Exegesis of a White-privileged Notion

I’m going to take the amateur linguist in me for a spin. C.N. Le’s blog post on Asian Nation last Thursday was perceived as ridiculously offensive, even racist, by a number of White bloggers. I walked away from this post with different conclusions, perceiving no racist finger pointing, and instead a strong affirmation of the very same sentiments I occasionally experience at multicultural Buddhist retreats. In spite of heated back-and forth-comments, which have made liberal use of the terms racist, racism and white privilege, I believe further discussion is necessary. How did we come to these different conclusions from the very same words?

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Asian Watch

One of the perks of my new place is that I live across the street from Border’s. Shambhala SunMy cold still has not gone away, so after zipping through Trader Joe’s (also across the street), I made a quick swing by Borders, where I noticed that the new issue of Shambhala Sun is out. The Tenth Annual All Buddhist Teachings Issue. (Wow!)

With my newly-bought Shambhala Sun in hand, I zoomed straight to my kitchen, turned on the stove, cooked up some rice porridge (I was inspired by a friend who assured me that shoveling in onions and pepper would smack that cold over to the next life), and then sat down and started counting the Asians.

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Best Buddhist Writing: Racism Unintended

I promised I’d talk about it and so I will. Even before I persued the by-lines of Tricycle, I’d already coded the Best Buddhist Writing of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. This list was easy enough to get because all the contributing authors are listed for each book in my local library catalog. Plus, these authors are much more famous than the individuals who publish in Tricycle — of course, we’re talking about the authors of the Best Buddhist Writing here — and the famous factor means that they’ll have Wikipedia pages! That makes finding out race, ethnicity and birthplaces much, much easier. So following the same methods as in the Tricycle study, here’s what I found.

Out of a whopping 136 unique authors, 21 were Asian. Percentage-wise, this is 15.4%, which is remarkably close to the 15.9% I found in the last year’s issues of Tricycle. This similarity in turn reminded me of a long ago grad school class where we discussed Thomas Schelling and mild racism.

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