This week I had the honor to meet Jane Elliott, a fellow UNI alumna most known for her “Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes'' exercise educating her students about racial prejudice. Following the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. she conducted the exercise in her third grade classroom where students with blue or green eyes were treated less than those with brown eyes. The footage of people young and old participating in the exercise is incredibly eye opening. It is astounding to see the clips of the exercise where adults and children find out what empathy is and how discrimination feels. The books and resources she has on her website are essential for everyone, not just educators.
For several years I have followed Jane’s work on promoting anti racism, educating and being a diversity trainer. Her messages are always inspiring, informative, and I always learn something new from them. The bluntness of her approach forces learners to take a hard look at themselves and their thinking. By exposing ignorance and systemic racism around the world, she can open people's eyes and hearts to the injustices they witness.
This experience is something I will never forget as an educator. Watching her advocate for anti-racism education and equity in education was an incredibly validating experience. I asked her to reflect about her experience being a public school teacher, her thoughts on the current state of libraries being told to ban books, along with other current issues in education. Below I will share resources she recommends everyone read along with a few clips from the interview. The experience of talking with her cannot be described in words. Her advocacy and ongoing education are an inspiration to everyone. Despite the scary legislative situation in education in the country at the moment, I am hopeful that we won't allow ignorance to win.
See below for more.
Books Jane Recommended:
Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization by Anthony T. Browder
When At Times the Mob Is Swayed by Burt Neuborne
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
It Could Happen Here by Jonathan Greenblatt