Anti-discrimination advocate: We are all shackled by the bonds of racism
Jan. 15, 2018
Jane Elliott, an anti-discrimination educator, has spent her entire life teaching students and adults about the ignorance of racism and how to fight against it.
Discrimination exists because people are ignorant, Elliot says, and classifies racism as a man-made myth invented centuries ago as a way to decide who would rule, and who would be enslaved.
Elliott is known for her Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes exercise that began a day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. She taught her third graders about racial discrimination by dividing the room into two groups based on if they had blue or brown eyes. Elliott made the blue-eyed group superior, giving them extra privileges such as an extended recess. After a week she made the brown-eyed students superior. Following the exercise, the students wrote down what they experienced.
“White people have the power to keep it going, and they don’t realize that white people have never been free in this country,” Elliott says. “As long as we are shackled by the bonds of racism we will not be free.”
Elliott continues to lecture minors and has also started to offer classes to adults. After nearly 50 years of focusing on diversity education, she says she saw progress until about a year and a half ago when the attitude toward race took a dive. Elliott says she began to receive more hate mail than ever before as well as “filthy phone calls.” Elliott believes it to be the result of the country’s current leadership and the attitude they have that says “it’s all right to be a bigot.”
Elliott was a guest on Arizona Horizon last fall to discuss her speech on the myth of racial superiority for ASU’s Project Humanities.