Photo: Charlotte Button
After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, school teacher Jane Elliott wanted to teach her third-grade class about racism. Rather than a lengthy discussion about it, she decided to show the 8-year-olds what racism is all about in a famous "experiment":
With King shot just the day before in Memphis, Elliott encouraged her third-graders to discuss how something so horrible could happen.
"I finally said, 'Do you kids have any idea how it feels to be something other than white in this country?' "
The children shook their heads and said they wanted to learn, so Elliott set the rules. Blue-eyed children must use a cup to drink from the fountain. Blue-eyed children must leave late to lunch and to recess. Blue-eyed children were not to speak to brown-eyed children. Blue-eyed children were troublemakers and slow learners.
Within 15 minutes, Elliott says, she observed her brown-eyed students morph into youthful supremacists and blue-eyed children become uncertain and intimidated.
Brown-eyed children "became domineering and arrogant and judgmental and cool," she says. "And smart! Smart! All of a sudden, disabled readers were reading. I thought, 'This is not possible, this is my imagination.' And I watched bright, blue-eyed kids become stupid and frightened and frustrated and angry and resentful and distrustful. It was absolutely the strangest thing I'd ever experienced."
Corina Knoll of the Los Angeles Times has the story: Link