As a white American who is an organist at a predominantly African-American church in New Jersey, I am ashamed of the racism that persists in our country. As a vivid and painful reminder of how virulent it still can be, this week Buford O. Furrow Jr. admitted in court--not from contrition, but for fear of his own life--that he brutally murdered Joseph Ileto, a Filipino-American postman in Los Angeles in August, 1999, simply because Mr. Ileto wasn't white. He also wounded that day five people, including children, at the North Valley Jewish Community Center--again, because in his mind they represented a people and a religion he felt he had the right to despise.

We need to ask: What state of mind brings a person to act in these horrific ways? And what do these terrible events have to do with the everyday racism that doesn't make it to the headlines--the racism, for instance, that can show itself in a factory cafeteria as a man gets a table of friends to laugh at a "joke" which makes millions of people of a different skin color look ridiculous?

Eli Siegel, the great educator who founded the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, and the most honest man America has ever known, explained that racism begins with the hope for contempt--the "false importance or glory" a person gets by making less of the reality of other people.

Before a person can participate in a racist act--can make an unkind joke, use a demeaning word, refuse to hire someone or rent to him, or even attack him on the streets--that person, I learned, first has to have years of everyday contempt, moment after moment in which there is a lack of desire to see who other people are and what they deserve. No one begins life racist; but all of us can yield to the temptation of wanting to feel superior to other people, especially when we feel unsure of ourselves. This is one reason why racism can flourish at times of economic uncertainty--times like our own.

And it is this hope for contempt, Aesthetic Realism explains--the desire to think other people's feelings are less important than our own, that we have a right to put aside, even annihilate their feelings any time we please--that, quietly accumulating over the years, lead eventually to the terrible things which shock us in the newspapers.

In his book JAMES AND THE CHILDREN, a consideration of THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James, Eli Siegel writes:

One of the clearest places where contempt can be seen as the cause of racism is in the terrible wave of church burnings. The media and the government have largely "dropped" the story, but the truth is, the burnings continue, and most of the arsonists have not yet been apprehended and brought to justice.

I know from my work as a church musician that there are large emotions bound up with a church building--the emotions of many people: what they felt as they saw baptisms, weddings, funerals; as they sang hymns, heard sermons, and had moments of deep spiritual feeling--of sweet and large gratitude to God. All this emotion matters, is real, runs very deep--and whoever burns a church scorns it all; feels he has a right to turn it into nothing.

Contempt is a national danger. It is also a personal emergency. It is what causes the everyday pain between men and women, parents and children. It is at work in every conversation where we talk, not to understand another person, but to have our way with them.

At the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City, a not-for-profit educational foundation, where I am honored to be on the faculty, people are learning the alternative--the one honest, intelligent use of our minds--the hope for respect. Respect is the feeling--the accurate feeling--that we grow bigger every time we try to be fair to what is not ourselves. Respect is what our minds were meant for--it is the sanest, the most beautiful emotion. And I learned from Aesthetic Realism that respect for people begins with asking, and honestly trying to answer, this greatly kind and urgently necessary question which Eli Siegel first presented: "What does a person deserve by being a person?" It is impossible to think deeply about this question and hurt another person.


EDWARD GREEN is a professor at Manhattan School of Music He is the composer of the music for the award-winning public service film sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and produced by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Ken Kimmelman, "What Does A Person Deserve?" The Aesthetic Realism Foundation is located at 141 Greene Street, NY, NY 10012; tel. (212) 777-4490. Its web site is

-- Edward Green (, January 24, 2001


I think that your essay was quite correct in the assumption that racist individuals feel as though they have had a bad run of life and that they are allowed to make others, whom are deemed inferior, feel as they once did. Racisim is a disease that everyone has to pull together and discover a cure. People are People and until eveyone learns that God has put us here to learn this, we will perish together.

-- Latrice Phillips (, April 14, 2001.

I believe racism is caused by a person's parents. You are not born racist. I've never seen a baby go "I hate those niggers!" I believe its taught by either their parents or society. I believe we need to change society then we can end racism.

-- Curtis McCORmack (, November 20, 2002.

I like racism, I can't spell it, but I know what it means. Racism is bad, and it is good. Blacks should have their equal rights, but still, #@$# the @#$#ing mexicans! I myself am Canadian, and I believe that we are the superior race. All those Nipps and rice eyes, and red faced bastards, and mexi fries. Free the blacks, but kill everyone else. Oh by the way, Chris how could you? You said that you would never cheat on me again. I hope your happpy, it's over!

-- matt schmidy (, November 26, 2002.

I think it's terrible that there are so many of you out there that find racism and bigotry funny. I think that it is equally terrible that you choose to waste your time posting such stupid and asinine remarks on this site. It's too bad that we (call us politically correct nigger-loving, lox and bagel-eating, mariachi band listening- to liberals) can't ship YOU off to a place where you can get together and hate as many different kinds of people much as you like. The only problems you would have is that once you've been removed from civilized society, you'd have to start hating eachother.

So who's first? The red-heads, the brunettes?

-- Valarie Phillips (, August 18, 2003.

Why can't racism stop! America is to blame for this. For days, weeks,months,years,decades,centureys, the usa has been fighting with all countrys heratige culture's they act as if they are God and that they shall onlt be worshiped!!! But as brothers and sisters we must come out with a cause TO STOP racism we have diffrent skin color but are blood is the same color isn't it? I only worship GOd and only God!-Niftlem Werede

_Niftlem Werede 01/26/04 (Sioux Falls S,D) I am not ashamed!

-- Niftlem Werede (, January 26, 2004.

Hello to all, I would like to invite you to two cutting edge websites/Forums on how to replace Racism/White Supremacy with Justice:

Thank-you for your time.

-- Non-White Person (, March 12, 2004.

Hello to all, I would like to invite you to two cutting edge websites/Forums on how to replace Racism/White Supremacy with Justice:

Thank-you for your time.

-- Non-White Person (, March 12, 2004.

hello f***

-- asgj jjjjf (, July 05, 2004.

hi gooners

-- hi (, July 05, 2004.

Racisim is based on the false belief that "some" races are inherently superior to others because of different skin color, nationality ethnic, or cultural backgorund. If we neglect to believe that Society would be better off and better palce to live think about we say "United We Stand," but Divided We Stand and if everybody rules out that belief we can be a great Society. Think sabout it

-- D. Alex (, September 17, 2004.

Racism is White Supremacy.

There is only one purpose for a "race" of people and that is to practice "racism". The only functioning "race" of people on the planet are people who classify themselves as and function as "white".

Racism is the mistreatment of people on the basis of color. The only people on this planet who are qualified to mistreat all of the people who they say are "colored people" are the people who classify themselves as and function as "white".

Any mistreatment that takes place on this planet among people only serves to support "white supremacy". The white people who practice white supremacy (racism) use non-white people to mistreat other non- white people when it suits their purposes. The white supremacists (racists) use two forms of mistreatment against the people they say are not white (non-white), deceit and direct violence. I say direct violence because deceit itself is a form of violence. When you are fooling someone, to their detriment, you are committing violence against that person.

All white people are not white supremacists (racists) but you do have to be white in order to be a white supremacists (racists). This is a choice white people make, to participate in a system that was in place when they were born, or to participate in replacing the system of white supremacy (racism) with a system of justice.

Justice being, a system that guarantees no person is mistreated and also guarantees the person that needs help the most get the most help.

-- Edward Williams (, December 22, 2004.


-- Homer Simpson (, February 28, 2005.

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