Racism: Understanding the Cause and Solution

Also see articles in the news on the Aesthetic Realism opposition to racism [click here].

Art versus Racism / Number 1905, July 15, 2015

...I will comment on a matter that has to do centrally with relation, and is a horrible mis-seeing of relation. That matter is racism. Since June 17, when 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat among the men and women there, then opened fire, murdering nine people—racism has been talked of in the media with somewhat more urgency. The need to end it has always been vitally, utterly urgent.

Aesthetic Realism explains the cause of racism. And, I say soberly and passionately: the study of Aesthetic Realism can end racism. I have written about this fact before; others have. I do so freshly now....more

This issue includes:

Every Person Stands for the World / Number 1725, August 20, 2008

Eli Siegel. Giving reasons why all people are one species and arise from “one single source of human life on the earth,” this writer speaks about the

fact, now recognized by naturalists, that different species, whether animal or vegetable... had originally definite seats and localities on the globe, whence their diffusion has been effected by accident or design, modified by their locomotive powers and several capacities for bearing changes of climate and place.

This means that human beings, beginning from a single definite place, somehow got to various places on the earth and felt “this suits me,” and stayed there. So we have people in India, and in China. And the Japanese, while seeming very close, are also very different from the Chinese....more

Justice to People—& What's Against It / Number 1724, August 6, 2008

Eli Siegel. We get, again, to the large matter: what does man come from, and what do all people have in common? There are certain persons deep in Alabama who, when they saw a black man write, were so astonished—they felt the pen had been bewitched. The idea that he could write!

The author of this 1850 article is objecting to the notion that there are different species of human beings:

If man be not a single species, how many species of the human being must we count on the earth? The Negro is the most striking contrast to the European; but the...Mongolian also has characteristics so strongly marked, that we cannot concede the difference of species in the one case without admitting it in the other. How, or where, are we to stop in these admissions, when we find diversities...existing everywhere around us...?...more

People, Literature, & Evolution / Number 1723, July 23, 2008

Eli Siegel. At the time of this article [1850] the idea of the cell came to be generally known—that all life began with protoplasm. In a note, the writer refers to “the curious cellular structure which appears, from recent research, to form the nucleus of all the textures of organic life.”

There is a general agreement that protoplasm in the tiger is like protoplasm in the pigeon. Protoplasm is a study in roughness and definition: insofar as it's first life, it is shapeless; but then, since it has a cell with it, it also has shape....more

Our Purposes Every Day—& Evolution / Number 1722, July 9, 2008

Is the human being a single species of what naturalists call the genus Homo? or do the diversities of physical character which we see in different races compel the admission that there were more species than one in the original act of creation?

This writer, like Prichard, feels that man came from one human source.

There is the question of how do species change? What made one species have different varieties—change here into a Newfoundland, and there into a poodle, and there into a Pekinese, and there into a bulldog? The dogs have given such diversity to the meaning of species. Pussycats, somewhat less. But somehow the dogs—they have the Sears & Roebuck catalogue....more

Evolution, Ethics, Beauty / Number 1721, June 25, 2008

Much of the objection to evolution, in the 19th century and now, has come from the same source as the objection people had to Galileo when he showed that the earth revolved around the sun. My earth (a person could feel) a mere planet?! Never! My earth has to be special, has to be the center of the universe—the way my mother made me the center of the universe! Likewise, my species, Homo sapiens, could not be part of long and continuous evolution! It has to be a “special creation,” because I want to feel I'm special and separate—and supreme....The preponderant dislike of evolution comes not from religion but from what true religion itself opposes: contempt. The Observer of London (13 Jan. 2002) notes that there are persons

involved in social policy [who] hate natural selection, says [biologist John] Maynard Smith. “...They want to believe we are isolated from the animal kingdom.”

The desire to feel oneself as separate, unrelated—and “special” in a way that makes what's different from oneself apart and inferior—is the source of all ethnic prejudice. It is also the thing that can make Darwinian evolution, in its grandeur and beauty, appear an offense....more

How Should We See a Person? / Number 1720, June 11 , 2008

The question How should we see a person different from ourselves? is urgent. Because people—however unclearly and unconsciously—have answered that question wrongly, we have an abundance of human pain and cruelty, from trouble between husband and wife to racism and war....

A recent instance of contempt as the cause of cruelty concerns South Africa....more

Humanity: One and Many / Number 1719, May 28, 2008

Editor Ellen Reiss writes: We begin here to serialize the 1974 lecture Poetry Is of Man, by Eli Siegel. And it's my opinion that this great lecture contains what needs to be seen in order for that horrible thing which is racism to be no more.

....In the main part of his lecture, Mr. Siegel speaks about the following questions—and they are urgent for us: Do all the people of the world come from one source? Is the way humanity is varied and one, like the relation of manyness and oneness, sameness and difference, to be found in a good poem? These questions are part of the big question, What is the relation among people, with all our differing ethnicities and skin tones? Aesthetic Realism is the means of answering it, scientifically and grandly.

