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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
30 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly The immediate origins for Buddhist for Racial Justice can be traced to May 14, 2015, when a delegation of 125 Buddhists from sixty-three different organizations gathered for the first White House–U.S. Buddhist Leadership Conference. Here they presented two letters: one on climate change and one titled “Buddhist State- ment on Racial Justice.” The latter opened with the declaration that the undersigned Buddhist teachers were distressed by the killings of unarmed African Americans brought to attention by the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York City. As with the open letter, it intertwined the language of Buddhism—suf- fering, interdependence, non-harm, and compassion—with that of racial justice movements. Both letters were products of work to chal- lenge racism and white privilege in American Buddhist convert com- munities spanning over two decades. Many of the themes expressed on the Buddhists for Racial Justice website, for instance, were first articulated in Making the Invisible Visible: Healing Racism in Our Buddhist Communities, a booklet compiled by a small group of Bud- dhist practitioners of color and their white allies and distributed to the Buddhist Teachers in the West conference at Spirit Rock Medi- tation Center in June of 2000. This compilation declared that, for many years, Euro-American middle-class sanghas had been resistant to the efforts of people of color to raise awareness around the repro- duction, in those sanghas, of oppressive racial and socioeconomic structures. Interweaving personal experiences of racism with Bud- dhist teachings and critical race theory, this landmark collection offered a number of resources to combat racism, ranging from insti- tutional diversity trainings to dharma talks addressing racism. Until recently, such efforts were largely marginalized and ignored within mainstream meditation-based communities. Due not only to the efforts of the small deeply committed network of American Bud- dhists of Color but also to the wider cultural critical mass around racial justice, such efforts are now finally getting the attention they deserve. This is reflected in the increased coverage of diversity and inclusion issues in the Buddhist press—the cover of Buddhadharma’s Summer 2016 edition, for instance, read “Free the Dharma: Race, Power, and White Privilege in American Buddhism.” (previous page) photo | David Gabriel Fischer