(born May 27, 1933, Riceville, Iowa) is an American former schoolteacher, recognized most prominently as an anti-racism activist and educator. She is also known as a feminist and LGBT activist. Elliott created the famous “blue-eyed/brown-eyed” exercise, first done with third-grade school children in the 1960s, which later became the basis for her career in diversity training. The eyes exercise was conducted the day following Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The purpose of the exercise was to try to teach her students the effects of being a minority. Her exercise, and the subsequent controversy, became the basis for the television documentaries Eye of the Storm (1970) and A Class Divided (1985). Elliott was also recipient of the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education and many other awards.
Born May 27, 1933 (age 81)
Occupation Social equality and anti-racism activist, diversity trainer
Known for “Blue-eyed/Brown-eyed” exercise (
It’s in Your Eyes
First of all, you’re probably more racist than you care to admit. Most of the time people are treated unfairly because of their differences, according to Jane Elliott’s Brown Eyes Blue Eyes exercise. Are people with brown eyes smarter and some people with blue eyes racist? During the Blue eyes Brown Eyes Exercise groups are separated according to their eye color. The exercise proves that when people with blue eyes are treated the way that people of color, gays, and women are treated they react the same way. They get angry.
This exercise has been done since 1968. Most of us are not aware of the contributions that brown eyed people/ people of color have made to society. We live in a racist society and we are educated by a racist school system that only teaches us about white contributions. If we start telling truth in schools we would not have racism. We could cure racism in this country. Racism isn’t inbred; it is a learned response.
You have to be taught to be a racist
You are not born racist. You’re born into a racist society. People President’s Joint Council on Mental Health in 1959 as being the #1 mental health problem among children in the United States. No one wants to say the word color because no one wants to recognize differences. Differences need not been seen as negative, it aught to be alright to be different.
If you are raised white in America and you are not prejudice then you’re a miracle. It means that the school system has failed. The school system in this country is about maintaining the Status-Quo. In schools they teach white supremacy.— Jane Elliott
There is no such thing as a white group. You all have the same great great… grandmother from over 2,000 years ago and she was a black female.
All White people are raised with some racist beliefs, even though they may not want to admit it. It is possible to recondition racist beliefs— Jane Elliott
The day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed I decided to do an exercise that would help my students to understand racism. White people’s number one Freedom in America is to be totally ignorant about those who are other than white. The number two freedom is to deny that they are ignorant. I want everyone to be aware of how the system works. Laws are made to support white superiority and when others catch on to how it works (the system) the laws are changed.— Jane Elliott
I didn’t invent this exercise I learned this from Adolph Hitler. When people of color get tired of being exposed to racism they can’t just walk out because there no place for them to go. Racism is based on power. People shouldn’t deny differences they should accept them and appreciate them.
In addition, Jane Elliott wants white people in this society to know what it feels like to be something other than white. She has been doing this exercise for approximately 46 years. If you want to see a decrease in the level of racism in this country and your society the first thing you’ve got to do is let white people know how it feels to be on the receiving end of it.
In America there is a strong divide. In Britain it’s more subtle. those in power put things in a way to make you operate from a disadvantaged position. Because it doesn’t effect you, it doesn’t exist.
We are conditioned to the myth of white superiority before birth.
In conclusion, what are your thoughts about the exercise? Do you think that a melting pot can exist in America where we realize differences and accept them without being racist? Furthermore, Is racism truly about power?
The BE/BE workshop is not an experiment; it is an exercise or experience. I don't experiment with people without their permission. What I do with the exercise is attempt to create a microcosm of society in a small setting for a short time. If what happens during the exercise looks like an experiment, perhaps it's time to realize that we've been running an experiment on the people in the US for many years and it's way past time to put a stop you it. When society stops running the skin color experiment, I'll stop using the eye color exercise.