Aesthetic Realism shows that racism arises from that ugly thing which is in everyone: contempt. Every instance of ethnic prejudice, from the most subtle to the most horrifically virulent, comes from the feeling, “I'm more—I'm Somebody—if I can look down on what's different from me!” In 1997 I wrote in this journal:

Racism won't be effectively done away with unless it is replaced with something that has terrific power. What needs to replace it is not the feeling that the difference of another person is somehow tolerable. What is necessary is the seeing and feeling that the relation of sameness and difference between ourselves and that other person is beautiful. People need to feel, with feeling both intimately personal and large, that difference of race is like the difference to be found in music: two notes are different, but they are in behalf of the same melody; they complete each other; each needs the other to be expressed richly, to be fully itself.

It is possible for millions of men, women, and children to have an emotion about race that is like an art emotion. And it is necessary. [TRO 1264]...more

Difference & Sameness: The Human Question / Number 1653, November 16, 2005

Editor Ellen Reiss writes: The discussion we begin to serialize in this issue is philosophic. But it's also about the most immediate matters in people's lives, the most intimate, the loveliest, the most terrible, the most urgent. Aesthetic Realism makes clear that in order to understand what distresses us and what we hope for, in order for people to stop being cruel, we have to see what aesthetics is: what every instance of beauty contains....

And I will comment here on one of the ugliest things humanity has had, something which people despair about, and which Aesthetic Realism explains and provides the means of ending. That is: racism, in all its brutality, is a certain dealing with the opposites of sameness and difference-the same opposites that are one in every instance of beauty....more

Education: the "Having-to-Do-With-Other-Things" / Number 1622, September 8 , 2004

Includes the article "Learning vs. Prejudice!" by Barbara McClung.

I learned from Aesthetic Realism that prejudice does not begin with race, but with the desire in every person to have contempt, to “lessen...what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.” We can be prejudiced against anything—books, food, music, clothing, sports. This desire for contempt can come to include one student’s being fiercely against another, and insulting or hurting that student, simply because his or her skin color or accent is not the same as one’s own....more

Are We Proud of How We Are For & Against / Number 1613, May 5, 2004

The bad reason for being against something is: that thing, if justly seen, interferes with our ego, questions us in some way, threatens our sense of superiority—while through despising it/him/her/them, we feel important. This reason is what racism comes from: the feeling, if I can be against those people different from me, I'm Somebody! Behind all ugly againstness is contempt, which Mr. Siegel defined as “the addition to self through the lessening of something else.”...more

Learning Can Succeed — and Racism Can End! / Number 1535, September 4, 2002

Includes statements "on the fact that Aesthetic Realism is the means to end racism truly at last. Arnold Perey, PhD, is an anthropologist and Aesthetic Realism consultant. His Columbia University doctoral dissertation (1973) is based on Aesthetic Realism. Monique Michael is a New York City teacher; and Allan Michael is a Maritime Captain and photographer. Jaime Torres, DPM, is Chief of Podiatry at Coler-Goldwater Memorial Hospital and on the advisory board of the National Hispanic Medical Association."...more

The Human Self: Yours and Everyone's / Number 1501, January 9, 2002

There is nothing people need more now than to see other people justly. Therefore, to illustrate Aesthetic Realism — and to show something of how Aesthetic Realism explains the self of every person — I am going to comment on instances of Arabic poetry written between the 6th and 13th centuries....more

The Aesthetics of Equality / Number 1346, January 20, 1999

On the "two biggest inequalities in America today...economic inequality and racial or ethnic inequality" — and the solution: "The fact that persons of the media and politics see economic equality as completely unnecessary, is in their continual proclamations that the economy is 'booming.' To say our economy is 'robust' while they admit that the gap between rich and poor is growing, poverty is increasing, and hunger is forcing over 26 million Americans to seek nourishment at community food pantries, shows that press and politicos do not consider the lessening of poverty an economic aim of America."....more

The Right of Every Child / Number 1289, December 17, 1997

Includes the article "Science, Earth, and Prejudice" by Barbara McClung.

In the midst of all the failure and fury that pervade New York schools, it is a fact, documented year after year, that in those classrooms where the Aesthetic Realism teaching method is the basis, learning grandly succeeds. And it is a fact, as important as any in this world, that through the Aesthetic Realism method, prejudice, in all its hideousness and brutality, ends!...more

Racism Can End / Number 1264, June 25, 1997 (Reprinted 2004)

I am completely sure that racism can end through the study of Aesthetic Realism....The big thing people have not known about racial prejudice is that it does not begin with race. It begins with the world itself, and how one sees the world....more

What Man Is / Number 750, August 19, 1987

Aesthetic Realism arose from the greatest desire ever had by one person—to see all people truly and the world itself truly. This was Eli Siegel's desire. He was unswervingly and gracefully faithful to it, and he achieved it....

