not taking your excuses. You need to put in an effort. I’m not going to be quiet while you post these things; I”m going to point them out” considered to be an inappropriate emotional outburst? Why has the response been your post, another similar post, and someone actually making this part of their article?

      It is distressing to me that so may people in SBA cannot see that these attitudes are not acceptable, that ignoring all compassionate moderation is not acceptable, and that there is something deeply wrong with responding to what is basically a hissy fit (it really is) rather than being willing to improve by saying that the minority is not being compassionate enough and is being “hysterical,” and shouldn’t tell the truth (basically) and has a duty to just smile and keep quiet (basically)…. I’m very disappointed that so many people think that the real problem to focus on here is a completely reasonable response to continual (basically racist) posts and not the posts or posters themselves. I really hope that anyone here who’s thinking these things will stop and really consider what they are doing and why they are doing it. It’s not ok. And I shouldn’t have to “scream” to get people to hear that and to realize that. I should be able to say it compassionately and just once… and have people actually listen, respect and put in effort.

      • Mark Knickelbine on September 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm

        Jenn, I understand your frustration. As Radical Dharma points out, having an honest conversation about race in America will entail being able to withstand discomfort and being willing to risk making mistakes. That’s hard for people, especially people who have been avoiding this issue out of fear their entire lives. Unfortunately, we have to expect that some people are going to retreat from time to time. That’s part of the discomfort and a challenge for us to remain open and engaged. The heavy work of becoming aware of our enmeshment in racism is something white people have to do for ourselves, because it’s not fair to expect people of color to do our introspection for us — we’re the only ones who can, and first we have to be convinced to go there. May we all know patience.

      • Linda on September 19, 2016 at 5:38 am

        Thanks, Jennifer, for taking the time and staying present, despite the fact that this is a conversation I believe both of us would rather not need to be having.

        I’m going to try to deal with your post a point-at-a-time.

        First: the link on “compassion bating” says it sounds like “Try having more compassion. If you did, you’d see things my way” and “You’re more upset / loud / angry about social harm than I, arbiter, deem appropriate. You must therefore be lacking in wisdom or compassion.”

        Re: “see it my way” — isn’t that what all open discussions have as their aim, the hope that we can each see the other’s point of view? So half the intention is to hopefully get the other person to “see things my way?” When I discuss, I don’t even hope for the other person to be convinced and agree, I am overjoyed with simple understanding, and appreciation of a different point of view — mine. If I’m not allowed to hope that, in discussion, you’ll come to see things from my point of view, then it’s too one-sided to be called a discussion. I want all participants to be aiming for both hearing and being heard. I hope we’re all having a discussion here.

        Re: “you’re more upset / loud / angry …” we may have a misunderstanding here. I’m certain that I wasn’t calling you out for being any of those. I said the things I wanted to say as a result of having read “Radical Dharma” and the many days of intensive thought and discussion I’ve had with others locally since reading it. I was saying what I wanted to say long before deciding to say it in the comments under Mark’s review. I’d considered several other places to say it, but wanted to put it where I am known, and have friends.

        I wasn’t actually reacting to your post — though I did specifically discuss a term you’d used because it was useful to what I was trying to convey. Nor was I reacting to David’s leave-taking (which I wasn’t aware of until after I’d written the post). I am not in any way trying to get anyone to cease conveying their upsetness or anger. In fact what I was trying to say (with “…what we need to develop is communities where we are safe speaking our minds, even if we say something others find offense, or wrong, or we end up feeling a little stupid afterward.”), is that we *should* be allowed to speak up and not be silenced. Maybe I didn’t say it enough — I’m sorry if that’s not what you heard me saying, but somehow heard me stifling you.

        So I don’t see what I’m saying as compassion-baiting.

        Second: “Avoiding the use of accurate terms is not more important than justice.” True. And neither does one preclude the other. In fact, the two are partners. I simply don’t call language that intentionally pushes buttons when other words are available “accurate terms”.

        Next: “I understand what you are trying to do and the ‘place where you are coming from.’” Given that what followed was your reasoning for answering David the way you did, it seems you may not have fully understood where I was coming from, though I can certainly see why you’d have thought my comment was in reaction to your response to him. I’m sure I never said that he was a victim of your truth-telling, for example; I did address a white point of view *that was addressed frequently in the book under review* about the discomforts of everything we say being examined for racist underpinnings and maybe you saw that as me addressing your response, and so you decided to explain. I don’t think you needed to explain; David and I have butted heads on other subjects several times on this forum, so I quite understand.

