Statement Against Anti-Asian Violence
We at IBS are saddened and outraged by ongoing anti-Asian violence, attacks on Buddhist temples, and most recently and tragically the murder of six Asian women in Atlanta last week. Whereas these events have been receiving more and more media attention of late, we understand that they are part of a centuries-long pattern of white supremacy in this country that has resulted in both individual and state sponsored acts of cruelty toward Asian Americans and Asian American Buddhists. As Vice-President Kamala Harris, the first female, South Asian and African American person to occupy her office recently said, “Sadly, it is not new. Racism is real in America, it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America. It has always been; sexism too.”
When Chinese and Japanese laborers first began to arrive in the United States in the nineteenth century, almost immediately they were subject to both racial and religious discrimination. White politicians and Christian religious leaders decried “heathen Chinese” and passed restrictive immigration laws. California labor leaders and politicians passed laws to keep Japanese immigrants from joining labor unions and owning land. As Duncan Ryūken Williams details in his American Sutra, the U.S. government began surveilling Japanese Buddhists as inherently “unassimilable” and used this as justification for the mass incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II. The post-war years saw the emergence of the “model minority” myth while at the same the U.S. began several wars in Asia. Economic crises in the 1980s and Japan’s economic boom led to fear, distrust, and violence against Asian Americans while, simultaneously, Asian culture was exoticized and being consumed by popular culture. Thus, the former president and his supporters’ reference to covid-19 as the “Chinese flu” and the current fear of Asia and violence against Asian Americans is part of a larger historical pattern that must be faced in order for it to be changed.
IBS was founded by Japanese American Buddhists and remains closely associated with the Asian-American community. Thus, this history hits close to home. We vehemently oppose racism and religious discrimination, as well as the sexualization of Asian women and misogyny which leads to violence against women. We also believe that the unchecked proliferation of guns in our society is untenable. Far too often, institutions and communities issue “statements” such as this while doing little to examine their own cultures, their own policies and values. As a Buddhist institution we feel it is our obligation to be a vehicle for the examination of our own complicity in oppressive systems. We must also work diligently to create an educational community that is safe for our students and actively combats racism, misogyny, and homophobia, both personal and systemic. Finally, we remain committed to the Buddhist principle of harmony, which values diversity and calls for dialogue and conversation in the midst of conflict and suffering.
Rev. Dr. David Ryoe Matsumoto, IBS President Dr. Scott A. Mitchell, IBS Dean
Resources on how to support Asian American communities and stop anti-Asian violence: