How Does Jane Elliott's Blue Eyes/Brown Exercise Work?
The past fifty, two years teacher and diversity trainer Jane Elliott has been stirring up trouble on the subject of racism. It can still be uncomfortable squirm in your seat stare at your shoes uncomfortable when she subject someone to the very same exercise she I unleashed on third graders more than half a century ago designed to expose racist thinking. Something, her method can get downright mean but again, the subject is racism, it should be troubling. Elliott came to prominence when the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior in nineteen, sixty, eight, sheep herself a white woman took her classroom of all white third graders in. Riceville Iowa and decided to teach them what it was like to face discrimination. She separated the kids into two groups those with Brown eyes and those with blue and proceeded to proclaim the. Brown. Is these superior group she allowed the group extra privileges more time recess seats at the front of the room they were told they were cleaner smarter more talented. How children reacted to this newfound pecking order was startling. The Brown eyed group immediately began to wield their dominance. The blue is almost immediately slipped into the role of subordinates. Anger flared disputes popped up. After switching roles a few days later, which gave both sides of the classroom taste of being in the lesser group the exercise ended. Many parents complained after reading about what had happened in Elliott's classroom through student essays printed in the local paper. A month or so later, Johnny Carson invited Elliott to appear on his late night talk show she became a national story. Many praised efforts at her students is but not everybody a two, thousand five storied Sonian magazine reported hundreds, viewers, wrote letters, saying Elliott's work appalled them how dare you try this cruel experiment out on white children? One said black children grow up accustomed to such behavior but white children, there's no way they could possibly understand it. It's cruel to white children and will cause them great psychological damage. Elliott spoke with us for the article that this episode is based on from her home in Iowa. She said, you think that's traumatizing try living that way for a lifetime. Elliott taught for years before she decided to take her anti-racism lesson out of the classroom and Corporate America. She's also led the exercise for the US Department of Education and other governmental groups. She's appeared before numerous church and school assemblies she was on. Oprah Winfrey's TV show several times in June of twenty twenty. She appeared on the tonight show starring Jimmy Fallon. She often faces uncomfortable and sometimes angry reactions but her goal as it has been for the past fifty two years is education. She says, it's the best weapon against racism. But good education about racism and race is hard to find. Elliott said, that's because the educators believe the same thing that they were taught and they were taught the same thing I was, which is that there are three or four different races and you can tell what a man's intelligence is by the color of his skin or the shape of his head. You can't lead people out of ignorance if you're still teaching the Columbus discovered America and we came here to civilize these savages. Will need to teach the three RS of rights respect responsibility if teachers would respect the rights of those students to learn the truth and be held responsible for seeing that they present them with the truth we could kill racism in two generations is not a doubt in my mind that could be done. Elliott at eighty seven years. Old has seen. America, grapple with racism all her life. She's marked major mile posts in the struggle over the past fifty years or so the civil rights movement and the assassination of doctor king in the sixties, the race riots in Miami's Liberty City in nineteen eighty and in Los. Angeles after the Rodney King beating in nineteen ninety, two, the protests in Ferguson. Missouri and twenty fourteen after the killing of Michael Brown and in Baltimore Maryland in two thousand fifteen after that of Freddie Gray and in Charleston south. Carolina. That same year after a church massacre. There are many others. But the problem she has been relentlessly attacking Elliott says, goes far beyond the occasional race-based. Clara. For people of Color in the United States facing racism is an everyday fight every minute of every day. Elliot said. It's only been going on with me for fifty two years. I know black women who have been doing this for eighty nine years and their mothers did and their grandmothers dead and their great is dead and their daughters and their granddaughters and their great granddaughters are going to have to do. It must be get off our polyunsaturated fatty acids and do something about this. I get paid to talk about it. They aren't even allowed to talk about it. One of the biggest hurdles in educating people about racism in the United States Elliott says is that most everyone knows it exists and knows that it's harmful but few are motivated to change it. She stood in front of. and asked who among the white people in the room would want to switch places with a black person no one ever volunteers. She cautions that recognizing the problem is only the first step but Elliott is nothing if not persistent, she says, she'll continue to educate for the next fifty years. She'll push her mantra of one race the science behind the simple words it's clear. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute your genome, the bodies blueprint that contains all of your DNA is ninety, nine point nine percent the same as every human around you. And she says, she will urge people to get out and vote November no hope of electing leaders who will attack racism as she has had on.