Racism Against Tibetans in America
As a child, I experienced a lot of racism growing up in Howell, New Jersey. In school, I was called a “chink” very frequently and bullied for my race. I wasn’t bullied for many other things, but only for my race. As I grew older and taller, the bullying stopped but now as a grown up, I am still discriminated against. But this time, the discrimination is for my religion which is my Dorje Shugden faith. And the other difference is that this time, the discrimination comes from my own Tibetan people and the leadership which is the Tibetan people.
So when I was sent the article below today by one of my friends, I was not surprised because from my experience growing up in America, I know many people have experienced and continue to experience racism just because of something they cannot change which is their ethnicity and skin colour. So while I was not happy to read what Tenzin has experienced, sad to say but now he knows what it feels like as a Tibetan to be called something derogatory because of who you are.
This is something that myself and many others as a Dorje Shugden practitioner have experienced for the last 20 years. I am a Dorje Shugden practitioner, that is who I am and for two decades, I have suffered vulgarities, insults and threats as a result of my faith which I committed to before the ban started. My faith is therefore something I cannot change due to my tantric commitments and the promise I made to my guru.
Not only am I a Dorje Shugden practitioner, but my father also relied on Dorje Shugden. And in fact, many years ago, he gave me a Dorje Shugden wealth vase that was blessed by the great Mongolian lama Guru Deva Rinpoche. So my father was a devotee of this holy Protector too, and he also wanted me to be connected with Dorje Shugden and believed the practice would benefit me.
Tenzin says in his interview that the discrimination is different because it is sanctioned by those in power. He speaks about the fear he experiences for his family’s safety. Tenzin’s words can easily be applied to the situation faced by Dorje Shugden practitioners. As a result of their faith, Shugden practitioners have lived under a dark cloud of uncertainty and fear for 20 years. Their images are put up throughout Tibetan settlements so they can have hatred and violence directed against them. They are banned from schools, shops, hospitals, restaurants as a result of their faith; their children are bullied in and removed from schools, and parents who practise are shut out from employment within the Tibetan civil service. Even the leader of the Tibetan people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama refuses to meet with Dorje Shugden practitioners.
So I pray that Tibetans who have racist taunts directed at them meditate on this, and develop compassion for Dorje Shugden practitioners and the fear they have had to live with for two decades. No one should have to experience violent behaviour that is based on discrimination, whether it is because of their race, skin colour, economic background, education and their faith. Certainly I don’t wish Tenzin’s experiences on anyone. So please read the article below and listen to the interview snippets carefully. Take out Tenzin’s name and experience, and think about how it can apply to Dorje Shugden practitioners. It is my hope that through this, more Tibetans will know what it feels like to be segregated against because of who you are, because that is exactly how Dorje Shugden people feel.
Harassed, afraid, a North Country immigrant fights back with love
by Zach Hirsch (Plattsburgh Correspondent), in Plattsburgh, NY
Nov 17, 2016 — Tenzin Dorjee did everything he was supposed to do and more. He became naturalized as a U.S. citizen six years ago. He co-owns the Himalaya Restaurant in Plattsburgh, which now has a second location. Each year, he helps organize a festival that brings in musicians and artists from across the country and overseas.
He’s put in hundreds of hours building the city’s cultural diversity. Lately, something else is consuming his energy: fear.
Since Election Day, there has been a wave of hate directed at minority groups across the U.S. Intimidation. Harassment. Swastikas. The Southern Poverty Law Center counted over 400 such incidents in the week after the election.
After being repeatedly harassed himself, Dorjee is struggling to make sense of this moment, and trying to figure out how to fight back.
Dorjee grew up in Bhutan. Over the years he’s been singled out a few times in Plattsburgh, but it was just “minor stuff. They trash all my flowerpots and stuff,” he said. “This feels very different.”
It was Wednesday of last week, the day after Donald Trump was elected. Dorjee was walking into Walmart when he ran into two men wearing camouflage jackets. “It was a couple of guys standing next to a couple of trucks. And that’s when they say, ‘Hey chink, get the f— out of my country. Go back to where you came from.’ And I just smiled at them.”
He sighed. “Then it happened again.”Just a few steps away, two other people used the same racial slur. “I felt very uncomfortable, unsafe,” Dorjee said, and he never made it into Walmart. “I just turned around and went back home.”
Then, a couple of days later, he was out running errands when two older men in a car cut him off on purpose, he said, and flashed him the middle finger. The fact that they were elderly people broke his heart. “That was something that I wasn’t expecting.”
Dorjee is culturally Tibetan, and his family came to the U.S. to escape persecution from the Chinese government. Once, he said, Chinese officials caught up with them in India, and he was beaten so badly it took him three weeks to recover.
He came here to get away from all that. And for the most part, the North Country has embraced the Dorjees. They’re well liked and widely respected for organizing the annual Tibetan arts and culture festival. In 2015, local artists built a permanent mandala tile mural into the side of a building downtown to honor Tibetan traditions. At the unveiling, Dorjee smiled and appeared to be overwhelmed. He told the crowd that Plattsburgh is full of honorary Tibetans.
“I’ve always been asked this question of ‘how many Tibetan families are there in Plattsburgh?’ And I’ve always said plenty. And this goes to prove that whatever I said about my family in Plattsburgh is correct…The hearts that I have here are Tibetan,” he says in Arts in Exile, a Mountain Lake PBS documentary about the festival.
Now, Dorjee is frightened for his family’s safety. On Facebook he wrote a long, emotional post, which said in part,
“As fear overtakes me for the protection of my family and myself I am now joining the group that believes in right to own firearms.”
He continued, “It is a sad decision for me as I believe in compassion but as a family man and human I have faults and it has driven me to the conclusion that a weapon of destruction is my only safeguard against the hate that has been directed against the color of my skin and political beliefs.”
Dorjee is a practicing Buddhist. Being peaceful is a huge part of his religion and identity. But he felt like he didn’t have any other options. He planned to buy a shotgun for the house, and get a license for a concealed carry pistol.
It was a dark, low moment, Dorjee said. Then he heard from friends, and he slept on it.
“I got around to thinking, and then my community members, of course they’ve been very supportive on my Facebook, and then I’ve had community members come up to me and say ‘Tenzin, we are behind you all the way.’ And when I look at that kind of support, then I do not feel the need to bear any kind of firearms, because that is my firearm.”
Instead of guns, he’s buying a new security camera. He’s also hoping to help organize a forum about racism and xenophobia. Leaders from the city and town said they think that’s a great idea.
In the meantime, people are on edge. Recently, a rumor ran around SUNY Plattsburgh about the KKK. University Police sent an email reassuring students that they’ve looked into it and there is no evidence of KKK activity in the area.
On Monday, Dorjee’s car was vandalized while it was parked outside of his house. He’s not sure if it’s a racial thing, but he thinks so, since it’s never happened before in the nine years he’s lived here.
Dorjee plans to fight back with compassion. In a Facebook post about the car, he wrote, “Bring it on. Your hate is not going to change me into you.”
For more interesting information:
- The Dorje Shugden category on my blog
- My recollection of H.E. Guru Deva Rinpoche 忆念尊贵的古鲁迪瓦仁波切
- Dorje Shugden: My side of the story (多杰雄登：我这方面的说法)
- Dorje Shugden people
- Comparisons of the Dorje Shugden Ban with Historic Persecutions
- Will the Dalai Lama agree with this?
- They want to kill me
- Wealth Box Puja
- It Wasn’t Easy in New Jersey, but My Cousins/Aunts Helped…
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