We Are Repeating The Discrimination Experiment Every Day, Says Educator Jane Elliott

We Are Repeating The Discrimination Experiment Every Day, Says Educator Jane Elliott


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Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The character assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 prompted educator Jane Elliott to create the now-famous “ blue eyes/brown eyes use. ” As a school teacher in the small town of Riceville, Iowa, Elliott first conducted the anti-racism experiment on her all-white third-grade classroom, the day after the civil rights drawing card was killed. She wanted them to understand what discrimination felt like. Elliott split her students into two groups, based on eye discolor. She told them that people with brown eyes were ranking to those with blue eyes, for reasons she made up. Brown-eyed people, she told the students, are smarter, more civilize and better than blue-eyed people. More than 50 years after she first tried that exercise in her classroom, Elliott, now 87, said she sees much more make left to do to change racist attitudes. The May 25 toss off of George Floyd set off weeks of countrywide protests over the patrol abuse and racism against black people, plunging the U.S. into a calculate of racial inequality. “ It ‘s happening every day in this area, right now, ” she said in an interview with Morning Edition. “ We are repeating the blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercise on a daily basis. ”

When Elliott first conducted the exercise in 1968, brown-eyed students were given special privileges. She said she watched and was horrified at what she saw.

The students started to internalize, and accept, the characteristics they ‘d been randomly assigned based on the color of their eyes. Elliott started to see her own white prerogative, even her own ignorance. At her lunch break that day in the teacher ‘s sofa, she told her colleagues about the exert. One teacher ended up displaying the lapp bigotry Elliott had spent the morning trying to fight. “ She said, on the sidereal day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, ‘ I do n’t know why you ‘re doing that — I thought it was about time person film that son of a gripe, ‘ “ she said. “ not one of them reprimanded her for that or even corrected her. They all either smiled or laughed and nodded. ” The interaction merely strengthened Elliott ‘s decide. She decided to continue the exercise with her students after lunch. “ No person of any age [ was ] going to leave my presence with those attitudes unchallenged, ” Elliott said. Two years by and by, a BBC objective captured the experiment in Elliott ‘s classroom. The presentation has since been taught by generations of teachers to millions of kids across the country .

however, Elliott said the last few years have brought out America ‘s worst racist tendencies. The empathy she works to inspire in students with the experiment, which has been modified over the years, is necessity, she said.

“ People of other color groups seem to understand, ” she said. “ credibly because they have been taught how they ‘re treated in this area — that they have to understand us. [ White people ] on the other hand, do n’t have to understand them. We have to let people find out how it feels to be on the receiving end of that which we dish out therefore promptly. ” But the protests happening now have given her hope. “ Things are changing, and they ‘re going to change quickly if we ‘re very, very fortunate, ” she said. “ If this surly change, if this negative transfer can happen this promptly, why ca n’t positive change happen that quickly ? I think it can. ”

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