Tag: Alan Senauke

A White Buddhist on Race

It’s obvious anyone who’s been reading this blog for some time that I’ve got a thing Alan Senaukeor two to say about Asian American issues in the Buddhist community — and also that this thing or two has changed over time. I spent some time today skimming back over the Angry Asian Buddhist posts, and it was humbling (as in embarrassing) to read my own words. There are some things that I would never write again. And there are some things that I wrote again and again and again…

In reviewing the trail of the Angry Asian Buddhist, I ran across a new comment on an old Tricycle blog post with a link to an even older essay “On Race and Buddhism” by the Zen teacher Rev.¬†Alan Senauke. It may be 12 years old, but it still rings true. I didn’t feel it said anything special up until one line that resonated with me:

Several years ago at a meeting of international Buddhist activists in Thailand I realized that in the first day I had figured out who (among the westerners) was Jewish. And even stranger I realized that all the Jews were doing the same thing and had “signified” to each other. We knew who each other was, and we were more comfortable for it. This, I am sure, is a pattern that goes back through centuries of being ghetto-ized, of being the other. It’s not a genetic thing. I can remember my mother telling me how to watch out for myself. That some people would exclude and threaten me just for being Jewish. It’s so deep that sometimes I find myself looking around the zendo and counting those I think are Jewish. Some of you may find yourself making a similar census. From talking with them, I know that people of color do this.

Sometimes I find myself looking around the zendo and counting those I think are Jewish. Well, he definitely did what I do when I open the pages of Tricycle and start counting the Asians.

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