In the wake of the recent tragedies that have consumed our nation and our headlines, the media has done an excellent job of painting a polarized and tension filled picture that has mainly served to widen the already gaping rift that exists between certain factions of the American polity. By spotlighting divisive rhetoric and those that propagate it in the mainstream, the media has not only contributed to the birth of several counter movements further exacerbating social conflict, enabling ignorance, and effectively vilifying certain groups of people while victimizing others, it has also successfully turned us all into political pawns. Pundits and politicians have been gifted a brand new pop culture platform which pander to the public and label us as being “anti” something by virtue of being “pro” something else. The use of “divide and conquer” techniques as a means of social manipulation is nothing new as social inequality and conflict have very deep historical and cultural roots. Consequently, countless unsung heroes who have fought for the voiceless against oppressive power structures have risen out of the ashes of our sordid and violent social history. One such individual, who has recently been gaining traction on social media, is Ms. Jane Elliot.
Jane Elliot in the 1960s
You may have seen the videos of her “Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise” on YouTube or on your Facebook newsfeed. For nearly 5 decades, since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Elliot has tirelessly labored to eradicate the effects of racism by utilizing reflective exercises such as the “Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise” to challenge and ideally, modify the perception many members of the white community have about race and white privilege. After having spent time living in predominantly white communities as well as predominantly black communities and teaching grade school students during the civil rights era, Ms. Elliot has witnessed, first-hand, the origins and the destructive consequences of racial prejudice in American society.
Watch this interview of Jane Elliot discussing race. This video has recently gone viral on FaceBook:
In an interview with Rock Newman, she emphasized the instrumental role the American education system plays in purporting notions of white supremacy thus fueling the collective fear and ignorance that characterize American racism. By highlighting the exploitation of our indoctrination into American society as children by the elite for political and/or economic gain, and engaging willing participants in reflective exercises such as her “Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise”, Jane Elliot has effectively introduced people to their own biases as well as the societal constructs that reinforce them. It is unfortunate that after her many years of generating awareness around the systemic oppression of certain groups and advocating for change, her efforts are just as critical and necessary today as they were 48 years ago. Jane Elliot’s skills as an educator in combination with her tenacity and passion for change make her one of the most formidable and influential activists of our time.
Watch as Jane Elliot addresses societal issues plaguing our society: