Two space aliens, one of which is holding a stick, are facing a dog standing in front of them expectantly wagging its tail when one alien says to the other, “The Earthling seems to be waiting for us to do something with the gift he has given us.”
We laugh at this cartoon because we harbor, whether consciously or not, a view of human exceptionalism that is so pervasive that we forget we and ALL OTHER FORMS OF LIFE are Earthlings! All life is ‘born of the earth’ and there is no hard and fast demarcation between the human and the rest of living beings.
Mahayana Buddhism distinguishes between what it calls the two truths: the “absolute” and the “conventional” or “relative.” Too many Buddhists have made the mistaken assumption that the absolute is “real” while the conventional is “merely” or “simply” illusory and thus tend to hyper-valorize the absolute while dismissing the conventional. When “socially constructed” is conflated with this misunderstanding of “conventional truth,” as illusory or “less true” than the absolute truth, it is assumed that whatever is socially constructed has no real causal power and that what is constructed socially is simply an error screening us from the absolute truth of emptiness. In the realm of race discourse, this takes the form of asserting “color blindness” and that “color” or “race,” being empty, can be dismissed and ignored as a factor for practice or consideration! I’ve even heard some practitioners say that those engaged in racial discourse are “caught in views” with the not so subtle implication that we are less “enlightened” than those who assert that they “see through race.” But, as Zenju Earthlyn Manuel writes in The Way of Tenderness: “… our identities in terms of race, sexuality, and gender cannot be ignored for the sake of some kind of imagined invisibility or to attain spiritual transcendence.”