If you have never heard of Jane Elliot, she’s a tough-as-nails former teacher who gives unbelievably powerful talks and workshops on racism around the world. She deserves massive respect for the work she’s been doing for decades upon decades. She’s been on Oprah and on a UK television program called “The Event.” This is a program you’re not likely to ever see re-packaged for US audiences (unless it’s on daytime talk TV).
Here it is, again, very powerful and worth a double-take. Can you imagine a high school sociology class (or even a college class) watching this? How many heads would roll? Very powerful and we dare you to watch and get engaged with it.
English: Hello! (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Are people with blue eyes superior to people with brown eyes? After watching the videos below, you tell me.
The children were told that those with blue eyes were superior to those with brown eyes; and that the blue eyed children would be allowed more play time and receive other perks as well – since, of course, they were not as messy or as slow as the brown-eyed children.
After a little while, the brown eyed children were forced to wear special collars, and were more regularly mocked and derided by blue eyed students for perceived flaws and slovenly character traits.
If a brown eyed child make a mistake or was slow or cried, it would be pointed out that it was because of that child’s inferior state of being. S/he couldn’t help it, because sh/e was just naturally inferior, anyway.
Jan Elliot is a pioneer in what is now called “diversity training,” or “sensitivity training,” before it existed as now know it.
Undoubtedly, Jane Elliot could not teach children her anti-racism instruction in today’s private or parochial schools without eventually having some manner of legal action taken against her-and certainly she has (and continues to) receive negative or misunderstood reactions to what she’s trying to inculcate in (now) adults.
She came to the conclusion eventually that racism and prejudice are indeed taught, but that also, more importantly, that what can be taught can also be un-taught…at least to some extent.
Of course, “un-learning” (to paraphrase George W. Bush) racism takes time. Lots of time. And she’s a strong-willed, conscientious educator for continuing her mission.
If you’d like to learn more about Jane Elliot’s experiences in teaching “anti-racism” and how she does it, watch the videos below. The videos below only show the proverbial tip of the iceberg in terms of the work and commitment Ms. Elliott has shown toward trying to end taught racism.