Walking with the masses into the auditorium on Sept. 21, I kind of knew what to expect. We were all going to listen to a speech by profound international speaker, Jane Elliott. Already knowing who she was and what she stood for, I was excited to see her in person.
“In the next five minutes, I will probably offend all of you,” she opened with. And she certainly proceeded to do so. Not only did she negatively comment on our education, but she commented on the way that we think we are raised. Basically, she came off as a bitter and raunchy old woman. However, she kept us all entertained with what she discussed and the video that she showed us.
For those of you that don’t know who Elliott is, she is responsible for the controversial “Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes” experiment. This experiment took place around the time Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated and with numerous questions and confusion from her naive and all-white third grade class, Elliott decided to segregate her students based on eye color, insidiously teaching them about the effects of racism, or as she like to call it, “colorism.” The result of this experiment clearly was effective because her young students made comments saying this is how black people feel.
Although Elliott is known worldwide for this experiment, she went into further detail and discussion dealing with race. She went as far as having two volunteers, one of them being Timothy Dansdill, associate professor of English, and a young African-American female student. Elliot compared their “authority,” asking them specific questions about how they feel about many physical qualities, obviously including race. The young woman, reluctantly admitted to the fact that she went through a daily routine of being scrutinized solely based on her race and prepared herself for it every morning.
Hearing a first-hand account of how an African American woman feels in today’s society made me realize that racism still exists whether we would like to realize it or not. Elliott made it clear that white people like myself do not think about who will judge us or what people secretly think of us. This presentation definitely gave everyone in the room a reality check when it comes to racism. The Civil Rights Act maybe over and “every man is treated equally,” but when we think about it, we are all haphazardly filled with preconceived notions about races other than our own.
Having Elliott come to Quinnipiac will hopefully help students who are not open to diversity not only tolerate it, but embrace it.
One of Elliott’s main points was that we are all the same race: human. Honestly, I had never thought about it that way before. I always thought that there was white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc., and that we were certainly all different. Believe me, I am from New York, and being in close proximity to the city, I know what diversity is and am used to it. But I guess I’ve never thought about what people who are discriminated against really think.
Now I do.
Walking out of the auditorium with the masses that I walked in with, I realized that Elliott’s presentation put me more in perspective with my own personal thoughts. Everyone is the same, and discrimination is not only unnecessary, but it is completely and utterly wrong. I am pretty sure that the next time we hear or say a “black joke” we will think twice about it and how it makes other people feel.
What she said will help us here at Quinnipiac understand our differences, whatever they may be, but not discriminate against them, because after what makes us different is probably the best part about us.