Brown Eye / Blue Eye: Feeling Discrimination

This is why I will always repeatedly state that I seek the ear of such folk to assist the rest to understand.  In reading many psychology books, I know of many social experiments.  Strange enough, the best ones are the most reaching on the corners of the psyche, the most controversial.  Such experiments may be damaging to the self-esteem long after the experiment.  One social experiment that I heard and reference to, but never dove into, was Jane Elliott’s social experiment, Blue Eye/Brown Eye.  I’ve referenced her experiment before; I knew of the exercise with the children she’s done.  I never knew she done this experiment multiple times, with varying age groups, with multiple nations.

Jane Elliott is a woman who, after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, realized the same thing that fellows like Tim Wise today understands — white people have a hard time realizing what racism is, and she seeks to understand why. I study heuristics, and the secondary effect to this is studying how stereotypes work. The tertiary effect? Studying Racism.  Now, as a minority in the United States I have more than enough experience, and shared experience through listening to others who dealt with more, or notably worse situations concerning racism.  The bigger fight, and uphill battle, is getting white people as a collective on the same sheet of music. Each time in American history, progress was made when they listen, and strange enough, they listen to other whites faster than minorities.  Especially concerning race relations.

I’ll say it plain: White denial of racism is something fierce.  I’ll follow with this — a white person who actually understands racism, and with that actually teaches OTHER white people the reality of it is in my opinion the BEST weapon in combating bigotry.  Whites in America, generally speaking, do not listen to people of color in regards to experiences with racism.  Yeah, they generally blow you off and engage in victim blaming. With significant progress made, people now speak in code in regards to their bigotry where there’s a level of plausible deniability in the charge that the word or act is a racist one.  This tends to ofuscate the matter to a point where a white friend of yours can be right there in witness a racist act thrown in your face and still deny it. It can be an inside joke, a comment, a Facebook meme passed around.

I often wonder at what measure a white person would consider something racist at all… This also doubles for what is acceptable behavior.  I’m sure if someone witnessed actions we’ve largely gotten past — lynchings, the word nigger thrown around to dehumanize —  the common white person would step in and call foul. But the ambiguous noise, the code speak…  It’s common that the plausible deniability will be in full effect. This is made even more dangerous when the person who is in denial is the one doing the racist act, and you are a boss who can punish or fire them, and you cannot get it in their head that they fucked up somewhere.

In her experiments, you will witness many different characters in how they deal with this momentary form of discrimination. Her brutal methods dig deep in an attempt to get people who have the privilege to pretend it doesn’t exist as minorities state, to FEEL what it’s like to be marginalized, stereotyped, losing sociological power to nonchalantly blow it off.  Some rebel; but when they do, they are being “argumentative” which perpetuates a stereotype that’s already in play, a parallel to the “angry black man” cliche (I seen that one before).  You’ll see others who attempt to sabotage the experiment (Ex. in U.K.).  Others have a mental breakdown. Some leave.

It’s interesting to see people other than actual minorities deal with anything looking like institutional racism. Of those who broke down, cried, placed their heads down…  While many come to grips to how racism feels to a minority, ultimately the experiment has an expiration date; people of color cannot simply walk out from it. There are people who go through this in varying degrees of their entire lives who don’t have the luxury to walk away from it as if it’s an difficult experiment.



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