        So when we get to “It is distressing to me that so may people in SBA cannot see that these attitudes are not acceptable…” I would just point out — since I seem to be one who is distressing you with that “attitude” — that I don’t have “that attitude”.

        Given that “the place I’m coming from” isn’t the place you assumed, maybe, just maybe, sometimes we may be getting pissed at the other guy without yet having actually understood where the other guy is actually coming from. This was my largest point in what I said. Starting with assuming we know what the other guys mean when they say “I don’t see color when I see you” and telling them in no uncertain terms that’s a bad attitude to have — without stopping to ask what they mean. And moving on to discussions like ours, here, where my reaction to your comments was limited to word choices, but the assumption is that I’m defending David, when I was not, am not. And ending — there is no ending to the ways in which we tend to misunderstand each other. As Buddhists (I am saying) it seems to me we should recognize this very human tendency to misunderstand, and try to slow down and ask questions. Anger — loudness, upsetness, even rudeness, scream if you must if no one is listening — are fine when they are well-directed, but they are not useful when aimed at false assumptions. That’s all I’m calling for here — asking questions before shooting, and using less hot-button language.

        At any rate, I want to say again, thanks for hanging in here. I look forward to any further response you’d like to offer.

        • Linda on September 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm

          (Damn, don’t know why I keep calling Gregory “David” here. Sorry!)

          One thing I’m trying to say in the above, that I’m not sure I made clear there, is that, Jennifer, you were expending a lot of energy trying to get me to question my thinking, when it was not my thinking.

          “However, I’d like you to consider why a person who continually posts bias/racist comments (after many compassionate efforts to guide him) is the victim of me telling him the truth?”

          I didn’t say that (or even think he’s a victim because you told him your truth).

          “Why is avoiding a real term more important than addressing the problematic attitudes and behaviors?”

          I didn’t say that, or think that. I think using non-perjorative terms is important in being understood, being heard at all, when addressing problematic attitudes and behaviors. I certainly never said terms were “more important” — that’s a straw man.

          “What leads you to think that I have misinterpreted what has been said here?”

          I didn’t say that, or think that. I made zero assumptions about the accuracy of your discussion with Gregory. I wasn’t judging the exchange because I had no time to do the work that would have been required to do so well.

          “Have you really looked at it and the long history of his posts?”

          See above.

          “If a person chooses to dramatically post about how they are leaving because I am not “courteous” (and what does that mean? Why am I required to smile and curtsy like a slave or retail worker in the face of basically racist comments?) instead of being willing to improve themselves and there behavior… how are they to be considered “victims” and me at all at fault?”

          Where do you find me saying he is the victim? I didn’t make that judgment.

          “I did not force them to leave in any way and am fine with all of his comments on topics not related to race. Why does finally putting my foot down after months of talking sweetly and providing resources (only to have them ignored, excuses made, and racist comment continued) and saying, ‘Look. This is what you are doing. It’s not acceptable. I’m not taking your excuses. You need to put in an effort. I’m not going to be quiet while you post these things; I”m going to point them out’ considered to be an inappropriate emotional outburst?”

          What did I say that could be interpreted as accusing you of making an ‘inappropriate emotional outburst’? I certainly wasn’t thinking anything along those lines. I wasn’t reacting to your posts at all, with the exception of bits of language choices.

          “Why has the response been your post, another similar post, and someone actually making this part of their article?”

