Friday, January 10, 2014

What's Wrong With Being "Color Blind" to Race? Teacher Jane Elliott Explains (Video)

In the Oprah Show video below, diversity trainer Jane Elliott explains the fallacy hidden in the statement "I don't see color." Elliott is known for the famous blue eyes/brown eyes exercise she created and conducted in the 1960s. This Oprah show aired in 1992.

You've probably heard people say "I don't see color" to assert that they are not racist or are more fair than others. Elliott says bluntly that people who say this are actually racist whether they know it or not because the statement implies there's something wrong with being a person of color. In fact, research indicates that adopting a color blind philosophy about race does not make it possible to not see color; it makes people likely not to recognize racism and racist images when they see them.

One thing Elliott does in the video below is unpack that color blind statement. She begins with a common delcaration from teachers: "I don't care if you're black or brown or green with purple stripes; I'm going to treat you all the same." She asks, "How many of you have seen earthlings that were green with purple stripes?" And then she says the "purple stripes" statement is problematic (racially biased) "because it lumps all people of color with aliens. And it's what we do in this country: we consider those who are people of color not really citizens of this country," Elliott says.  (Somebody say, "Obama birth certificate.")



I examine the problem of saying "I don't see color" in my poem "Behind the Color Blind." Students have recited the poem at Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations and anti-racism vigils. Perhaps they do so at Martin Luther King Day events because so often people reference King's dream that one day his children would "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character" to justify an "I don't see color" approach.

In various blog posts and online comments in the past, I've said that people of the dominant culture often won't acknowledge that society conditions us to believe in white supremacy and therefore it's likely they are at least subconsciously racist. The teachings of White supremacy infect the mind in this culture, even the subconscious of people of color. A few years back, an episode of the cancelled show Lie To Me examined subconscious racial bias. It also publicized the Harvard's bias test, which you can take online

Part one of this Oprah Show video may be viewed at this link and you can see the blue eyes/ brown eyes experiment as conducted on the Oprah show here. People lost their minds.


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