Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Honesty About Racism Is an Emergency!

                                                    Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

The murder of nine African-American men and women at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, recently, by an avowedly racist, young white man has shocked the nation.  Also shocking is the fact that he had numerous conversations with friends and acquaintances both in person and on social media in which he pretty much described what he wanted to do.

                                                    Vigil in Washington DC for the victims

What Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, wrote 18 years ago -- when the killer was three years old -- explains the state of mind of a racist, and it needs to be studied and known.  If it had been, this brutality would not have occurred.

I do not usually quote such a long passage, but in this case I think it's necessary.  Racism needs to be understood -- really understood -- and seen as arising from something that is in the human self, everyone's self.  Otherwise there will be intensity but not the incisive thoughtfulness that is needed for evil to be truly and deeply opposed, where it begins, in everyone. 

Before the section I am quoting, Ms. Reiss described beautifully how this 15-year old girl, Heather Norris, like every person, had an unconscious debate about how to see the world she was born into -- with a desire to see, know, be affected by the things and people she saw; or to have contempt and feel she would be more herself by lessening them, being unaffected, scornful. 

Then Ellen Reiss writes:
Heather was bewildered by the world she met. Her parents, being human, confused her. They could buy her presents and tell her she was gorgeous, brilliant, “the most special girl in the world,” and then sometimes they could seem not interested in her at all. Further, she came to feel her parents were stupid for praising her so lavishly and that other people were cold and mean for not doing so. She disliked the world because she saw some bad things in it: she saw selfishness in people, and her keen ears discerned hypocrisy. But she also disliked the world for being complicated, for confusing her, for having so many different things and happenings and people that she couldn’t understand fast and that didn’t give her her way. 
By the time she was eight, this representative person was in a contest with the world different from her—that contest which is contempt. She went after feeling sure and important through feeling other things were deeply separate from her, that the reality within herself was warmer, profounder, more precious than the reality outside her. She did not see the other children in her third grade class as having the insides she had—the full range of feelings, the thoughts in bed at night—even though she could play energetically with those children and giggle with them. There was a big desire in Heather—a representative, ordinary, terrible desire, simmering along hour by hour—to punish the world, beat it out, to feel she mattered by showing other things didn’t matter, weren’t good enough for her. She liked making fun of her teacher with her friends. She felt like she was important then—that someone who had made her feel she needed to learn things wasn’t as good as she was.
When Heather saw a girl whose skin was a color different from hers, she, without knowing it, was seeing someone who vividly embodied the world as different from her, a world she wanted to defeat.  Heather seized the opportunity to despise this girl and others with that different skin color. The feeling of revulsion and superiority she had as to them was the fake, horrible, yet ferociously desired victory of contempt: of feeling she was somebody just because she could look down on what was different.
Ma. Reiss shows that racism is a matter of aesthetics: it is the opposites of sameness and difference seen in an ugly, hurtful, untrue way.  And here she gives the kind, definitive ANSWER to racism:
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. It will happen when America is studying Aesthetic Realism.  
This is the most powerful, urgent and kind writing I've seen on the subject.  Read more in "Racism Can End," The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known #1264

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Aesthetic Realism Shows There Are Two Kinds of Imagination

There is an article on the website of Aesthetic Realism Associate Steven Weiner that explains why racism exists.  It's not directly about racism at all; in fact, he takes up the life and work of Mexican artist Diego Rivera.  But as he describes two kinds of imagination, both in his own life and in that of the great muralist, he is dealing with the thing that causes racism.  For instance, near the beginning he writes:  

"I’ve learned that our imagination is working well when we use it to think about the world and people deeply and fairly. But there is that in every man that can use his imagination badly–to alter the world into something smaller and uglier, a world he has the right to feel superior to and have contempt for. This contempt hurts a man’s life very much."

Isn't every instance of racism a changing of the world (in the form of another human being, looking different from oneself) "...into something smaller and uglier, a world he has the right to feel superior to and have contempt for"?

Clearly, the answer is "yes." There is no racism without the desire to lessen another person in order to feel superior oneself.  And one of the things I care for in Mr. Weiner's paper is that he also illustrates how the impulsion to art in a person comes from the opposite, from the imagination that wants to "...think about the world and people deeply and fairly." This, he shows, is the imagination from which all works of art, including those stirring Diego Rivera murals, and also all human kindness, comes.

As I read this, I understood myself better and I think you will find the same is true for yourself.  Then, think of how different, how much safer, kinder, more beautiful society would be if this knowledge were being taken up and studied by government officials, education leaders, community organizers, as well as individuals now.