          Had I been responding to you, I’d have done what I did in the post above, and hit the “reply” button under your post, and begun by addressing you by name. That’s what I do, I speak directly to people when I want to point something out to them. I’m not the sort of person who makes generalized comments while speaking out the side of my mouth actually directing them at someone specific. But you don’t know that, because you don’t know me very well. Did you assume I was that kind of person? Did you assume that, like so many white people, I was here to argue with you and tell you that you were behaving badly, and that I needed educating? Is there not room to assume good intentions first and check whether you know enough about me before judging my response through the lens of your expectations? I have no doubt that, as Mike points out above (when using Gregory’s neighbors as an example), your expectations about what I was doing were not unreasonable given your past experiences, but we white folks are no more all alike in the way we respond than are black folks. I’m asking that you, Jennifer, and everyone (myself included) allow the possibility that our first response is colored by past experience and may not be accurate, and so I’m asking that we slow down and double-check, re-look at what was actually said, ask questions, before judging. Practicing doing that is what made it so that when I read your posts and Gregory’s, I realized I didn’t know enough to have anything useful to say about it, so I didn’t say anything about the exchange — nor try to imply anything. I just said what I came here wanting to say.

        • Jennifer Hawkins on September 25, 2016 at 7:11 am

          Hi Linda

          I’m going to try to go point by point.

          Compassion baiting also includes the idea that (I’m just going to use “victim” and “bigot” here although those words a little strong) the victim has a profound obligation to not do anything that could potentially even be slightly hurtful to the bigot no matter what. (Without usually meaning to) it places more value on the (potential) feelings of the bigot than on the person or people that the bigot is harming. It puts an unjust burden on the victim.

          I, too, adhere as closely as I can to Nagler’s principles of nonviolence and to Right Speech. Again, I”m not sure how familiar you are with the repeated discussions, but after repeated discussions, I have every right to use the true and accurate term. His feelings are not more important than mine or the groups that he is harming. The burden is not on me to improve a behavior. Compassion (forgiveness, any number of Buddhist principles, etc) does not mean, “I will always tolerate ill treatment and injustice no matter what.” It means that I try to understand the opponent. I avoid attacking them as a person. I explain my position, their behaviors, outline concrete, long-term, win-win goals. If they refuse to respond to these attempts and continue a harmful behavior, then I have every right to proceed to the next step. Gotama Buddha did not advocate sugar-coating things perpetually. He very clearly advocated a time and place to speak the truth even if it wasn’t pleasant in many suttas. “Compassion” (and related ideas) does not mean that if someone is outside of my house burning a cross (I”m using this over-the-top example) that I shouldn’t call them a racist because “racist” can hurt their feelings. It means that after I’ve tried a number of nonviolent approaches, if they don’t stop burning crosses in front of my house, I can say, “I’m not going to tolerate this racist behavior,” and can call the police on them (hypothetically) even if that “hurts their feelings.”

          You object to the term “White Fragility.” I can understand that. That’s why I haven’t used it the half dozen times I’ve had to deal with Gregory’s comments. However, it’s been a half dozen times. He needs to hear some unpleasant truths. The problem of “White Fragility” should be addressed instead of allowing a distraction from the issue by outcry over the term. Rather than argue that the term is wrong and should never be used – why not focus on the repeated behavior and the problem it points to. Again to use an over the top example – if I was a battered wife, it’s not my job to just smile and be courteous no matter what. I get to say, “You’re abusive. What you’re doing is abuse. I can say ‘abuse’ and call the police. You’re feelings are not more important than the fact that you are abusive.” Again, after a half a dozen times, I get to speak a harsh truth. The onus is not on the “victim” (for lack of a better word).

          Likewise your statement that you should be “allowed” to get me to see things your way comes off as another deflection (again for lack of a better word). Of course you are allowed to voice your opinions. You’re even allowed to defend them. But that doesn’t make them right. And it doesn’t exempt you from having to explore why you hold them or things like, “Wait, I”m basically arguing that Gregory’s feelings are more important than being honest after a half dozen attempts to address deeply problematic behavior using sweeter words.” You can try to convince me, but you haven’t yet, and (this not an attack on you as a person, just on this argument) that’s kind of b.s.. His feelings are not more important than a deeply problematic behavior. There’s a difference between using a bunch of swear words and calling him names and telling him a painful truth that he needs to hear. And since he has never been willing to accept any of the very clear and repeated explanations offered on here, I gave him a term to google. It’s the only term that will get those results to my knowledge. That’s not something I can control. Working on his fragility (etc) is something that can be done.

          • Jennifer Hawkins on September 25, 2016 at 7:37 am

            Next,thank you for understanding how some factors came together to make (at least part of) your post appear to be in reaction to mine. In particular, I noted how you posted on Gregory’s “Farewell” before posting on here, so it seems logical that you were aware of the full context here.

