Thursday, April 29, 2010

Help, my bingo card is overflowing on the first day!

Readers who don't get the title, click here.

Wow. Racism over Tibetans is a lot more intense and serious than I ever realized.

My impression before starting this blog was that the types and incidents of racism I'd be looking at would be mostly subtle, hard-to-pin-down things: systems of power and organization that exclude Tibetan leadership, well-intentioned outsiders too eager to be the principal spokespeople for Tibet, offensive words and phrases like “riots” and “ethnic Tibetans” which journalists always slip into their stories, and so on.

Yet within a few hours of publishing the OT's welcome post and commenting guidelines and having the it shared around on people's Facebook walls, the mere announcement of this blog prompted the following racist tirade. I've added boldface to highlight the points which strike me as most problematic and toxic.
Thanks for sharing this!

However I think that this blog perhaps starts out with a "Tibetans are superior, white people don't understand them, Tibetans can do no wrong" attitude. This is exactly the kind of reverse racist attitude (against your own culture) that is the MOST disempowering -- to non-Tibetans. Ultimately this attitude is not helpful to either western people or Tibetans as it creates a lot of false power structures where Tibetans are inherently superior. I thought this blog would be good, but I can see within reading it for 5 minutes of it that it is probably a Tibetan-apologist, white-man's guilt, Tibetans-are-superior forum. I was expecting something better. This is the kind of attitude I saw in your friend which I think is pretty counterproductive to everyone involved. Unfortunately the majority of the Dharma scene is also like this, as well as apparently much of the Tibetan rights' scene. What about criticizing the Tibetans for their rampant racism, constantly taking advantage of western people, hypocrisy, etc. etc.? I am all up for a forum on the mutual misunderstandings between western people and Tibetans, but this doesn't seem to be the right direction.

It may seem like I am exaggerating, but this really seems like the attitude of this blog. Ultimately it's talking about how Westerners are the ones making mistakes, how they make mistakes, etc. It is not talking about how Tibetans make mistakes in relation to Western people. And it seems to start out with the premise that how Tibetans make mistakes is irrelevant, and they are not to be held accountable for their actions. Why? Because they are an oppressed people? Because they don't have a country? Because WE are the one supposed to helping out THEM (even though they are supposed to be the ones with all the altruisim right?). None of these reasons stand to argument. Yes, as people who have received good educations and have grown up in a multi-cultural post-modern etc. world, we have a certain responsibility. But this does not excuse the Tibetans from their many many mistakes, harmful actions, ulterior motives, and blatant using of Western people which happens every day in a hundred different ways. Nor does our wish to help the Tibetans excuse us from our own excesses, our egotism, our own cultural presumptions. Better would be a forum to see the MUTUAL ways that Tibetans and Western people misunderstand eachother and behave problematically, because anyone who has been around Tibetans enough should know that both sides have a lot to learn, and no one should be exept from that very neccessary education.

Tibetans are very widely seen extremely idealistically, by the majority of the Western Tibetan Buddhist scene and it would seem also the Western Tibetan rights scene. This idealism make us subservient to the Tibetans and literally disempowers us. Learning about the good points of Tibetan culture, and trying to adapt them, is the way to go, not trying to become Tibetan, or acknowledging the false superiority of Tibetan culture. The Tibetans' racism, xenophobia, sense of cultural superiority, and most notably their almost inexcusable ignorance and lack of interest in other cultures and their politics is arguably what made them lose their country in the first place -- Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and others have said this. Tibetans are quite prone to use Westerners for money in great variety of ways, and at this point this should be well known. Many Tibetan lamas, rinpoches, and monks basically are more concerned with making money than your enlightenment. Tibetans guys generally see Western girls as an easy f*ck and a passport/visa, Tibetan girls generally see Western guys as a passport/visa. They often see us as grotesque, totally ignorant about things like spirituality, and basically barbarians. Westerners are still very much enthralled by romantic notions of Tibet and Tibetans and are ripped off, scammed, broken hearted, insulted, and generally treated poorly by Tibetans every day. Tibetans often act with total disinterest to Westerners, not even showing the least amount of respect or politeness, unless of course you can become a sponsor, give them money in some way, teach them english, or help them with some political problem. Of course, I am talking about the worst cases here, but these worst cases are pretty common also, at least in the refugee community. I am not saying that Westerners are not really ignorant of Tibetan culture (we are, even those who are dedicated to helping Tibetans and are deeply involved in Tibetan Buddhism), but the Tibetans by constrast are just as much or even more ignorant of our culture and often do not attempt to understand it, either. I don't think that Tibetans are any better or worse than any other people, but that through their great traditions of Buddhism they have developed some good habits, and through their isolation and their refugee situation they have developed some bad ones.

