Researchers experiment shows you’re probably more racist than you think

by / June 16, 2014 video 6 Comments

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Jane Elliott is an internationally known teacher, lecturer, and diversity trainer.  Elliott is most known for the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise she conducted with her all-white third grade class in Riceville, Iowa following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  In the exercise, Elliott told her class that blue-eyed people were smarter and better than brown-eyed people and proceeded to give blue-eyed students an extra five minutes of recess.  She also prevented them from playing together on the playground and imposed additional restrictions.

She reversed the experiment the following day and found that the brown-eyed children were more sensitive to the discrimination experienced by their peers having already experienced it.  Elliot’s exercise is considered a landmark of social science for revealing how quickly people assume the role of the oppressor and the oppressed with very little social conditioning.

Elliott has repeated the exercise countless times with children and adults, conducting diversity training workshops across the globe.

The following video is a Channel 4 documentary in which Elliott recreates the ground breaking exercise she used forty years ago to teach her nine year-old pupils about prejudice.  The exercise used thirty British volunteers from different age groups and backgrounds and exposed them to inequality based on their eye color just like the original exercise.

Elliott’s exercise still has something to teach us all even four decades after she originally conducted it.  The following video is  presented by Krishnan Guru-Murthy and is observed by two expert psychologists, Prof Dominic Abrams and Dr Funké Baffour, who help dissect the behavior displayed by the participants.

In a statement about the documentary, Elliott says: “Many people go away knowing a whole lot more than they did when they came in, and not just white people.  Many people of color think the whole thing is an accident.  It’s not an accident.  It’s what we (white people) do.  It’s how we perpetuate our power.”  Elliott hopes that the exercise makes people more aware of how their own actions may be perceived as prejudiced or racist or help perpetuate white power.

Check out the video below to see how easily prejudices take hold and how they affect those involved.

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6 Comment

  1. I have seen and lived with both Black and White racists. After observing both, I concluded that racism is a disease – just like alcoholism, drug addiction, shop-lifting, cheating on spouses etc. Racism is learned not born with. Some Blacks view themselves intellectually inferior to Whites. They have been told so. I also have met a White who thought was intellectually superior to Blacks even after the White flunked a class while his Black counterpart passed. Like any other disease, racism can be cured. One way is subjecting the racist to harsh conditions to see themselves as regular human beings. Like a disease majority of racists can be cured and a minority may not be cured. Look at Mr. Sterling. Before he was caught, he was a racist. Once subjected to harsh condition, you saw him crying for help. You also remember George Wallace-he was governor with power. Once removed from power, he and his family apologized to Blacks. Margret Thatcher hated racial minorities so bad that she eventually had a stroke. She then apologized. Allen West said Blacks, not him, belonged to the sugar plantations. Then Allen lost power. Now he is back in Black neighborhood.

  2. There is no way any minority can be accused of racism.
    The definition of racism is as follows:
    rac·ism [rey-siz-uhm]
    noun…a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
    How can African Americans, who have been subjected to the discrimination based on the color of their skin alone be racist? They cannot.

  3. Everyone has at least an ounce of racism in us (especially me). I cannot stand blacks and mixed ninnys. My granddaddy taught me that you people are no good. i.e. you are lazy and you steal and most of you are criminal and just plain stupid. I found out for myself that he was correct.

    Oh, why do I come to this site? Just to remind you know how much you all are loved.

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