Creator of famous ‘Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes’ experiment speaks against racism at Michigan Tech


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MICHIGAN TECH UNIVERSITY —  “We’re all related, and I will not tolerate somebody abusing one of my relatives because of somebody else’s ignorance about skin color. I won’t have it. I won’t put up with it, and neither should you,” Jane Elliot said while addressing Michigan Tech students Wednesday.

Jane is an activist and educator, focusing on racism, discrimination, and prejudice. And though her personality is enough to leave a big impression, she’s famously known for an experiment she did on her third grade classroom, 49 years ago.

Elliot was brought to speak at MTU through a series put on by the Center of Diversity and Inclusion.

Kellie Raffaelli, Director for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion, explained, “She’s known for the famous Blue Eye, Brown Eye experiment, where she in a classroom took students and separated them by kids with blue eyes and kids with brown eyes, and told the blue eyed students that they were inferior to the brown eyed students. And then observed how these students then treated each other based on these positions of power.”
The day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in April of 1968, Mrs. Elliot was determined to show her students why you cannot judge a person by their uncontrollable qualities. 
“I watched things happen in my classroom that day that would never have happened if I had not introduced racism based on eye color in my classroom,” Elliot said.
But her message then was the same as it is today, and is what pushes her to continue speaking to students all over the country.
“If you have a lot of melanin in your skin, your hair, and your eyes, you have dark skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. That’s all it is people. It is a chemical in your skin, in your hair, in your eyes, and does in no way determine your intelligence or your worth as a human being.”
Elliott’s exercise was filmed the third time she held it with her 1970 third-graders to become “The Eye of the Storm.”
This in turn inspired a retrospective that reunited the 1970 class members with their teacher fifteen years later in A Class Divided. 
She’s also written her own book, “A Collar in My Pocket.”

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