Revelations from the Eye of the Storm

The Exercise

I had a discussion recently with a white male friend of mine about the different perspectives people can have based on their life experiences. The conversation led to him sharing how he knew he was a beneficiary of white male privilege in America and how that privilege has led to a disconnect sometimes when it comes to him understanding the Black perspective. The next day he sent me a couple of different links to videos of Jane Elliot’s “Brown Eyed/ Blued Eyed” exercises. Some of you may be familiar with the work of Jane Elliot but in case you are not, she is an educator that has done some good work on exposing the racism innate in American culture. Her work began the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She did an exercise with her primary school students, who were all white, to help them understand the struggle Dr. King was involved in, which ultimately cost him his life.

In her exercise, she poses two groups against the other; one group represents people of color (brown-eyed participants) and one group represents white people (blued-eyed participants). Jane Elliot then has the brown-eyed group partner with her as she subjects the blue-eyed group to the reality of American racism as experienced historically by America’s non-white citizens. It was very surprising to see the level of anger and frustration exhibited by the Blue eyed participants as Jane treated them with contempt and disrespect, even though they had been forewarned and knew it was a staged exercise. For me, it had the effect of validating my own experiences in a new way. The experiment showed me how mentally disruptive even small doses of racism could be on its victims in less than 30 minutes, not to mention its potential impact when endured for over 400 plus years. I always knew that Black people were strong, but it was illuminated in a whole new way as I watched people buckle under weights I carried as a child; weights that only got heavier with the increased gravity that comes with age and the responsibilities of life. It reinforced the belief I have that if all men are created equal, then there are external forces creating the large disparities seen throughout American society.

The impetus of racism is the need to justify a system of oppression. Ta-Nehisi Coates in an article from “The Atlantic” quotes David Blight, A Yale Professor, on the subject of The Civil War and Reconstruction. Blight says that at the maturation of Slavery in America it was the largest financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth upwards of $3.5 billion, exceeding the profits of all manufacturing and railroads combined. The bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. This would explain America’s wicked obsession with oppression as a means to profit. See Ava Duvernay’s “13th” production for a well-documented illustration of this point. Racism is perpetuated in America because oppression is still government policy. How can the poor and oppressed gain equality in a society where law and law enforcement favors the rich? Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. He is also an American lawyer and Social Justice Activist. Bryan states that in the USA you are treated better if you are wealthy and guilty, than if you are poor and innocent.

If equality in the pursuit of happiness is to become a realization, the epidemic heart disease of greed must be dealt with. Greed is incubated and hatched through selfishness and nourished by fear. Desire infected with greed distorts perception and perverts judgment. The only cure is Love. Love breaks the power of selfishness and eliminates fear. The kind of Love as taught through biblical principles. The love that gives at the expense of self for the benefit of all, contrary to selfishness which takes for the benefit of self without consideration for anyone else. The false dearth created through racism will continue to ravish society, until we all learn to love one another as ourselves. There is but one race, the human race.

[Image is from janeelliott.com]

 

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