            ” I simply don’t call language that intentionally pushes buttons when other words are available “accurate terms”. Does it intentionally push buttons? Does it push more buttons than continual bias comments? Is there an alternative term that can be googled and lead to the same explanations and information? In other words, what is the accurate term?

            “I understand what you are trying to do and the ‘place where you are coming from.’” If your intent was not to say that White Fragility is a hurtful term that should never be used (Right Speech, etc etc), then I don’t understand what you are saying.

            “Attitude” I still perceive the situation as a louder outcry against the term that we have (English being the language that it is) than against what it points to or the problematic behavior and a feeling that I (those like me, etc) have a responsibility to avoid harsh truths. If that’s not correct, then I really need you to help me understand your position.

            “Starting with assuming we know what the other guys mean when they say “I don’t see color when I see you” and telling them in no uncertain terms that’s a bad attitude to have — without stopping to ask what they mean.” I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure where to even start here. I could say, “Please look at his posting history and tell me how I somehow misunderstood Gregory” or “look up the term ‘colorblind’ that I kept telling him about and explain to me how that’s not exactly what he’s been arguing and how it’s not harmful.” I don’t like to use the Millenial slang (so to speak), but I honestly just can’t even. Again, not an attack on you, but I need you to run me through (and in context – please look at his posts over the last few months) how I misunderstood Gregory here and how colorblindness isn’t harmful.

            All of this isn’t to say that I can’t admit when I am or could be wrong. I read your posts a couple of days again and decided to sit and think on them a bit. I’m willing to believe that I misunderstood at least some of the comment / situation. I am sorry for that and for perhaps making you feel attacked. You do have many good points. But at the same time, there are some arguments that you make that come off as, “You have to be super-nice no matter what” and “It isn’t clear that Gregory was actually talking about how ok *that* colorblindness is (as in the term referenced above)” that I just can’t sign off on – not until I get something more (tbh). And again, if I’m just not getting what you are saying, then please, feel free to break it down for me. I do wish to understand what you’re actually saying.

            As for the next part, the argument is that by focusing on how I shouldn’t use the term White Fragility after half a dozen posts and months of sugar coating, you are, in fact, placing more of a value on his feelings than his problematic behaviors. Those things are tantamount to each other whether that’s the intent or conscious thought. To use another over-the-top, if I say, “This f*cking frat boy raped me,” and someone’s response is to focus on how I shouldn’t swear or say “frat boy” if I want to be hurt, it by default refocused the conversation from the fact that *someone raped me* to my (allegedly) “inappropriate” behavior. Conversely, it’s like hearing someone talk about what the president is wearing during their speech detailing how they just ended WWIII without destroying the world. The president’s clothes don’t take precedent over the fact that WWIII just ended. By doing that you are taking away from the real issue and focusing negativity towards the person who isn’t supposed to be receiving the negativity right now. When someone’s only comment is on the niceness of words or clothes or something else relatively frivolous (especially in context) and that comment diverts focus from real issues (fragility, bigotry, rape, the end of WWIII) it’s a problem – not a discussion. It’s a distraction from an important discussion. I hope this helps to clarify?



          • Linda on September 25, 2016 at 8:52 pm

            Thanks for having the patience to keep working through this, Jennifer.

            Before talking about the bulk of what you’ve said in this round, I wonder if we could work on just one thing, that might put a lot of it to rest. You said, “I noted how you posted on Gregory’s ‘Farewell’ before posting on here, so it seems logical that you were aware of the full context here.”

            If that’s what you perceived, then your reaction is even more understandable. However, what you perceived as the order in which I did things is not the reality. I’m not sure what it shows on your end, but on my end, my initial comment on this page has the following time stamp: August 19, 2016 at 7:07 am. I clicked Reply and then thought, “Hmmm, wonder what’s going on in the forum.” I clicked through to Gregory’s post and was surprised to see he’d gone from “I think it will be better if I don’t respond to your posts in the future” to “Recent circumstances have made me feel it is time to move on.” My response is time stamped August 19, 2016 at 7:13 a.m. six minutes after I finished writing the comment here. Does it show something different on your end?

            https://secularbuddhism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/for-jennifer.jpg



  7. Michael Finley on August 22, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Mark, thanks for direecting attention to this book, and for your, as usual, cogent observations.

