Thought we’d post this series of video by Jane Elliot. It’s needed now more than ever. Remember the Blue-Eyed experiment?
While there are variations of the story, the exercise Elliott developed for her third grade class in Riceville, Iowa was a result of Martin Luther King’s assassination. According to one biographer, on the evening of April 4, 1968, Jane Elliott turned on her television to find out about the assassination. One scene she says that she remembers vividly is that of a (white) reporter, with the microphone pointed toward a local black leader asking “When our leader (John F. Kennedy) was killed several years ago, his widow held us together. Who’s going to control your people?” It was supposedly there, in her living room, that she decided to combine a lesson she had planned about Native Americans with the lesson done about King for February’s Hero of the Month. To tie the two, she would use the saying “Oh Great Spirit, keep me from ever judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”
The following day she had a class discussion about it and about racism in general. But she states “And I could see that they weren’t internalizing a thing. They were doing what white people do. When white people sit down to discuss racism what they are experiencing is shared ignorance.” She states her lesson plan for that day was to learn the Sioux prayer about not judging someone without walking in his/her moccasins and “I treated them as we treat Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, women, people with disabilities.”
The original idea for the exercise came from the novel Mila 18 by Leon Uris, published in 1961, about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during World War II. One of the ways they decided who went into the gas chamber, according to the novel and history, was eye color.
Because most of her 8-year-old students had, like Jane, been born and were being raised in a small town in Iowa and had seen black people only on television, she felt that simply talking about racism would not allow her all-white class to fully comprehend racism’s meaning and effects.
NOW ON WITH THE SERIES!
“The Angry Eye” | parts 1- 2 | Brown Eye-Blue Eye Experiment