This is Jane Elliot:
In the 1960’s, Elliot was a school teacher during America’s toughest growing pains. What was going on? The Civil Rights Movement was picking up momentum, there was a feeling of hope for blacks in our country. . . and then Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.
Elliot wanted to make a point to the children in her classroom that prejudice exists in the worst possible ways. So she made a plan to create a hostile environment by separating the brown eyed children from the blue eyed children. The results were stunning.
Blue eyed children were told how inferior they were. Blue Eyes were stupid, loud, uncouth and simply didn’t measure up to their Brown Eye neighbors. Like any self-fulfilled prophecy, the Blue Eyes started to believe in their own inferiority. They were quiet, sullen children who were doubtful of their abilities. The Brown Eyes bought into it too. They felt empowered and entitled to behave however they wanted towards the Blue Eyes simply because of their biological difference.
I’m assuming that because all of these children were white, Elliot switched the power roles the next day to see how the children would react to the shift. As you can predict, the Blue Eyes came back with a vengeance. Having known what discrimination felt like, they were quite ready for some respect! Of course, the Brown Eyes got poor treatment and found out what its like to be disenfranchised.
What happened in that classroom, so long ago, stuck with those children forever. And Elliot went on to conduct this Blue/Brown Eye experiment many more times. In fact, she’s a motivational speaker that educates people in schools and companies on discrimination. She investigates discrimination not just in color, but gender, sexual orientation and any other prejudice you can come up with.
Please watch how she works.
She’s rough but she does raise a good point. You can’t just turn racism off with the flip of a switch. When I walk out into the world, the first thing people will see is that I’m a black woman. I can’t turn that off. I have to live with it. The students that were getting verbally assaulted felt terrible and I felt terrible for them. But like Elliot says, once they get back into the “real” world, they will go back to being “normal” The black students won’t have that choice.
I hope, on the eve of Black History Month, this is enlightening.