Two Buddhisms, Three Buddhisms, and Racism


  • Wakoh Shannon Hickey Alfred University



Over the past several decades, observers of American Buddhism have created numerous typologies to describe different categories of Buddhists in the United States. These taxonomies use different criteria to categorize groups: style of practice, degree of institutional stability, mode of transmission to the U.S., ethnicity, etc. Each reveals some features of American Buddhism and obscures others. None accounts adequately for hybrids or for long-term changes within categories. Most include a divide between convert Buddhists, characterized as predominantly Caucasian, and “heritage” or “ethnic” Buddhists, characterized as Asian immigrants and refugees, as well as their descendants. This article examines several typologies, and considers two dynamics: the effects of white racism on the development of American Buddhist communities; and the effects of unconscious white privilege in scholarly discourse about these communities. It critiques “ethnic” categories and proposes other ways to conceptualize the diverse forms of Buddhism outside Asia.

Author Biography

Wakoh Shannon Hickey, Alfred University

Assistant Professor of Religion,Division of Human Studies


How to Cite

Hickey, Wakoh Shannon. 2015. “Two Buddhisms, Three Buddhisms, and Racism”. Journal of Global Buddhism 11 (February):1-25.



Research Articles