Basically my point is that respect is a two way street. The Tibetans have helped out Westerners, and the Westerners have helped out Tibetans, but who has helped out who more, and who is really more open-minded? Do Tibetans start blogs about how to treat Western people appropriately? No. There is often an almost palpable sense of separation that Tibetan people distance themselves from Western people with. One is forced to ask oneself after a while, what the hell are these people's problems? With that said I love Tibetans and I think they produce some of the best people in the world. I also think that they are highly overrated, and the real issue needs to be what they need to do to enter the 21st century in a respectful and balanced way. Tibetans are the ones who need to reduce their racism, not white people (at least not the ones who are interacting with Tibetans, most of whom initially think they are all angels), I am sure of that point. It is also white people who need to be empowered in relation to Tibetan people, not the other way around. Tibetans often seem to think that it's ok to act almost any way they want with Western people and I think that this is because of years and years of people putting them on a pedestal and not holding them accountable. Perhaps I am unaware of certain dynamics that happen, but this is just based on my own personal experience. I realize that this is just one aspect of the whole spectrum but I also think what I'm saying is pretty valid and true. Hopefully both sides can learn how to act more appropriately and in a way that heightens understanding and communication.
I wish this were a hoax, but a friend who saw the thread on Facebook knows the author, a student of Tibetan language and classical translation living in India, and can vouch for the authenticity. What I've quoted here is only the beginning, the part the commenter cross-posted here on OT. All in all, the tirade came to about 6 single-spaced, narrow-font pages, and counting... (he still doesn't seem to have stopped adding points)

One commenter replied:
_______, you seemed to have a lot of chip on your shoulders. Maybe you should start your own blog about the racist Tibetans and they they've wronged you and your fellow white males. It really sounds like you need an outlet to vent about how bad it feels to loose the white privilege you've enjoy since birth. Maybe start a support group for all you "victims" of nasty Tibetan racism.
Another wrote:
_______, May be you should write a manual with illustrations for us Tibetans to learn etiquettes for pleasing the White Masters like yourself.
These commenters seem to have hit one of the biggest problematic themes, the concept of “reverse racism”. The idea that Tibetans are “supposed to be the ones with all this altruism” is also extremely problematic, especially in light of the author's question “Who has helped out who more?”

Beyond that I really don't know what to say. The rant speaks for itself. The big realization for me, and I hope for readers, is that there are white people thinking these ways, and thinking there's nothing wrong with it.


  1. This is exactly what I feared would happen when the so-called Tibetan supporters expect Tibetans to be next to Buddhas. And extending help to us would somehow mean that they can paint us however they wish to. Whoever wrote that rant needs to get a life and stop wasting his life living with people whom he detests and culture he loathes. Wherever he is from, I can point out several flaws in his society but it is not for us to judge any society. I prefer to look at the flaws in the context of its society and each society is different. Our personal experiences would shape our opinions of others but they should not be reflective of a whole society.

  2. Right on BhuZigpo. I read this and had to wonder, why on earth is he living and working with people he clearly despises?

  3. He reminded me of a LOT of these white guys who live in Japan, usually with a Japanese woman, and hated it at the same time. They write some of the worst racist crap I've ever read. But these "Tibetan Supporters" probably feel superior to those "Weeaboos" (white lover of Japanese culture), but the only difference I see is that they picked a different "exotic" Asian culture to fetishize over.

    Why would he live with those he despises? Because if he leaves the culture, he's just a big nobody in the Sea of Random White Guys. The "exotic" nature of the chosen Asian culture made him a stand out and a "white expert" on the said culture among fellow white people, and thus form his entire self-identity. I'd say he's pretty attached to it.

    The culture made him what he is today, and he will do anything to modify or change the culture so that it serves his needs. Hence these incoherent racist bashing of the very people he supposedly loved. As long as other whites respected him for what he's done, he doesn't really care what the "locals" think.

  4. This has been said many times before elsewhere but I think it's worth repeating. When a person of color (here, a Tibetan) does something bad like deceiving people for personal gain, it's taken as a sign that their entire race/society is bad. When a white person (think of some Wall Street bankers here..) does the same thing on a much larger more destructive scale, it's a sign that that ONE INDIVIDUAL is an asshole.

    This applies especially to racial prejudices. According to the ranter, Tibetans are "more racist" than white people, but why? Because Tibetans get judged as a group while white racist behavior is considered an individual character flaw. (Then there's also the issue of confusing racial prejudice with racism which is a whole topic in itself..)

  5. SWPD's fromthetropics just posted a piece that has a lot to do with this story and the white tendancy to think others are "more racist" or "less tolerant":

    take credit for being ‘tolerant’ when pocs do a bulk of the work to assimilate

  6. wow i just LOST it after the second para. I thought the commenter had something unbiased to say at first, but then turns out s/he was just ranting about tibetans being racist. whatever happened to 'mutual understanding'? maybe it's just sexual deprivation talking here, or he's not getting any tibetan friends/ 'easy fucks'? either ways, i don't think such racist attitude is tolerated anywhere, much less by 'racist tibetans'. hah, what a tool. why waste your time studying our 'culture' when you are getting 'ripped off, scammed, broken hearted..' wait broken hearted? i think therein lies the answer. we don't know 'who has helped who more', nor do we ask for any. grow up bitch.

  7. "Tibetan girls generally see Western guys as a passport/visa."

    I have lived in Dharamsala for almost 5 months, so why have I not had a Tibetan girlfriend in all that time? Hm? Answer me that!

    And I am a normal-looking white male, with an American passport....easy pickings, right?

    Wrong :(


If you are new to Overlooking Tibet, please read the commenting guidelines before posting.