The eyes of racism

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I want to tell you about a letter that made its way into the hands of school teacher Jane Elliot. It was quite a letter that reprimanded the teacher for the unfair treatment of white children. “How dare you,” the letter said: “How dare you try this cruel experiment out on white children,” it went on.

“Black children grow up accustomed to such behavior, but white children, there’s no way they could possibly understand it.”

“Its cruel to white children and will cause them significant psychological damage.”

This letter is not from a hysterical republican parent about Critical race theory. It’s not from this year or last year at all. It is from the year 1968. How similar we humans are decade through decades, century through century. You see, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Racial discrimination was being spoken about.

And Jane Elliot, a courageous young teacher, wanted to teach her children the effects of racial discrimination. Elliot asked blue-eyed children in her classroom to wear green armbands. She then told the class that blue-eyed children were lesser people, weaker than those with brown eyes.

You can guess what happened next. The brown-eyed children began to turn on the ones with blue eyes.

This experiment became so well known Elliot appeared on the Johnny Carson show. And hundreds of letters poured in. Some were awed and appreciative. Others like the one I wrote about above were furious.

Eliot had this to say:

“Why are we so worried about the fragile egos of white children who experience a couple of hours of made-up racism one day when blacks experience real racism every day of their lives?”

Blue-eyes Brown-eyes. Since that infamous exercise, there have been many others like it. And what she said is still going on. We see it in Republican behavior. They have learned little from the past, it would seem.

As I wrote about the other day, we see it in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis is trying to ban an African studies class from being taught. We see it in the racist legislation of some republicans.

We see it in republicans agitated about critical race theory, and we see it, and we see it, and they don’t stop. All over, we see a party that has turned its back on minorities content to enact as much legislation as they can to surpass their votes.

   

This is no time to be silent. It is easy to take the freedoms we have for granted, but we need to keep these issues in the spotlight and remind people again and again of the past and how it somehow reaches out to impact the future.

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