Prejudice is Just a Thought

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The Buddha

Some people try to address the problem of racism in the United States, and our unavoidable participation in it, by claiming that they “don’t see color.”

This is nonsense, perhaps well meaning nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless. The reason the problem exists is that differences in skin color between “Black” people and “White” people is really obvious. It’s why police officers are far more likely to stop “Black” people and to treat them with less respect than they do “White” people. It is why “Black” people often feel uncomfortable and out of place in predominantly “White” groups and vice versa.

The problem lies not in seeing the difference, the problem lies in attaching significance to the difference.

It is entirely possible, in theory, to notice that “Black” people and “White” people are different, superficially at least, and choose to ignore the difference, or at least attach no importance to it. That is hard to do in a culture where the difference has had huge significance for over four hundred years, but it is still possible.

We can’t know for sure, but we have good reason to think that the Buddha, if he lived today, would expressly take the position that skin color is irrelevant to the capacity to awaken. His basic logic leads necessarily to the conclusion that Buddha nature is as much a characteristic of “Black” people as of “White” people.

It is true that few “Black” people in the United States choose to become Buddhist, but that is mostly a result of historical factors that are just the accumulation of erroneous human thoughts over those four hundred years. Certainly no Buddhist organization would choose to discriminate on the basis of skin color.

We can and should focus on the Buddha nature that all sentient creatures share, rather than any differences, especially differences as superficial and irrelevant as skin color.

So keep meditating and look for Buddha nature in everyone.

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Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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