Junior Lashonda Young had never heard of Jane Elliott before Thursday night.
Yet she found herself volunteering to help Elliott demonstrate the power of color and gender.
“Her speech was an eye-opener for myself to realize that I usually ignore racism,” Young said.
Thursday night, Elliott, known for her blue-eyed, brown-eyed experiment to teach racism, spoke to students in the Special Events Center about issues of racism and discrimination.
After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated Elliott conducted this experiment to teach her third grade class the meaning of racism. She told students with blue eyes that they were inferior so they could experience racism.
Elliott also addressed issues of discrimination in the Muslim and Islamic culture since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Two volunteers were used from the audience to demonstrate the power of color and gender.
Elliott asked the audience if they saw any differences between the two people she requested – a black female and a white male.
Then, Elliott asked each of the volunteers if their color and gender were important to them and if it gave them power. Each volunteer said that their color and gender were important to them because they were proud of it.
After the speech was over, Young said, “I hope people will not be sympathetic to me now,” Young said. “I don’t think all whites are racist, just like all blacks are not criminals.”
Elliott made it clear to the audience that color and gender in society has power because of the white superiority myth and that those of color are inferior.
This myth is why white males are treated as superior and given responsibilities.
Jeremy Howard, also one of Elliott’s volunteers and a member of the Air Force, said the speech opened his eyes to things he didn’t realize before.
“I learned not to judge a book by its cover,” Howard said. “I learned how to open up to new things and new ideas.”Elliott asked the audience if they heard expressions, such as, “I just see people as people” and, “Under the skin we are all the same.”
“These are racist remarks,” Elliott said. “Now, let’s talk about liberty and justice for all.”
Elliott then asked the audience to stand up if they thought the treatment of colored people was so fair that they would like to be treated the same.
After nobody in the audience stood, Elliott said, “You have all just admitted that you know it’s happening (racism), but you are not doing anything about it.”
Elliott said in order to create a standard American, the melting pot idea needs to be erased, because it is more like cooking stir-fry. The melting pot never worked to create a standard American and it shouldn’t, whereas stir-fry has variety, she said.
Elliott said the most important thing about education is to teach people to relate positively to people who are different from themselves.
“You are fortunate to attend a university with such a high diversity,” Elliott said. “You are learning to relate positively to people different from yourself.
“If we got rid of our black population, who would we turn to next to discriminate?” Elliott asked.