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06 How the Buddy System Limits Diversity of Opinion and Ethnicity
#1
Jikoji uses a "Buddy System" to select standing committee members.  Being a member of a standing committee for one year is a requirement for being on the board.  In the special meeting of the board held in June 2019 where two board members were removed, it was explained by the board chairman that the committee requirement was put in place so that any potential board member would be a known quantity to Jikoji's lawyer and Guiding teacher.

  This rule has serious deleterious consequences.  One is that it limits membership to the handful of people that Jikoji's lawyer, who lives hundreds of miles from Jikoji, can be familiar with on a personal basis. Thus, a perusal of the makeup of the board since 2007 - as far as online records go back at Jikoji - reveals that the same names keep cropping up on the list of board directors, officers and standing committee members.  Two members are present on the list, in multiple capacities, throughout that time, one of which was a board member well before that. This, obviously, is not the way to obtain a wide ranging collection of perspectives from within the sangha.

  It could be argued that, while limiting perspectives, this system does at least preserve expertise. That is not always so, however, as the person with the longest track record as a decision-maker at Jikoji has incurred numerous complaints about their performance on the board, being "infamous" as one teacher in the Phoenix Cloud lineage put it, for misusing consensus to force the group to conform to their opinion.  Is there not a danger of a sense of entitlement arising in one who has been in a decision-making position for some twenty years?

  More alarming yet is the lack of racial diversity in positions of power at jikoji. Since 2007, there has only been one Asian or Asian American on the board, standing committee, or office of the board, and no Hispanics or African Americans.  While membership among African Americans is very low in the group, and only a little larger among Hispanics, about half of all attendees of the Sunday program are Asian or Asian American. Why such a paucity of representation in a temple established by a man from Japan that teaches a religion that originated in Asia? 

  We needn't posit overt racism to explain this, but systemic racism, what Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines, defines as "the complex interaction of culture, policy and institutions that holds in place the outcomes we see in our lives," surely needs to be investigated as the cause of such an extreme lack of representation.  The Buddy System is a form of systemic racism by Harris' definition, as the policy of winnowing candidates for the board through committee selection in the hands of a few invariably selects members with which those few experience cultural familiarity and ease.

  If overcoming such disproportionate representation was not enough of an incentive to replace the buddy system, there is another, perhaps even more compelling reason.  Studies on power and ethnicity found that:

   Culture of origin can shape how individualistic or communal you are—and how you use power. Hispanic immigrants, on average, have been found to be more collectivistic than European Americans, more inclined to use power to help people, and less inclined to use it to take advantage of others.14 Priming European Americans to feel powerful increased the mental accessibility of words related to entitlement, but priming Asian Americans to feel powerful conjured responsibility.15 And while feeling powerful increased selfishness in European Americans, it reduced it in Asian Americans.

-Why Power Brings Out Your True Self

  We should consider very carefully what the cost of the restrictive system for selection of members that hold power has been for Jikoji over the years and going forward.

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14. Torelli, C.J. & Shavitt, S. Culture and concepts of power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 99, 703-723 (2010).
15. Zhong, C.B., Magee, J., Maddux, W., & Galinsky, A. Power, Culture, and Action: Considerations in the Expression and Enactment of Power in East Asian and Western Societies, in Ya-Ru Chen (ed.) National Culture and Groups (Research on Managing Groups and Teams) Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, United Kingdom (2006).
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#2
I have participated in many organizations where the leadership is all white, and often all old white men. Making the leadership reflective of the diversity of an organization's membership or the community it serves can be very difficult and takes a lot of hard work. At Jikoji, it seems a large percentage, if not a majority, of participants in the Sunday program are Asian. Also, nearly half, if not a majority of sangha members are female. To my knowledge, only one Asian female has ever served on the board. I'm aware of only one female teacher, ever. While it may be that Jikoji has tried in vain to recruit women and Asians into leadership positions, a more, concerted effort is needed.

I believe the fact that women and Asians are under-represented among the teachers, staff and board is no accident. It is the result of systemic racism, which, to be clear, does not necessarily imply intent. To overcome systemic racism, Jikoji must expand the pool from which it draws its leaders, not contract it by requiring candidates to be hand-picked to serve on committees as is the current practice. Among the best practices I've seen is to have some sort of leadership development plan that targets people in under-represented segments of the community, so that minority group members are not just thrust into positions of leadership, but, groomed and supported to become great leaders. There are also non-profit service organizations that help non-profit boards diversify their ranks. A board that reflects the diversity of the group benefits all.
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