Monthly Archives: February 2018

Reflection Paper

Robert “Shuken” McCarthy
April 24, 2017
MDIV 515

Reflection #12

This week’s subject is the “Being Part of the Solution.” After last week’s race counsel I am not so sure if I am capable of that. I found last week’s exercise to be a little more challenging for me, people were trying to check their privileges in the most disgusting ways possible. I was almost on the verge of visible disgust after Luke’s sharing. I am not sure what brought that on, I was just so disgusted by his self-labels that I checked out after his turn. I just have nothing to say about any of it. It’s a lose-lose situation, I really do not have anything to offer in the realm of social justice, maybe you could say that is part of my privilege, it brooks deeper examination I feel. I am not sure how to connect to the issue, I felt like everyone just provided dry empty, myself included. I imagine what ever could I say about the world that People of Color inhabit.

Hopefully this week’s readings can help me create a better understanding of what I am going through and how to be part of the solution, which I feel was what we automatically tried solving in the race council. What an exercise in futility, maybe which says something about my fellow chaplains that is immediately where they go on the discussion of race, straight to trying to solve the issues of the world. Maybe it’s telling that my mind immediately runs in the opposite direction of the rest of the cohort

Getting into the meat of this week’s readings I would like to hit on what I encountered in “Radical Dharma.” The first chapter is titled: “What the World Needs Now” by Dr. Syedullah, she starts the first part of the chapter off by quoting the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution: “The Thirteenth Amendment, the Constitutional abolition of slavery in 1865, proof-positive that democracy works and is an ever-evolving, self-correcting system of consensus, justice, and deliberation. The Amendment states that ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime…’ emphasis added by author.”1 This really struck me on the macro level it made me think back to what I know of United States history.

I’ll start the macro examination by talking about the aftermath of the US Civil War, shortly after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse and the subsequent signing of the Thirteenth Amendment the United States Government embarked on the ambitious plan of connecting the East and West Coasts of the nations by rail. Such an undertaking would require massive amounts of labor, not many men in those days were willing to venture into the wild frontier of the nascent of US, filled with malevolent natives, disease, hardship, bandits, and ferocious wild animals. So large corporations like the Union Pacific, which was working its way West from St. Louis, Missouri, looking to link up with the Western Pacific Railroad somewhere in Utah, which was working its way East from San Francisco. This meant that both companies were forced to look elsewhere to fill their labor needs and considering the business ethics of the 1800s they would also seek the cheapest alternatives, the Western Pacific used Chinese

immigrants who were no better off than slaves, and the Union Pacific struck a deal with the post war carpetbagger government of the state of Georgia to secure masses of incarcerated laborers who were paid very little for their labor, and while not uniformly black the majority of those being drawn from Georgia penitentiaries just so happened to be.

The moral of the story is that the Thirteenth Amendment has a lot of weasel words in it, while these loopholes were more exploited in the late 19th and early 20th centuries today it would be much harder in terms of media coverage to subject incarcerated prisoners to hard slave labor. On a micro level I recognize the use of “weasel words” in the enslavement of certain groups of people. This is unfortunate often the history of a nation is quite clear, though from time to time it is covered by clouds, hard to parse out. Thank you reading this long rant, there was quite a bit for me to digest.


Johnson, Allan G., Privilege, Power and Difference, New York, NY, McGraw-Hill (2006).

Williams, Angel, Radical Dharma, Berkeley, CA, North Atlantic Press (2016).

“Get off the hook”


MDIV 515: Power, Privilege, and Difference.

“Getting off the Hook”

By Pisit Maneewong

The reading of this week was related to the topic of “Getting off the Hook” which was the part of the book title “Privilege, Power, Difference,” and it was written by Allan G. Johnson. According to my reading on the Chapter 8: Getting Off the hook: Denial and Resistance.  I like what Allan G. Johnson wrote that “The fact is that we’re all on the hook because there’s no way to avoid being part of the problem. People in subordinate groups are on the hook every day. Dominant groups are, too, but they’re more likely not to know it because they have so many ways to act as though they aren’t, and privilege usually allows them to get away with it. But the more aware we are of all the ways there are to fool ourselves, the easier it is to wake up and make ourselves part of solutions.” [1] Sometimes we do not know that there is no such wall or barrier in front of us. One of the reason is fear of losing our privilege and realm which we used to be the owner and we do not want to share with others. In addition, we are full of selfish without caring other’s privilege or feeling. It seems that we have trouble with this wall day by day, no chance to walk over this barrier.

From the class last week, our class practiced the exercise of power, privilege, and difference regarding the ideas of racism, class, and gender which somehow related to the idea of ‘White Supremacy’.  During the time, I and my male classmate laid down on the floor face up and head closed to each other’s in the different directions and the women sat on the chair above us in four directions. At that moment, I felt overwhelmed in three ways of my thought, by the feeling, time pressure, and overwhelmed by how to do things ‘right’ thing at that moment. At the beginning, my feeling was normal and when the time passed by from 10-20 minutes I felt like how to do the ‘right’ thing at that moment. So, I decided to not do anything just lay down and practice my Pali chanting which I remembered at that moment. I try to use my terrorist mind to not follow the sound when I heard during I was laying down with my male classmate. I knew that I was not a good person at that moment. I did not help or use my voice to speak out when the female asked and even my male friends talked. I still continued to keep quiet and not use any voice until the last minutes of this exercise. I think my action like what Allan G. Johnson writes in his book, “But the truth is that my silence, my inaction, and especially my passive acceptance of everyday privilege that goes along with group membership are all it takes to make me just as much a part of the problem as any member of the Klan.”[2]

Anyway, from this situation, as a man I felt sad and empathy as well about this situation regarding gender. Most of the time women are hurt by men who have more power and privilege without love or compassion or without thought that is gender like their mother. I asked myself how I can help the people who live in trouble, both male and female with trouble and with this question it enriches awareness on me to the situation of difference. So, I need more choice and more chance to learn how to live together happily and harmoniously in the long-term of life without any conflict of the power, privilege, and difference especially the different gender between male and female.

I like the idea that the Buddha give an advice to the monks (Bhikkhus, Pali) how to treat the women in the proper way which appeared in the Bharadvaja Sutta. In this sutta, the Buddha once advised to the young monks that, ‘Come now, monks: with regard to women who are old enough to be your mother, establish the attitude you would have toward your mother. With regard to women who are old enough to be your sister, establish the attitude you’d have toward a sister. With regard to women who are young enough to be your daughter, establish the attitude you’d have toward a daughter.’[3] This is one reason that I should bring it and share it here.

[1] Allan G Johnson, Privilege, power, and difference. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006), p.108.

[2] Allan G Johnson, Privilege, power, and difference. Ibid., p.118.

[3] Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “Bharadvaja Sutta: About Bharadvaja,” accessed May 19, 2017,

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