White Supremacist Buddhist Statues

What do you do when someone claims your photo from Tokyo might mark you a white supremacist?

White Supremacist Buddhist Statues

I mostly deplore people who mock "liberal snowflakes."  There's a lot of value in learning to be sensitive to people with different backgrounds from you, and what seems innocuous to you might well be offensive to someone else.  Someone who's trying to be honest about how things impact them and their background, or trying to be sensitive, isn't something to mock.  But there's also value in understanding the culture from which something comes, and not projecting our own cultural issues upon it.

Case in point:  A "concern" was relayed to me that my GitHub avatar appeared to contain the white nationalist symbol that's been making waves lately.  So I looked, opening up the full size picture to examine more closely.  And it's sort of true – while the statue's hand is extended in front of him in a warding gesture, the thumb and forefinger are touching while the other three fingers are straight.

Here's the thing: it's one of the two Niō, Buddhist guardian statues common in East Asian Buddhist temples, at the Hōzōmon, one of the gates that leads into the Sensō-ji temple.  I took it while I was in Tokyo for the QUIC interim in January.  I'm fairly sure that East Asian Buddhists a millenium ago weren't white supremacists.  Pretty sure.  Probably.

But sure, I could also see a world in which a white supremacist sees a statue with its hands in this position, thinks it's cool, and makes it his avatar.  So I see where someone might question why I chose this statue.  (Answer:  It's a cool statue.)  But in the interest of not making anyone uncomfortable, I've changed it.

My avatar is now a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Mission in Coeur d'Alein, ID instead.  No one could possibly be offended by a monument to how Christianity was brought to the native peoples of America, could they?  (I'm being facetious – this mission is notable for the fact that the Nez Perce and Flathead peoples heard about Christianity from other tribes and explicitly sent a delegation to St. Louis asking for someone to come and tell them more.  This mission church is the result.)

Maybe I should just use a flower, instead.