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Reprinted from.....

Volume 40      Number 4      April 1999
 American Anthropological Association

Cause of Racism

For anthropology to be relevant to ending the horror of racism today, we must be able to answer these two desperately urgent questions: (1) What is the cause of racism? and (2) How can it be eliminated completely from human social relations? These two questions were not answered in the writing in the September 1998 issue of the AA [American Anthropologist].

     In over 30 years of careful study, I have seen that Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded by the great educator Eli Siegel (1902-1978), answers these critical questions. I describe how in the article "Aesthetic Realism: the Solution to Racism," published on the website The Black World Today ( and reprinted by the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, on whose faculty I teach ( 

     As I have had the privilege to show in anthropology classes I have taught since the 1970's, Eli Siegel's unparalleled scientific understanding of the human self-the self which is in common among and underlies all cultures-makes relevant to people living today the work done by anthropologists for generations-from Tylor, to Spencer and Gillen, to Grinnell, to Benedict, to Herskovits, to Napoleon Chagnon and Richard B. Lee. 

     The place of contempt in the human mind is understood only by Aesthetic Realism. Contempt, the "disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world," is the fundamental cause of cruelty in cultures everywhere (see Self and World, 1981, pp. 1, 15). Contempt is what Ashley Montagu is describing in Man: His First Two Million Years when he writes, "Many tribes call themselves by names which mean in effect 'we-are-men,' implying that all others are not" (1969, p. 182). Contempt has impelled people without their being able to identify it or combat it. The desire to have contempt has driven scholars to attack another's interpretation or theory. It has impelled husbands to patronize a wife's intellect. Racism itself is contempt for the world that takes the form of contempt for persons different from oneself. This contempt was taken to a horrible intensity when a white man dragged a black man to death in Jasper, Texas. 

     There is nothing more important for an anthropologist--a person whose career stands for justice to cultural difference--than to make sure we use all our resources to end that brutal, unjust, murderous way of seeing people that is racism. The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel provides the means. Therefore, it is more than ever necessary that anthropologists study it. (I use the phrase "Victim of the Press" because the boycott of Aesthetic Realism by members of the press-including the academic press-has hurt lives incalculably, including my own. I tell of this unethical and unjust boycott, and its cause, in the article I refer to in this letter.) 

Arnold Perey
Aesthetic Realism Consultant

Home Page: Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology & Sociology
Aesthetic Realism Foundation
Aesthetic Realism Online Library
Links to Aesthetic Realism Resources
John Singer Sargent's Madame X, an Aesthetic Realism Discussion
Essays and News Pieces about Aesthetic Realism
The Place of Aesthetic Realism in Culture,"Friends of Aesthetic Realism — Countering the Lies

Anti-Racism Resources:

See the page titled " How Aesthetic Realism Opposes Racism." The practical and deep articles on the Web include, too, "On Racism & How to End It" by Nancy Huntting; Allan Michael's "It Is In Contempt That the Root of Racism Lies"; Alice Bernstein's "Poems by Eli Siegel about Martin Luther King and America" and the book she edited: Aesthetic Realism and the Answer to Racism. Other articles include, "The Genome & Equality""Words, Truth, & the Confederate Flag"; "Fascism, Understood At Last!"; "Aesthetic Realism: The Solution to Racism""Contempt, the Cause of Racism""Queen's Visit to Amritsar" by Christopher Balchin. And articles by New York teachers who show how the standard curriculum, K-12, can be used to encourage kindness include: "Prejudice Changes to Respect" and "Students Learn, Prejudice Is Defeated!"

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