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How Racist are You?

Updated on January 15, 2017

Take a group of adults and separate them by their eye colour. Now treat one group as outsiders based not on the colour of their skin by by the colour of their eyes. Make them feel like lesser beings and remove their self esteem. That's exactly what Jane Elliott has been doing since the 1960's and the results provide a stark realisation of jut how racist you are.

In the 1960's, teacher Jane Elliot - self named 'The Bitch - was left distraught at the way black people were being treated throughout the United States. She understood that racism was much more than just the colour of skin. She saw that black people were considered by whites to have a lower intelligence, lower morals and to be worthless compared to white people. She believed that there was only one way that this point of view could be changed and it was through education.

Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment

Elliott devised a controversial experiment, where she would separate a group of people through the colour of their eyes. Those with blue eyes (almost completely white skinned) would be segregated and treated badly. Those remaining people with brown eyes were treat well. The brown eyes were given power over the blues and it quickly resulted in persecution.

Jane Elliott claims that the only way to end racism is to make white people see what it's like to be black on the inside.

Elliott calls the experiment an "inoculation against racism". As such, it's a way to try and turn the tide on white vs black and make the "nice blue-eyed white folks" know how it feels to be something "other than white". She takes something that's been important in her life as a teacher, and turns racism on it's head. It's a powerful exercise.

Racism is stronger in the USA than the UK

in 2009, Jane Elliott bought her method to the UK to create a show for Channel 4. What would quickly be discovered is that racism is somewhat more subtle in Great Britain than in other countries such as the United States and South Africa.

During filming of the program, white people quickly became angry with the message that they were, whether they believe it or not, are racist. They also refused to accept that there is a problem with racism the UK.

One particular volunteer stood out in the blue eyed white group. Primary school teacher Terry Taylor complained that she believed she was discriminated against as much as many black people for being an "older, white, blonde woman". Ms Taylor, who was clearly from a middle-class, white background, had clearly been wearing rose tinted glasses for the most of her life.

Victim Blaming

During the experiment, one member of the blue-eyed white group ask a black person on the brown side what they were going to do to prevent racism, a perfect example of blaming a black person for the situation they find themselves in.

When picked up on this, the participant attempted to change her questions from "you" to "we".

Racism is about enforcing power due to fear

Throughout the entire experience, most of the blue contestants failed to understand that the difference between racism and general insults is power.

Racism is about controlling people due to their ethnic group or color; not because they chose to have tattoos or purple hair. Racism occurs because the white folk are scared that the black folk are going to take something from them, but the white folk don't actually know what that thing it.

Racism is a mental illness

Jane Elliott strongly believes that racism is a mental illness. As she rightly says, all people are equal. She says that if you judge a person by a color pigment in their skin, you have a mental health problem. That is to say, you aren't dealing well with reality.

You aren't born racist, you're taught to become racist.

How racist are you?

So how racist are you? Have you ever laughed at a racist joke? When you imagine Jesus, do you think of him being white? Do you realise that brown eyed people invented paper? Discovered how to transfer electricity? Or that they alphabet and numeric systems we still use today?

You are not born racist. You're taught it. And if you can learn it, you can unlearn it. But people are scared to unlearn racism because they are scared of losing power.

Hatred is about more than just skin color

The experience goes deeper than looking at people for their skin color. It goes on to show that there is still segregation between women and the LGBT community.

People are scared of things they don't understand. Do you need to educate yourself to stop being discriminatory?


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