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Buddhadharma : Summer 2016
summer 2 0 1 6 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 35 The Social ego To lean into this aspiration, you must confront the fact that “whiteness” is a social ego as void of inherent identity as the personal ego. However, you have identified with it as much as your very own name, without being willing to name it. Just as the ego-mind is a construct that con- stantly reinforces itself, so, too, does the construct of whiteness. It builds structures and systems of control and develops attitudes and views that main- tain its primacy and sense of solidity so that white- ness can substantiate its validity. One could call it the Mind of Whiteness. The construct has been designed so that White America—and by extension white dharma teachers and practitioners—lives inside the prison of that small mind. Without intentional intervention, you cannot see over the wall of the reinforcing perspec- tives that affirm and perpetuate the White Superior- ity Complex. The complex would disintegrate if the vastness of your own racial bias were illuminated, but until such time you remain in ignorance, blind to the reality before you. This blindness is necessary to escape the sheer anguish of how pervasive this complex is, how you unerringly participate in it, and how seemingly inescapable it has become. Just as the ego-mind cannot be used to work its way out of its own construct, the Mind of White- ness cannot be used to see through the veil of its own construct. As Buddhists, we are gifted with precisely the tools and methodologies needed for the project of deconstructing, but that lens of awareness must be placed outside of the construct of whiteness. As a direct result of privilege, white practitioners and teachers have mistakenly entitled themselves to place the lens of awareness inside of whiteness, hence they are unable to see its machina- tions. Only when we choose to live the dharma in a radical way—with a motivation toward complete liberation—can our work begin. So we sit. And we feel. And we let what arises do so until the resistance is worn down or moved through or even until it overwhelms us. On the other side, we see a glimmer of something that we couldn’t get a handle on because we were trying so desperately to avoid it. We begin to see truth. When we catch hold of it, we can finally see the patterns of our participation in not-truth emerge. With the clarity of a steady mind and courage of a true heart, what has always been there begins to reveal itself, emerging from behind the fog of the ego-mind of whiteness. White dharma practitioners who are unable to acknowledge the pain caused by decades of resis- tance to addressing this misalignment will be ex- posed—they will no longer be able to use a veneer of dharma as window dressing while milking the benefits of the system. Their veil of mindfulness will be seen through as thin, and their once-wise words, henceforth, will land with a thud. No one group, community, or institution has the answer, but each of us can call forth the willingness to offer our best, claim responsibility for our worst, and fold it all into the continuous moment-to- moment practice of simply being present to what is. If your practice is not attenuating greed, hatred, and ignorance—the social expressions of which are the delusions of supremacy, racism, and oppression— then you need to change your practice. adapted from Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by angel Kyodo williams, Lama rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah, forthcoming in June 2016 from north atlantic Books. Much of what is being taught as Buddhism in America is the acceptance of a kinder, gentler suffering that does not question the unwholesome roots of systemic suffering and the structures that hold it in place.