Anti-racism activist speaks at FGCU
By Sean C Porter
How many times has a teacher told you to stop “acting black”?
Your answer may depend on the color of your skin and the year you were born.
Nearly 500 students, faculty members and audience members were in attendance to hear Jane Elliott, a racial activist, speak at Florida Gulf Coast University on Monday, Feb. 11.
When Elliott asked that question to the crowd, a sea of hands shot up. Older members of the audience, as well as students who currently attend FGCU, raised their hands.
“This is what’s wrong with our education system,” Elliott said. “This is what we need to fix.”
The event, hosted by FGCU’s office of Multicultural Leadership Development, was part of a series hosted by MLD.
Evy Reynolds, a junior at FGCU, said the evening was a great experience.
“I’m a big fan of her experiment and the work she does,” Reynolds said. “I found out about her from a high school psychology class, so when I was able to see her in person, it was great.”
Elliott is famous for her 1960s “brown eyes, blue eyes experiment,” where she split her third-grade students into two groups by eye color. She then explained to her students that the students with brown eyes were superior to the students with blue eyes, and saw the changes that started to occur in the classroom.
The brown-eyed students in her class began to act superior and rub it in the faces of their blue-eyed peers.
Elliott’s point with this experiment was to show how impressionable young people are and how racism can be taught at a very young age, and she described the feelings she had while she conducted her experiments.
“I went home and I thought I was going to get calls from angry parents and the superintendent (after conducting the experiment),” Elliott said. “But I didn’t get one phone call.”
Elliott said that while racism may not be as prevalent as it was 50 years ago when she first began her experiments, she still believes racism is still alive today.
“I’m passionate about the human race, and I want it to be more humane,” Elliott said. “I want my grandchildren and my new great-grandchild to see the world as it is, instead of as somebody who is racist wants him to see it.”