Thursday, July 30, 2015


I've just read a powerful, passionate letter by Aesthetic Realism consultant Nancy Huntting. It was published eleven and a half years ago in her home town, Cincinnati, Ohio.  She wrote it following the brutal beating and death of Nathaniel Jones, an unarmed African-American man, by Cincinnati police.  Yet today, more than a decade later, Americans woke up to this:
A University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted Wednesday on a murder charge in what a prosecutor called "a senseless, asinine shooting" of an unarmed man during a minor traffic stop.  New York Times, July 30, 2015 
 And, it should be added, brutal and barbaric. It is at least good that there has been an indictment this time; and it is important that there is an increasingly vocal outrage around the nation; but why is this still happening, over and over again?  And what will stop it?
Ms Huntting's letter has the following paragraphs:
“As soon as you have contempt,” Eli Siegel explained, “as soon as you don’t want to see another person as having the fullness that you have, you can rob that person, hurt that person, kill that person.” I’m sure that if contempt is studied and understood, tragedies like this — and racism in cities across this nation — can end.  
I grew up in Glendale, and though my family didn’t see ourselves as prejudiced we took it for granted that being white made us superior to persons with darker skin. This narrow-minded, deeply ignorant way of seeing hurt each of our lives — as it does every person who has it. When I was able to learn about my own contempt and see how it weakened me, I changed in many ways. I became much happier and more the person I hoped to be through wanting to know other people and honestly try to be fair to them.  
Humanity will not be civilized until the contempt that begins quietly in all of us is seen for what it is and criticized straight — as I’m grateful mine has been — and people learn to see the difference of others as truly adding to them, making them more. 
What Nancy Huntting writes is courageous and must be known -- and there is much more on her website.  People don't see clearly that our own prejudice hurts us! It is urgent for America and the world to study the meaning of contempt, and the magnificent, proud, beautiful alternative.  In 1997, Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, wrote:
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.  [Read the whole essay here] 
I love this and see it as some of the most important writing ever. It is utterly logical and yet intensely passionate at once; impelled by good will for people and reality. It reminds me of a recording of "For Once In My Life," a duet by Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder.
It was taken up critically by Aesthetic Realism associate Michael Palmer. He spoke about how it showed a beautiful relation of independence and need, in the way the singers worked.  They add to each other, bring out each other's strength so magnificently and artistically, and are so utterly expressed as individuals.  What they sing, their styles, are so different, but they complement each other and bring something new to the song which, if sung separately as solos, it would lack.  Here it is on YouTube

And this is a partial interview with them that's moving. What a world we'll have when the way of mind their singing exemplifies becomes a way of life through the study of Aesthetic Realism.     

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Aesthetic Realism & "The Heart Knows Better" by Ken Kimmelman

I love this award-winning anti-racism PSA film by Aesthetic Realism consultant and filmmaker,  Ken Kimmelman, "The Heart Knows Better":

I've used it in high school social studies classes in New York City over the years and have been struck by the impact it has in such a short time. It's needed now more than ever. 

Mr. Kimmelman is a noted speaker on the solution to racism and bullying. He also teaches a terrific class on film at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, full of knowledge about the history and technique of film-making at one with the seeing of great meaning in each movie he takes up.    

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