race in schools, Jane Elliott, GOP

Jane Elliott, Renowned Anti-Racism Activist, Criticizes GOP’s Efforts To Restrict Race Discussions In Classrooms

Writings by Jane Elliott have also been banned in several states.

Jane Elliott, an anti-racism activist best known for her April 5, 1968, blue eyes, brown eyes experiment demonstrating that prejudice is a learned behavior, recently condemned Republican efforts to restrict discussions of race in classrooms.

Elliott, whose racism experiment is tied to the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, discussed her feelings about the murder of Dr. King and the larger implications of Republican policy on education with CNN. 

“My whole body reacts to the horror that I felt when I realized that we had killed a man whose only aim was to make things better, not just for people that we call Black…but for people of all kinds on this Earth.” Elliott said.

Elliott told USA Today in 2017 that she saw the reactions from conservatives at the time as part of a larger backlash. “This is the response of white people to eight years of a Black man in the White House. That means that we didn’t make progress in the first place. We made people go underground and that’s what they did.”

She told CNN the efforts to ban her work from institutions of higher learning by conservatives is a high compliment. Elliott explained to the outlet that the attempts from conservatives to control education fit into a larger historical context of white Americans’ fear of losing their statistical majority. 

“This whole thing is an effort now to guarantee that white people do not lose their numerical majority. The writings of…Jane Elliott are banned on college or university campuses, and I think that’s the highest compliment I’ve ever been paid,” she said. “That’s the best way to convince me that what I’m doing is right.”

Her famous exercise revealed that social roles shape how people treat each other, even when the role is assigned according to a student’s eye color. According to Elliott, some of her students turned on each other because of what the experiment assigned the children based on their eye colors. 

Elliott remarked, “Within five minutes, I had changed that group of loving, kind, generous, thoughtful human beings into people who act the way people who are allowed to judge people unfairly on the basis of physical characteristics in this country do every day.”

Elliott also told CNN that America is not teaching its own history correctly. “We indoctrinate children with racism on a daily basis in the schools in this country. We do not tell the truth in this country.”

Elliott continued, “And that’s the reason a whole lot of pale-skinned people are scared, because their children might learn the truth and might start to act upon it…Education should make it impossible for you to accept the bigotry and the self-imposed ignorance of those around you.”

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