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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
CHARLENE LEUNG 53 Stop for a minute to contemplate how Black men have been por trayed throughout your life. I remember the media images, the sto ries, the warnings I got from my Chinese immigrant parents. In the past when I encountered Black men unfamiliar to me, an embodied fear arose, unbidden. The body tenses. That tension transmits sub tle—or not so subtle—messages that contribute to the social body, to upholding a system I would rather not support. This response isn’t unique to Asians or whites. I have heard from Black friends, both men and women, that they too have been conditioned to be afraid of Black men. Though this bodily response is not our fault—it’s how we were socially conditioned—it is our responsibility to become more aware. By acknowledging our cultural baggage, we can notice when fear arises. I recognize it in the tightening of my body, the contraction of my torso. I have learned to stop and assess the situation before react ing. I can objectively evaluate the safety of my surroundings, and rather than crossing the street, I can relax and walk past a group of Black men. This may seem insignificant when weighed against the scale of societal racial injustice, but this conscious awareness is the first step toward social transformation. Feeling whatever arises in the body with care and curiosity, without judgment, opens space in the body for wisdom to emerge. It is possible to gain valuable knowl edge that can help us go beyond habitual, fearful responses in daily life situations. It’s not easy to see unconscious social biases. When one begins to look closer, one often feels shame, blame, or guilt. We need to be willing to feel it so we can go beyond it.