The Eyes of Jane Elliott


| September 11, 2000


The Eyes of Jane Elliott

For more than thirty years, teacher Jane Elliott has been conducting anti-racism workshops in Riceville, Iowa elementary school classrooms, writes Brigitta Kral in Horizon Magazine. After the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, Elliott asked a few of her white students, who, living in small town Iowa, had no contact with children of color, what they thought of black people. Receiving answers like 'they stink' and 'they're dirty,' Elliott decided to try a little exercise.

Titling it 'Blue Eyes Brown Eyes,' she sectioned the students into groups of blue and brown eyes. Those with blue eyes were denied classroom rights, including drinking directly from the water fountain and seconds at lunch time, and she said that all blue-eyed people were stupid and lazy. What she discovered was that the kids who were told they were stupid, began to believe it and act like it -- and vice versa. In her classroom, she had created an ahistorical microcosm of America's race problem.

Today she has taken this project on the road as a freelance diversity trainer. By conducting anti-racism workshops, she teaches white students of all ages an important lesson in psychology: racism is an arbitrary creation. And, as she puts it, 'if you can create it, you can destroy it.' -- Amanda Luker
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