Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Aesthetic Realism Explains the Cause of Racism

I can hardly believe that yet another brutal instance of racism is shocking Americans this week.  Sandra Bland died in her jail cell, three days after being pulled over for allegedly failing to signal.  How did a supposedly routine traffic stop result in the death of this young African-American woman from Chicago who had just won a position at Prairie View University in Texas? 

Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, wrote about racism in this week's issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known, titled "Art versus Racism."  She wrote about that young man, Dylann Roof, who murdered nine African-Americans in South Carolina after sitting with them, being welcomed by them, for one hour in a bible class.  See below for part of what she wrote, which I respect immensely and am learning from.  Though the situation with Ms. Bland was different, we can be sure that if the contempt described here were being studied nationally, she would be alive today.      
For America to understand racial prejudice, and stop it, there are two Aesthetic Realism principles that our nation needs to study.
The first is this, stated by Mr. Siegel: “The greatest danger or temptation of man is to get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not oneself; which lessening is Contempt.” Contempt, he showed, “is a continuous, unseen desire” in everyone. This desire to be more by making other things and persons less, is the source of all injustice, from the ordinary to the gigantic. Contempt can be a person’s inner sneer of pleasure in feeling that somebody has bad taste in clothes—because the other’s tasteless outfit shows that we are superior. Contempt is the quiet assumption in millions of households that other families are simply inferior to ours. All over America, family members are eagerly looking down on the neighbors together (even though the same family members can fight among themselves and resent each other).
Contempt makes for things other than racism, but racism always begins with contempt and is contempt. And it won’t be understood until contempt itself—including that which is one’s very own—is looked at and criticized.
Through feeling that millions of human beings with a different skin tone are inferior, a person gives himself an automatic supremacy. He doesn’t have to know anything, work to learn anything, question himself: he’s superior, and therefore just fine. As he looks with intense scorn at a man or woman with darker skin, as he utters a sleazy epithet, he seems to rid himself (for the moment) of his self-dislike and deep unsureness. He has instead a vicious triumph. Of course, the triumph does not last, because it is fake, and his self-dislike comes back, and increases.
I am moved by what Ms. Reiss wrote at the end of her commentary:
We’re told Roof said about the people he gunned down, that he “almost didn’t go through with it because they were so nice” to him. But,“I knew I had to complete my mission.” That means: he would not let his contempt be interfered with by the facts. Kindness is a fact—including the kindness of people one is trying to hate.
Read more here