She describes herself as the "resident bitch for the day", and speaks to the blue-eyed contingent as though they were criminally stupid or stupidly criminal. But is it?
In the event, two of the brown-eyed group decide they are not prepared to take part in the humiliation of the blue-eyed group and are therefore told to leave. Elliott tells me it's "really difficult to get people of colour to play the role of the oppressor during the exercise. It takes a long time and a lot of work to get them to act white".
It's a curious comment from someone who is supposedly an enemy of racial stereotyping, not least because, as I remind her, the two who refuse to "act white" are in fact white. And how many white brown-eyed didn't walk out? In truth, no one plays their roles particularly convincingly, and the experiment ends in ill-feeling and confusion. Elliott puts the failure down to the presence of TV cameras and says she won't allow the exercise to be filmed again.
But perhaps the real problem is that all the participants are genuine volunteers, and role-play works best when there is some form of coercion, for example, when you are obliged to attend by your employer. In that circumstance, Elliott wields some real power and, as footage shows in the documentary, she can be savage, reducing grown men and women to tears, all along in the certain conviction that it is good for them. Many people of colour think the whole thing is an accident.
It's not an accident. It's what we do. It's how we perpetuate our power. Her best answer is that it makes them think twice about what they say. At the end of the exercise, in corporations, invariably some white male turns to the person beside him and says, 'Does this mean I'm gonna have to watch what I say for the rest of my life? And I say, 'Absolutely'. She believes that racism is in the eye of the beholder and therefore one needs to be ever-sensitive to the possibility of giving offence.
After the two boys fought at recess the teacher asked if responding with violence made him feel better, he replied no.
His answer goes to show that responding with violence is ineffective and a waste of time and energy. They compared it to someone calling a black man the N-word. Even academic achievement goes up when the children were in the superior group. When doing the card packs the first day the brown eyed children spent five and half minutes to go through the deck, while the superior blue eyed children spent only three minutes, the following day the superior group of brown eyed students took only two and a half minutes compared to the four minutes and eighteen seconds of the inferior blue eyed group.
Not even one of the adults stood their ground, as Ms. Elliot kept throwing out negative comments, the adults never really argued with her.
This is because if they would have argued it would have made them seem argumentative and disobedient which would have just made the situation worse. When being discriminated against, one feels hopeless. It is important for every child to learn in the early stages of life that everybody under the sun is created equally. We may not look the same, or dress the same, some of us may have a higher social status than others, but at the end of the day we still walk the same Earth, nobody is better than the next.
The biggest impact from seeing the video is that it shows how easily discrimination can be taught to a young impressionable child. As Elliot explains that we adults train our children to think this way when we past judgment and then they see it and grow up to be familiar with it and think of it as ordinary.
Elliott's room who had brown eyes got to discriminate against the people who had blue eyes. I have brown eyes. I felt like hitting them if I wanted to. I got to have five minutes extra of recess. I felt mad. That's what it feels like when you're discriminated against. He printed them under the headline "How Discrimination Feels. That might have been the end of it, but a month later, Elliott says, Johnny Carson called her. On the "Tonight Show" Carson broke the ice by spoofing Elliott's rural roots.
She chatted about the experiment, and before she knew it was whisked off the stage. Hundreds of viewers wrote letters saying Elliott's work appalled them. It's cruel to white children and will cause them great psychological damage. Looking back, I think part of the problem was that, like the residents of other small midwestern towns I've covered, many in Riceville felt that calling attention to oneself was poor manners, and that Elliott had shone a bright light not just on herself but on Riceville; people all over the United States would think Riceville was full of bigots.
Some residents were furious. When Elliott walked into the teachers' lounge the next Monday, several teachers got up and walked out. When she went downtown to do errands, she heard whispers. She and her husband, Darald Elliott, then a grocer, have four children, and they, too, felt a backlash. Their year-old daughter, Mary, came home from school one day in tears, sobbing that her sixth-grade classmates had surrounded her in the school hallway and taunted her by saying her mother would soon be sleeping with black men.
Brian, the Elliotts' oldest son, got beaten up at school, and Jane called the ringleader's mother. When Sarah, the Elliotts' oldest daughter, went to the girls' bathroom in junior high, she came out of a stall to see a message scrawled in red lipstick on the mirror: "Nigger lover. She would conduct the exercise for the nine more years she taught the third grade, and the next eight years she taught seventh and eighth graders before giving up teaching in Riceville, in , largely to conduct the eye-color exercise for groups outside the school.
ABC broadcast a documentary about her work. Navy, the U. Department of Education and the Postal Service. She has spoken at more than colleges and universities. She has appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" five times.
The fourth of five children, Elliott was born on her family's farm in Riceville in , and was delivered by her Irish-American father himself.
She was 10 before the farmhouse had running water and electricity. She attended a oneroom rural schoolhouse. Today, at 72, Elliott, who has short white hair, a penetrating gaze and no-nonsense demeanor, shows no signs of slowing. She and Darald split their time between a converted schoolhouse in Osage, Iowa, a town 18 miles from Riceville, and a home near Riverside, California. Elliott's friends and family say she's tenacious, and has always had a reformer's zeal.
It brings up immediate anger and hatred. We walked into the principal's office at RicevilleElementary School, Elliott's old haunt.
The secretary on duty looked up, startled, as if she had just seen a ghost. It was typical of Elliott's blunt style—no "Good morning," no small talk. The secretary said the south side of the building was closed, something about waxing the hallways. I was stunned. Elliott was not.
Malinda Whisenhunt? Elliott, how are you?
The corn grows so fast in northern Iowa—from seedling to seven-foot-high stalk in 12 weeks—that it crackles. Locals say that drivers don't signal when they turn because everyone knows where everyone else is going.
Let's just move on. Something as genetically incidental as eye colour became an analogue for the genetic superficiality of skin colour, and it was shown that when one group was favoured over the other, both groups quickly assumed their designated roles as oppressed and oppressor. Why'd they shoot that King? That's not true. Works Cited Bucher, R. But when blue eyed Russell forgot his glasses the following day, it had to be because he has blue eyes, since Susan, whom has brown eyes, remembered her glasses.
A former primary schoolteacher from Iowa, Elliott is the godmother of modern diversity training. And what she did caused an uproar. She and her husband, Darald Elliott, then a grocer, have four children, and they, too, felt a backlash. She decided to base the exercise on eye color rather than skin color in order to show the children what racial segregation would be like. How to cite this page Choose cite format:.
On 5 April of that year, the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated, Elliott organised an exercise to show her class how racial discrimination worked. Elliot conducted this experiment on her third grade class based on students having blues eyes or brown eyes. Washington , and Maria Montessori. Yes, that day was tough.
It's a fractious, disjointed affair, in which few of the volunteers seem prepared to accept or play the roles assigned to them. Their grades on simple tests were better, and they completed mathematical and reading tasks that had seemed outside their ability before.
The concept Elliot is teaching, is that racism is a learned behavior and not part of human genetics.
At on that Wednesday, Elliott told the blue-eyed children to take off their collars. Not a day goes by without me thinking about it, Ms. You give them something nice and they just wreck it. Diversity training was little-known in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the s; however, when the Race Relations Amendment Act passed in the UK, it listed diversity training firms in the Diversity Directory.
Department of Education and the Postal Service. The blue-eyed girl apologized. Typical of their responses was that of Debbie Hughes, who reported that "the people in Mrs. Ex-principal Steve Harnack commented that she was excellent at teaching academics and suggested she would have had fewer problems with the community if she had involved parents.