Motivational Monday – Blue Eyed

Hey my loves,
it is time for another Motivational Monday from my dear friend Miri. I hope you enjoy her entry as much as I did and maybe think about it what she wrote. I wish you all an amazing week and stay tuned for more to come!
Xoxo, Jasmin.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I want to use this Motivational Monday to make you aware of the works of a great woman that has done many things to help erase racism and prejudice. This woman goes by the name of Jane Elliott. A former school teacher, you might have heard of her through her blue-eyed/brown-eyed experiment, which was documented in the feature film “The Eye of the Storm” from 1970, and its follow-up “A Class Divided” from 1985. What Jane Elliott did was, the day Martin Luther King was murdered, she wondered how she was going to explain this murder to her third-graders in primary school, and she decided to do an experiment with them. The next day, she divided the class into blue-eyed kids and brown-eyed kids, and on the first day she explained to the kids that the blue-eyed people were the better persons, that the brown-eyed people are dumber, dirtier, more unpleasant to be around. The brown-eyed children had to wear collars, and they were not allowed to use the water fountain and could not have seconds at lunch time. The second day, roles were reversed, and the brown-eyed kids were the “superior” group.

Jane Elliott did this experiment because she did not know how to explain the death of King to her students except for allowing them to walk in the shoes of a child of color for a day. Soon after, she was invited to the Johnny Carson show, where she talked about what she did; that was when the community of Riceville, Iowa, she lived in found out, and that was when the terror began. “I received vicious calls in the night,” she reports, and obscene letters, and 20 % of the parents in the community explicitly asked for their children to not be put in Elliott’s class. Once in a while, someone would call the principle to tell him: “I don’t want my kid in that nigger lover’s class.” Her children were beaten, spit on, abused by their peers, their teachers, their peers’ parents. Elliott’s parents lost their business. “I learned a whole lot about racism,” Jane Elliott drily states. “Good deeds won’t go long unpunished.”

In 1996, Elliott does another experiment, this time simply called “Blue-Eyed”, where she invites adults of all races to a workshop, and the white, blue-eyed people have collars put on them and then are sent to a room that is sweltering hot, in which there are three chairs for seventeen people. The tone she uses when speaking to the blue-eyeds is rude, clipped. “You either follow the rules or you’re out of here,” she snaps. “The purpose of this exercise,” she explains to the brown-eyeds, who comfortably sit in a conference room, “is to give these nice, blue-eyed white folks the opportunity to find out how it feels to be something other than white in the United States of America.”

“What I’m going to do is to assign to these people, on the basis of their eye color alone, all the negative traits that we have assigned to {…} those who are obviously physically different.”

Eye color, as Elliott proceeds to explain, is caused by the same chemical that skin color is caused by: Melanin. The more melanin one has in his or her skin and eyes, the darker the skin and eyes are; and it is obvious that judging someone by their eye color makes as much sense as judging them by their skin color does. To assign to the blue-eyeds the negative traits of being dumb and ignorant, she has them do a test they know virtually nothing about, to make them aware of how it is to take a test that you can’t pass, and how high your IQ can be if it is based on that test. This has been done to immigrants in the US on a regular basis. Elliott gives out the same test to the brown-eyeds, before the blue-eyeds are allowed to enter the room. “You brown-eyed people are going to know at least half of these answers because you are smart, you are caring {…}, and I’m going to give you the even-numbered responses. This is not cheating, people; this is called ‘reinforcing our position of power in this room’.”

Elliott explains the rules of this experiment: They will make the blue-eyeds look and feel inferior; they will treat them like children. What starts out as seemingly nothing but an elderly lady aimlessly bullying the blue-eyeds, soon morphs into a mirror of society, where all the contestants have valuable lessons to learn, like e.g. that submitting to tyranny is NOT a valuable lesson to learn. To go along to get along is not something people should think of as a valuable lesson, even though it is the easy way out.
“To sit back and do nothing is to cooperate with the oppressor.”

Jane Elliott reinforces this idea, in the hopes of making a change.

“At the end of the second World War, when they cleaned out the concentration camps in Germany,” she quotes, “a Lutheran minister said: ‘When they came for the Jews, I wasn’t Jewish, so I did nothing. When they came for the homo-sexuals, I wasn’t homo-sexual, so I did nothing. When they came for the gypsies, I wasn’t a gypsy, so I did nothing. When they came for me, there was no-one left to do anything.’”

This text really only scratches at the surface of Jane Elliott’s groundbreaking work. There are many videos on youtube that deal with her experiments. You can buy the written documentation of “A Class Divided” on Amazon.

For this Motivational Monday, you should give it a try. Explore Jane Elliott and the things she has done. It has the potential to shift your views forever.

Miri (Twitter: @OriginalGreenD)

Blue – Eyed:

A Class Divided:

The Eye of the Storm:

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