Should Buddhists care about the movement Black Lives Matter (BLM)? Probably not insofar as BLM’s politics are strictly racial rather than moral and spiritual. Becoming a better human being who is able to follow the Buddha’s path, hopefully, to attain nirvana in this lifetime is what Buddhism offers. This is a spiritual path; certainly, not a political path with a racial agenda.
Buddhism is also concerned with ends and means. Buddhists do not believe a noble end can justify the use of an ignoble means. Look at the religion of Islam, for example, which believes the end justifies the use of ignoble and cruel means, for example, terrorism. The present day Muslim, in order to live and become productive in the modern world, is forced to give up the aims of his violent religion. BLM (the movement, not the organization) which is not as bad as Islam by a long shot, nevertheless, is deploying an ignoble means because it believes that ending racism warrants such confrontational actions.
But is racism really the problem facing the African-American community? Or is the BLM exploiting the African-American community by proclaiming that all the African-American community’s problems stem from racism? Well over a hundred years ago Booker T. Washington (1856–1915), An African-American educator and advisor to presidents of the United States had this to say:
"There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs—partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs."
Such Black movements which claim the African-American’s problem is due, strictly, to racism do not seem to care about the consequences when one takes up such a belief. For one thing, individual responsibility and moral behavior suffer as a result. Any conduct, even violent criminal conduct including murder, can be blamed on racism. But the troubles of the African-American community have little if anything to do with racism in the final analysis (but don’t tell that to a black Buddhists like Pamela Ayo Yetunde). It has to do with the powerful influence of a particular, out of control, subculture within the African-American community which runs away from individual responsibility and moral behavior; which, in addition, doesn’t understand the golden rule; and wants to be taken care of just because they have been told they are hapless victims of racism. This attitude is summed up in Taleeb Starkes’ two books, The Un-Civil War: Blacks vs Niggers: Confronting the Subculture Within the African-American Community and, Black Lies Matter: Why Lies Matter to the Race Grievance Industry.
From a Buddhist perspective, the problems facing the African-American community cannot be solved by going to the default position of racism. This is a huge copout. Change can only come about by such things as a radical improvement in child rearing practices from the third trimester to age seven followed by an educational system that has high expectations for their students in which schools will no longer be seen as feeders into the prison system. It must be understood that our mind has enormous power over the fifty trillion cells of this body we inhabit. Because Buddhism has understood this for some 2,500 years, Buddhist-asian juveniles as an example exhibit very little if any criminal behavior unlike subculture black juveniles (the black author Starkes calls them juviNIGGERS). Buddhist-asian juveniles show a great deal of individual responsibility and moral behavior as compared with black juveniles who have one mantra in their head, racism made me do it. Clearly, Buddhism works—blaming one’s failures on racism doesn’t work. Buddhism and BLM (the movement) are worlds apart.