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Encore: Anti-Racism Activist & Diversity Educator Jane Elliott

Many people are probably familiar with what’s called the “Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes Exercise.” It’s a way to illustrate the arbitrariness of racism based on skin color. A group is divided by eye color, and then one half is told they are superior, and given extra privileges, while the other is told they are inferior, with privileges taken temporarily away.

We’re joined by the woman who first thought up this experiment, Jane Elliott, on the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. She was a third grade teacher in Iowa at the time. After the exercise she had her students write about the experience, and that set off a chain of events that continues to this day, including with movies, books, TV documentaries, and appearances on The Tonight Show, and Oprah. The experience was documented by the PBS Frontline film, “A Class Divided” and has continued to ripple through our culture to this day.

This conversation with Jane Elliot originally aired on February 5, 2019.