    There are things I’m tempted to say, but the topic is so difficult that I think I really should just think about it before trying to organize my thoughts.

  8. Ted Meissner on September 25, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Just did an interview with Lama Rod Owens, one of the three authors of the book, and will be publishing the episode next weekend. Hope to get at least one if not both of the other authors, Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Dr. Jasmine Syedullah, onto the podcast as well.

  9. Jennifer Hawkins on September 26, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    @Linda: It won’t let me reply directly under your comment (?)
    Anyways, I see your print screen. I don’t want this to sound defensive or something, but I’m more sure than average that I saw your post on here show up after your post on “Farewell.” The reason why is that I was hoping that Gregory would finally make a break-through and was stalking this article pretty diligently. This said, that doesn’t mean that that was actually the time frame of things. It seems that you did post here before “Farewell.” Either I didn’t get the timing right (human error) or your post displayed on “Farewell” before it displayed on here (in other words, website error). In either event, it looks like I was wrong about that timing and I’m sorry for all of the ensuing chaos. But at least you can see why it was only logical for me to see your response in that light based on the fact that for either reason, your comment literally showed up for me after the comment on “Farewell.” I wish that error (human or machine) hadn’t have happened, but I am really glad that go cleared up.

    • Linda on September 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Re: “reply” posting. The system will only allow so many indents under the original comment. When the max is reached, the Reply button goes away. When that happens the usual thing is to use the last reply button you see, above it, to continue in-thread. But we’re fine talking down here!

      Whatever the causes, given the situation where what appeared to you as the cold, hard facts of the order of my posts being in conflict with what I said had happened, I, too, would have gone with the cold hard facts. I quite understand it. While it was a little disturbing to keep saying, “That’s not what I was doing” and be disbelieved, and continue to be shown the error of my thinking when it wasn’t my thinking, it has been, nonetheless, educational to me, and a good example of how easily confusion and misunderstandings could potentially undermine building an ally relationship. It really is only my Buddhist training that has given me the confidence built on insight into my own thinking to stand up to being told (or in this case it being implied) that I’m displaying racist behavior when I’m not — the case here.

      This is not to say that there aren’t times when I do, when I am as yet unaware of things I do that aren’t helpful, or are harmful, due to unexamined racial biases. It’s just that this wasn’t one of them. I hope you’ll have the same patience in conversation with me when I am being clueless.

      Hopefully this cuts out about half of what would have otherwise needed continuation in our conversation. I’m going to take a little time to look at what’s left — unless you want to stop here. I’m glad to keep banging away with you on other points — like language vs big issues — until we’ve shaped understanding between us; as you prefer, just let me know.

      • Jennifer Hawkins on September 27, 2016 at 11:50 pm

        @Linda: We’ve somehow addressed a lot of this across multiple spaces, lol. Again, I am sorry that I somehow got your reply on “Farewell” before the one on here; so much drama could have been avoided. Also, I’m sorry you had to go through this whole, “But I really didn’t do that,” situation. I can imagine how that must have been. I appreciate you taking the time to get this all hammered out.

        As for what’s left… I’m not sure what that is off the top of my head either. I took a quick scroll through and I think that you said that it wasn’t clear what Gregory meant by “colorblind.” Again, I can admit when I’m wrong, but it seems pretty darn clear given the larger context. If you could elaborate on that part, I would appreciate it.

        Thanks for all of the hard work on this.

      • Linda on September 28, 2016 at 12:43 pm

        No apologies needed, Jennifer. But nope, didn’t say anything about Gregory’s take on colorblindness — haven’t dug into your conversation any more with him than just that first day when I picked up one new phrase from your answer. Lately I have found I don’t much like it when people — even with the best intentions — come in, in the middle of a debate I’m having with someone else, and defend me (and by extension try to show my fellow debater the error of their ways); I generally feel I do an adequate job myself. So I tend to be loathe to step in to someone else’s discussion — i.e. yours with Gregory — and act like I’m the one who can sort it all out. Which is why I was quite sure I wasn’t doing what you had misunderstood me to be doing — it is completely out of character for me, at least in my current incarnation.

        It’s been a good discussion.

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