Contemplative Studies and Confronting Anti-Asian and All Forms of Racism

Dear Fellow Contemplatives:

A year has passed since the beginning of the Covid pandemic and the unimaginable tragedy of the loss of half a million lives. As a result of deliberate scapegoating of the nations and peoples of Asia,  personal attacks on Asian-Americans and Asian peoples living in America have increased exponentially. We deplore these attacks in no uncertain terms.

Contemplative Studies honors the people and cultures of Asia from whom we take the inspiration for the unique methods of our field.  From them we take seriously the premise that subjective experience must fully and critically inform our studies of human nature and human potential and of the greater environmental context in which humans are an integral part. We value all the diverse peoples and cultures of the world and unequivocally condemn the wave of anti-Asian racism sweeping our country at the moment.

We must continue to combat racism and “otherism” in all its forms, including gender bias and the systemic racism that prevents anyone, especially peoples of color, from attaining the meaningful lives to which all human beings aspire and are entitled.

We must always remember to advance these social justice goals with clarity of purpose, a sense of our common humanity, the wisdom to differentiate between hateful deeds and the people who do them, and a profound love of all peoples and the fragile environment that we all share. To be most effective, social justice activism must have a contemplative foundation.

There is a long tradition of social justice activism among contemplatives.

• Contemplative practices sustain our bodies and minds in the struggle for self-knowledge and against racism in all its forms;
• Contemplative sciences make these practices available to all people;
• Contemplative arts directly convey suffering and joy, and provide a vision of our unrealized potential;
• Contemplative philosophies contextualize our efforts so we never lose our common humanity;
• Contemplative intelligence maximizes the influence of our efforts while supporting the wisdom and compassion with which we make them.

Be fierce; be fearless; be humane.

Hal Roth
Director, Contemplative Studies Initiative
Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies

If you experience an incident of racial or gender-based bias and wish to learn of the support measures you can receive from the University, please see: https://www.brown.edu/about/administration/institutional-diversity/incident-reporting/bias-incidents

For further information on increasing Anti-Asian racism in the United States, seem for example:  https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/words-matter-as-asian-american-leaders-urge-action-against-hate-crimes