I’d like to continue our reflections on Racism in America with two articles that I’ve selected on the subject—one that was an experiment that has been used over the years to get people to realize their prejudices by the woman who developed them.
The second article is about how the Roman Catholic Church is and can possible assist in the future to combat racism. Here’s the first one . . .
A Teacher Held a Famous Racism Exercise in 1968. She’s Still at It.
The day after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Jane Elliott carried out the “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” exercise in her classroom. Now, people are returning to her work.
By Alisha Haridasani Gupta
“It makes me really angry that I’ve been saying these things for 52 years.”
— Jane Elliott, a schoolteacher turned anti-racism educator
As protest against racism started sweeping across America and rest of the world, clips of Jane Elliott, a schoolteacher turned anti-racism educator, began circulating on social media.
Perhaps you’ve seen them.
In one grainy clip in 2001, Ms. Elliott, with her signature round glasses and clipped white hair, gets into such a heated argument with a white female college student during an educational exercise about racism that the uncomfortable and distraught woman starts crying and storms out of the classroom.
“You just exercised a freedom that none of these people of color have,” Ms. Elliott tells the student, sternly. “When these people of color get tired of racism, they can’t just walk out.”
Or maybe you’ve seen the 2018 video of Ms. Elliott in a round-table discussion on racism with the actress and producer Jada Pinkett Smith, Ms. Pinkett Smith’s daughter, Willow, and Ms. Pinkett Smith’s mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
“I’m not a white woman. I’m a faded Black person,” Ms. Elliott says, stunning the hosts. “My people moved far from the Equator, and that’s the only reason my skin is lighter.”
“Wow,” Ms. Pinkett Smith says back. “I’m with you, Jane!”
Ms. Elliott, now 87, said she started teaching about racism on April 5, 1968 — the day after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
At the time, she was a third-grade schoolteacher in the all-white Iowa town of Riceville, and the news of Dr. King’s death so shocked and moved her that she threw out the lesson plan for the next day and came up with a new one that would force the children to experience prejudice and discrimination firsthand.
In what is now known as the “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” exercise, she split up her class into two groups based on an arbitrary characteristic: eye color. Those with blue eyes were better, smarter and superior to those with brown eyes, she told her students, and therefore they were entitled to perks, like more recess time and access to the water fountain.
Quickly, the dynamic of the room shifted. “I watched wonderful, thoughtful children turn into nasty, vicious, discriminating little third graders,” she explained, in a PBS documentary about her work.
The next day, she reversed the roles. Now the brown-eyed students were superior and had perks and the blue-eyed students were inferior.
For decades, Ms. Elliott repeated the exercise around the country, including in 1992 on the Oprah Winfrey Show and she would witness more or less the same outcome: people turning on each other on the basis of eye color.
Now, as the recent wave of demonstrations reaches every corner of the U. S., drawing more white people than previous protests against racism, Ms. Elliott’s work is thrust back in the spotlight.
And she’s sick and tired of it.
“I keep trying to tell people why racism has to stop, and they keep asking the same questions, like ‘How do we do that?’ and then continue to ignore the answers,” she said in a phone interview.
“It makes me really angry that I’ve been saying these things for 52 years.” ( Seems theres’ a coincidence here: She began her work the same day I was ordained a deacon, the day after Dr. King was murdered and she’s been doing this as long as I’ve been a priest.)
Now here’s the second one . . . .
Amid unrest, some say church can engage in fight against racism
Rhina Guidos /Crux Now.com Jul 12, 2020