GBZC’s Statement against Systemic Racism

From Josh Bartok, on behalf of the GBZC Spiritual Direction Committee, the GBZC Board of Directors, and the senior teaching community of GBZC,  drawing from statements from the Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA)

June 7, 2020

In deep grief over the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, let us acknowledge the deep-seated, systemic, and structural racism that poisons life in the United States of America. 

Today, we see and hear the searing pain and anger of Black people, who have endured centuries of oppression and violence in the United States and who, as a community, continue to suffer acts of violence and discrimination, including at the hands of police.  

Those of us who are white fully avow our complicity in perpetuating the harms of white supremacy in all its oppressive forms including police violence and mass incarceration.

With heavy hearts we further acknowledge: 

  • That the colonization of what we call the Americas, and the rise of the United States as a global power, rests upon the enslavement of African people taken violently from their homes and forced to labor under brutal and oppressive conditions. 
  • That we as individuals and communities live in a world in which only some, because of the color of their skin, are accorded safety, as well as social and economic privilege—and we recognize the willful blindness that upholds this privilege.
  • That we as individuals and communities have systematically treated Black people with discrimination, disrespect, cruelty, and violence because of their race—and that we have upheld policing systems that enact this discrimination for us.
  • That we as individuals and communities are complicit in an unfair, classist economic system that divides humanity into winners and losers, exploiter and exploited, and that encourages selfishness and conflict. 
  • That as human beings, we cannot separate the gift of our own existence from the violence being done to Black people in the United States. 

As individuals, as a sangha, and on behalf of all those who came before us, we atone for our participation in all systems that perpetuate white supremacy, domination, violence, greed, and injustice in this world we co-create with all beings.


  • Let us vow to overcome systemic racism, supremacy, and dominator culture in ourselves, our Sanghas, our nations, and our world, in the service of all beings throughout space and time.
  • Let us commit ourselves to the work of untangling racism’s tenacious tendrils and cultivate the blossoming of a more just world. 
  • Let us pledge to face, acknowledge, study, understand, and hold the weight of our collective karma so that we may show up with clarity, vulnerability, and truthfulness. 
  • Let us commit ourselves to continue with renewed urgency our Bodhisattva work and call for a fresh and coordinated effort to dismantle racism at every level of our culture, society, government, as well as in our Zen communities, and our own hearts; 
  • Let us commit to taking individual actions—such as direct financial support to organizations, protests, educating others, advocacy in places we have privilege and power; and 
  • Let us commit ourselves to creating true refuge for all who breathe,
    and for all who cannot breathe. 

The above statement draws from the SZBA Statement & Call to Action on Systemic Racism by Tenku Ruff and the SZBA Board of Directors, as well as from the SZBA’s Statement of Recognition and Repentance, crafted by Koun Franz, Norman Fischer, Greg Snyder, and many participants of the 2018 SZBA conference.
Adapted by Josh Bartok.

For more resources, including related talks and suggestions for responses, see this document.