Since nationwide protests erupted after the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis, Black religious leaders have reminded their flocks that racial injustice is nothing new. “The foot on the neck of George Floyd has been a foot that’s been there ever since Black people came to the U.S.,” said Arisika Razak in a recent talk in Oakland, California, as she urged her listeners to find common cause with other oppressed racial and ethnic groups.
What makes Razak's graphic image surprising is that she is a teacher of Buddhism, a faith more often connected with quiet meditation than fiery exhortation. But as Razak addresses racial justice more frequently in her recent dharma talks — teaching sessions after group meditation — at Oakland's East Bay Meditation Center, her view of this summer's protest takes on a Buddhist bent. We are living through a "hinge time," Razak tells her students, when the possibility for change, a core Buddhist tenet, is wide open.