We print Mr. Siegel's “Questions for Everyone,” first published in 1949. Because Aesthetic Realism understands man, it is able to ask the questions, not asked before, that people need most to hear in order to have the lives they want....

The 1966 lecture by Mr. Siegel reported on here [about the work of African-American poet Sterling A. Brown] contains two urgently needed things: the Aesthetic Realism way of seeing poetry, and Aesthetic Realism’s justice about race.... more


The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known online:

*Current Issues: The most recent issues in which Aesthetic Realism explains the news, happenings in people's lives, events in history, and some of the most moving works in literature.

*National Ethics: What honest criteria can we use to be good critics of ethics on the national and international levels? Aesthetic Realism looks at ethics as to loyalty, international affairs, & more.

*Literature / Poetry: Discussing many great works of poetry and prose. Criticism, wrote Eli Siegel compactly, is showing "a good thing as good, a bad thing as bad, and a middling thing as middling."

*Love: How Aesthetic Realism describes the purpose of love—"to like the world honestly through another person." Discussion of what interferes with having real love—today and in history.

*Racism—the Cause & Solution: The Aesthetic Realism understanding of contempt as the cause of racism, and the place of aesthetics in respecting, pleasurably, people different from oneself.

*The Economy: Why our economic system has failed to meet the needs of the American people, and the Aesthetic Realism understanding of good will as the basis for successful and fair economics

*Education: The success of the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method in having students learn to read and write—learn science, social studies, art, every subject—and be kinder, less angry, less prejudiced.

*Eli Siegel Day in Baltimore: Talks given on August 16, 2002, Eli Siegel's Centenary, placing Mr. Siegel and Aesthetic Realism, his work, in terms of world culture and history.

*Art: "Aesthetic Realism sees the purpose of art as, from the beginning, the liking of the world more..."

*Archives: The rich education provided by Aesthetic Realism in issues of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known which are online.

Aesthetic Realism Foundation online

The most comprehensive source of information about Aesthetic Realism is the website of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—and the sites connected to it, including this one. You can start, for instance, at the Foundation's home page. Then, go on to biographical information about Eli Siegel, who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941. You will see how the education he began teaching in those years continues now in Aesthetic Realism consultations and in public dramatic presentations and seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—as well as in the Foundation's Outreach Programs for seniors, young people, libraries, teachers. Meanwhile in the schools of New York, the dramatically effective Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method has enabled students to learn, to love learning, and to pass standardized examinations for three decades. And artists since 1955 have exhibited at the Terrain Gallery for which many have written commentaries (including on their own works), based on the philosophic principles of Aesthetic Realism. You can read about Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education online, as well as about every person on the faculty of the Foundation. As editor of TRO her commentaries are in every issue (see, e.g., "Nature, Romanticism, & Harry Potter"; "Clothing and Emotion"; and "Jobs, Discontent, and Beauty"). In the Aesthetic Realism Online Library, you'll find the largest single repository of reviews, articles in the press, lectures, poetry; and The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known. In 2002, Eli Siegel' s centenary, the Governor of Maryland and the Mayor of Baltimore, the city where he grew up, wrote on the meaning to America of Aesthetic Realism and its founder. So did the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, in the U.S. Congressional Record.

Selected Resources online

People in America's diverse professions—the humanities, the arts, education, the social sciences, medicine, labor—have written on the value of Aesthetic Realism. They describe the way Aesthetic Realism teaches people how to understand themselves more accurately; how the ability to be just to other people is enhanced; how one's professional attainments are augmented. Language arts teacher Leila Rosen, for example, writes on the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. Anthropologist Arnold Perey writes on the way Aesthetic Realism opposes prejudice and improves international understanding. And there are many others. Historically, new knowledge has often been met unjustly. This was true about the new, innovative thought of Louis Pasteur and John Keats, Beethoven and William Lloyd Garrison, Jonas Salk and Isaac Newton. And it has been true about Aesthetic Realism. Documenting and opposing this, the website "Friends of Aesthetic Realism — Countering the Lies," written by more than 60 individuals, refutes the falsehoods of the few persons who have attacked Aesthetic Realism and lets the facts speak for themselves. People who want to express their opinion of Aesthetic Realism, and have the knowledge to back it up, have created blogs and websites and have written numerous articles. See, for example, composer and educator Edward Green; essayist Lynette Abel; photographer Len Bernstein; teachers Ann Richards, Christopher Balchin, and Alan Shapiro. Others are listed in "What People Are Saying." The education of Aesthetic Realism enables a person to understand oneself more exactly than has been possible before, and to like the world honestly, authentically.

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