“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Many of us learn about the history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement at an early age in school. We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month to commemorate the victories that paved the way for equality. However, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other innocent Black lives, make these prior victories seem untruthful. The harsh reality becomes apparent: racism, especially against the Black community, still exists today.
Even though racism is built upon centuries of oppression, we have the power to take responsibility for the present moment and tear down the walls of racism. As a gay Chinese American, I recognize that the Civil Rights Movement was the catalyst for the Asian American Movement and the LGBTQA Rights Movement. We have all benefited from the fight started by the Black community. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that we are all interconnected. If one of us is suffering, we are all suffering. Black lives matter, and all lives must collectively create a more just and equal world.
While 2020 thus far has brought a lot of sorrow, it is also important to appreciate the change that has already begun because of the Black Lives Matter movement. Unlike the protests of the 1960s, people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, socioeconomic statuses, and political leanings are joining together all over the world. We are all suffering from the injustice against the Black community, and we are all demanding change.
The news, internet, and social media are bombarding us with a lot of information: petitions to sign, protests to march in, and change to support. This can be understandably overwhelming. As Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote, “Do not kill man, even in man’s name. Please kill the real enemies of man which are present everywhere, in our very hearts and minds.” You can start with the change within you and those closest to you. Take a little bit of time every day to educate yourself and talk to family, friends, and co-workers. It is acceptable to make mistakes along the way, as long as you are willing to learn and grow. Change may be slow, but every little bit that you can do can help move things forward in the fight for equality.
These recent events illustrate social issues that not only affect our Temple, but society at large. Who are we as Buddhists if we cannot use our teachings to help those suffering? Before returning to the Temple myself, I was suffering from my own struggles with mental health. The warmth and compassion of the Temple gave me hope again, and I believe this compassion could help those outside our Temple as well. Seeing young people taking the lead in the Black Lives Matter movement motivates my hope that YABA can be the same force within our own Temple in bringing awareness on social issues to the Temple, creating outreach programs to support these causes outside the Temple, and discuss further ways to help the Temple adapt to the changing world. We must actively serve communities around us, and it has to start with supporting racial equality.
Young Adult Buddhist Association