This May was the first-ever White House Summit on Buddhism in Washington, DC. Naropa faculty members Sherry Elms and Judith Simmer-Brown attended the conference where the following statement on racial justice was issued.
Buddhist Statement on Racial Justice – May 14, 2015
“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you recognize that your liberation and mine are bound up together, we can walk together.” – Lila Watson
As Buddhist teachers and leaders we are distressed and deeply saddened by the killings of unarmed African-Americans by police—most recently brought to light with Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY, Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC, Freddie Gray of Baltimore MD and too many others–and the frequent failure of the courts to bring justice to these cases. Most grievous is that these tragic events are not isolated incidents. They are part of a systemic injustice in the United States that is rooted in centuries of slavery and segregation, and manifested in continued economic and social exclusion, inferior education, mass incarceration and ongoing violence against African-Americans.
The Buddhist teachings are grounded in a clear recognition of suffering, an ethical commitment to non-harming and an understanding of interdependence: We can’t separate our personal healing and transformation from that of our larger society. The historic and continued suffering of people of color in this country—of African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and others—is our collective suffering. The harm caused daily is our collective responsibility. Once we see this suffering, our freedom unfolds as we respond with a wise and compassionate heart.