Jane Elliott Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes Video Response

26 Jan

In Comm and Diversity, we watched a video of Jane Elliott doing an exercise where she segregated all of the blue eyed people in an exercise to the middle of a room while a larger group of brown eyed people sat on either side of them watching.  The exercise was used to give the blue eyed people a two hour slice of what it felt like to be discriminated against, and what follows is my reaction to the video.

I suppose the first thing that came to mind while watching the video was how intimidating Jane Elliott was.  Throughout the entire video I was fairly frightened of her.  I often found myself thinking “Thank goodness I have Brown Eyes…”  Then, I took a moment, stepped back, and examined that comment.  I was basically saying “Thank goodness I’m not Black or any other out group,” and that really was a big hit to me.  I suppose I had never really considered the intricacies and implications that I had for being a white male.  I’ve never really spent time to empathize and realize that this subtle form of racism is all around me because I’ve been so cloistered in my own, fairly privileged world. I was surprised and upset to hear that some of my fellow classmates have to consciously go out of their way in order to prevent suspicion when I can go almost everywhere I want whenever I want without a second guess.  Overall, the experience was startling for me because it made me consider things about myself and my beliefs that I thought I had fairly figured out, but now I’m not quite sure.

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2 Responses to “Jane Elliott Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes Video Response”

  1. Derek January 26, 2011 at 1:37 PM #

    You really kind of realize how much you have to consciously go out of your way to avoid discrimination when you find yourself in an area with practically no white people (or at least a significantly smaller amount of white folks than any other group of people). I’ve spent a lot of time in Compton and East Los Angeles, and you really do kind of have to go out of your way just to not be noticed. It’s a trip.

  2. Shasta January 31, 2011 at 1:43 PM #

    This brown eyes blue eyes exercise is riveting. Jane Elliott has done this exercise with very young children, young adults and adults in the workplace. All with eerily similar results.

    There is a great facilitator’s package for using with adults called Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes: Linking Perceptions & Performance available from http://www.trainerstoolchest.com that helps in moving this exercise from awareness into action in the workplace.

    The original version too – Eye of the Storm – has a great subtext message of the pygmalion effect and the self-fulfilling prophesy.

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