If you haven’t heard of the blue eyes/brown eyes experiment, well, we probably run in very different circles.
But that’s okay. I still like you. So, if you haven’t, here’s your chance to play catch up with the rest of us.
It was a classic study done in the 1960s by Jane Elliott the day after Dr. Martin Luther King was shot. She divided up her third-grade class, filled with White students, by the color of their eyes. The exercise (which she has continued to do throughout her career) labels participants, usually students, as inferior or superior based only on the color of their eyes. The point of this exercise is for students to experience how it feels to be a minority. The results are pretty emotional.
She’s a diversity educator, an anti-racism activist, a feminist, an LGBTQ activist, and a self-proclaimed “resident bitch” when necessary.
What I love most about her message, is that she doesn’t let people off the hook when they get frustrated or angry. Because, guess what, that would be using their privilege.
Take a look at one of her latest videos, The Angry Eye, and see if you’d be able to stand up to the few minutes of feeling inferior at the hands of Jane Elliott.
Understand, that I am very well aware of the other forms of discrimination that exist in our world. And in some way, shape, or, form, most of us have felt discriminated against at some points in our lives. Maybe even our whole lives. I can personally tell you that being an African American straight MAE/AAE-speaking female from a middle-income environment has had some pros…and a helluva lot of cons.
But, when you live in a country that has put laws in place to keep you inferior because of the color of your skin, that has continually used institutionalized racism to keep people of a certain skin color subordinate, and then those same people inevitably become disadvantaged in our society and get blamed for not performing at or reaching the same levels as others who have had privilege and resources their whole lives, then it’s a whole ‘nother story we’re talkin’ about.
And if you haven’t made the connection between race and language yet, read my previous posts.
As strange as it may sound to some people to do an experiment where people are discriminated against because of their eye color, well then what could we possibly think about our reality where people are discriminated against because of their skin color?