A Statement on Racism and Racial Justice

Dear Friends,

The New York Shambhala Governing Council stands against systemic racism and the violence perpetrated against our Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) siblings, and we support the activism and courage of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Racism and white supremacy have been intrinsic elements of the American reality for as long as our country has existed—they were baked in to our society even before the nation was founded. Oppression and killing of Native Americans, Black people, and other people of color have been part of our history ever since Europeans came to this continent.

Every week seems to bring another murder captured on video for the world to see. Just as the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color exposed the harm caused by systemic racism and white supremacy, the pandemic of police brutality has exposed the need for reform in the criminal justice system. The enormity of the crimes and injustice being perpetrated demands a response from all of us.

At the heart of the Shambhala teachings is the notion of basic goodness, that all beings, each one of us, are basically good. Society is basically good. This does not mean that everything is okay. It doesn’t mean that nothing is wrong. Clearly, many things are very wrong and have been wrong for far too long. But the idea of basic goodness is that even when there are serious problems, things are workable. In the midst of the injustice, pain, division, sadness, and confusion that confront us, there are seeds of basic goodness that can be discovered, cultivated, and grown. Things are workable.

The fact that things are workable means, of course, that we must do the work.

For white people, who make up most of the Shambhala community (sadly, Shambhala has never reflected the diversity of the larger society), that work involves looking outward, looking inward, and taking action.

We must look outward to educate ourselves about the history and nature of structural racism and its effects, from slavery to Jim Crow to segregation to inequalities in education and the criminal justice system. We must seek to understand what living in America is like for our BIPOC siblings. What is it like to experience the aggressions—ranging from unintended to deliberate, from irritating to fatal—that people of color are regularly subjected to?

We must look inward to educate ourselves about the nature of white supremacy and privilege. How is our “normal” different from the “normal” of people of color? We must try to uncover our own blind spots, to examine how we might be contributing to the problem. We must acknowledge our privilege, our bias toward comfort, and our unwillingness to feel.  We must be willing to look at our tendency to view people who look different from us as “other.” When and how do we turn away from our own humanity, our own basic goodness?

Then, equipped with insight and in touch with our heart, we can take action. We might join protests or a public sit. We might commit to supporting BIPOC-owned businesses. We can speak up at work or in our families when we see or hear racist behavior. We can donate money or volunteer our time.

The work begins with ourselves and is ongoing. Just as we must choose again and again to come back to the breath, we must continually choose to wake up to racism and to undo it. An excellent place to begin or continue this work is with the Shambhala Center’s Race, Racism, and Racial Inequality Group. In the context of dharma view and practice, meetings offer an opportunity to examine our personal experience, habitual patterns, and assumptions about the issues of race within our community and society. The group is open to all—people of color and white allies. This is a venue to engage in essential dharma practice, for dismantling racism is nothing less than dismantling ego.


Our nation, and the world, has reached a tipping point in terms of racial justice. Let us be part of the change that needs to happen. Below are some other resources and suggestions—books, films, podcasts, charities. We hope you’ll explore some of these, as well as engage with our Race, Racism, and Racial Inequality Group.

Please reach out to us with any thoughts or concerns at [email protected].

In solidarity,

Jane Heyer

Betsy Kenyon

Vito Lesczak

Parlan McGaw

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

—James Baldwin



Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think, and Do,
by Jennifer L. Eberhardt

The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

How to Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi

The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo


Why Your Liberation Is Bound Up with Mine, Rev. angel Kyodo williams speaking at the Shambhala Center in May 2018 (https://ny.shambhala.org/2018/05/20/rev-angel-kyodo-williams-why-your-liberation-is-bound-up-with-mine-podcast-194/)

The 1619 Project (https://www.nytimes.com/column/1619-project)

Code Switch (NPR podcast, https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510312/codeswitch)

Seeing White podcast (https://www.sceneonradio.org/seeing-white/)


13th (documentary by Ava DuVernay) Netflix

I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin documentary) Netflix

The Central Park Five (documentary by Ken Burns) Amazon

A Conversation on Race (documentary by Ken Burns) Amazon

A series of videos on race produced by the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/your-stories/conversations-on-race)


The following organizations are on the front lines in the fight for social justice and in need of not only monetary support, but social engagement.

Color of Change (https://colorofchange.org/This organization designs campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, and champions solutions that move us all forward.

Equal Justice Initiative (https://eji.org/This organization works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality.

Legal Defense Fund (https://www.naacpldf.org/The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice.

The Bail Project (https://bailproject.org/This project is designed to combat mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system one person at a time.