‘Jane Elliott on Race and Racism’ presented at CSUSB
Office of Strategic Communication
Photos by Robert A. Whitehead/CSUSB
Jane Elliott, who in 1968 developed a classroom activity for her all-white class of third graders to teach them about discrimination and racism by separating those with blue eyes from those with brown eyes, returned to Cal State San Bernardino on April 18 to present “Jane Elliot on Race and Racism.”
Elliott, who developed what has become known as the “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968, showed how people can recognize and identify disparities in the ways in which power is assigned and maintained.
Her visit was sponsored by the university’s Institute for Child Development and Family Relations, Psi Chi Honors Society and the Psychology Club. The program also complemented the Anthropology Museum exhibit “smallasaGIANT,” which officially opened April 18 and runs through June 15.
No longer a classroom teacher, Elliot now works as a diversity trainer and lecturer who is recognized most prominently as an anti-racism activist and educator. She has been the focus of two television documentaries, “Eye of the Storm” in 1971 and “A Class Divided” in 1985, and has received many awards, including the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education.
Both documentaries focused on what Elliot did with her students the day after King was killed. Elliott spoke to her class about racism, but felt that her students, all from the small Iowa town of Riceville, didn’t comprehend how harmful racism could be. From that, she developed the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise.
Since then, Elliott has continued to do the exercise, which is considered as the basis for diversity training. She has done training for corporations including General Electric, Exxon, AT&T and IBM. Elliott has also given lectures on diversity to the FBI, IRS, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Postal Service.
No stranger to Cal State San Bernardino, Elliott presented a diversity lecture on campus in 1998 as part of the Conversations on Diversity lecture series, as a guest speaker for psychology social sciences classes in 2014 and 2015, and returning in 2016 and 2017 for campus-wide presentations.
Visit Jane Elliot’s website for more information about her work.
For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit inside.csusb.edu.