The Mindful Cranks

Where using your mind is not necessarily a bad thing

Episode 5 - Funie Hsu - Mindfulness and Racial Invisibility

Funie Hsu

Funie Hsu, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at San Jose State University. She received her Doctorate in Education from the University of California, Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis in the School of Education. Prior to entering graduate school, Dr. Hsu was a public school teacher in Los Angeles. Her research and teaching interests include education policy, comparative and international studies, history of education, language instruction, ethnic studies, American studies, race, gender, decolonial liberation, Taiwan, women’s studies, and critical animal studies. Dr. Hsu serves on the Executive Board of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF).

Dr. Hsu’s recent article, “We’ve Been Here All Along” recently appeared in the Buddhist publication Lion’s Roar, and was reprinted in the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s Turning Wheel Media. Her article touched a nerve, triggering the predictable sort of white fragility reactions from a number of readers. The editor responded and published a commentary by the Ven. Ajahn Amaro. Her chapter, “What Is the Sound of One Invisible Hand Clapping? Neoliberalism, the Invisibility of Asian and Asian American Buddhists, and Secular Mindfulness in Education” was published in the Handbook of Mindfulness: Culture, Context and Social Engagement, edited by Ronald Purser, David Forbes & Adam Burke.

She is a frequent contributor to BPF’s Turning Wheel Media. Some of her blog posts include “Legacies of Collective Delusion: Causes of ‘Youth Violence’”, “A Wake Up Call: The Suffering of Systemic Violence in Student Lives,” “The Heart of Mindfulness: A Response to the New York Times.

In this interview, Funie Hsu provides a very personal account of why she became increasingly critical of the mindfulness movement, particularly given her Asian heritage. She explains why it’s time we recognize the contributions of Asian American Buddhists by taking notice of the racism and cultural appropriation that has marginalized their voices.  Funie retells a seminal story of the role Rev. Ryo Imamura played in the transmission of Buddhism to the West in the midst of white intolerance and bigotry. We explore how the mindfulness movement has suffered from an unacknowledged white cultural conceit, which often denigrates the contributions of ethnic Asian Buddhists as nothing but a form of “baggage Buddhism.” Likewise, we examine how secular mindfulness in schools is informed by an ideology of white supremacy, along with how such programs are situated within the nexus of neoliberalism and unconscious racism. Funie draws our attention to “structural delusion”, a phenomena inhibiting mindful inquiry and deeper conversations that examine the causes of poverty, oppression and racism. Based on her experience as a social activist and involvement in the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Funie offers us hope and guidance as to how we can incorporate the fight against systemic oppression and pursuit of social justice as part of our Buddhist practice.     

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