Jane Elliot: Lessons in Discrimination

Jane Elliot repeated this experiment many many times in an attempt to help those who were unfamiliar with discrimination and prejudice, experience it, if only for a moment... It helps us understand it in a whole new way.

I've seen a number of Jane Elliot's videos more than once, but it is powerful every time.

It is the response of the kids who spend time as 'oppressed' that gets me every time. Their body language and everything changes. By being considered "lower" and "less than" for only a matter of hours, they begin to feel trapped, isolated and hopeless... this is the power that discrimination and prejudice has on those within our society who get pushed to the margins.

Racism, sexism, agism, homophobia... all of these begin to define the realities of our communities. Those who are oppressed and treated as less than, will, absolutely, begin to embody that experience of being 'inferior'... even though it isn't true, merely a construct of society.

It is not my intention to diminish the daily reality of racism and sexism and the pain suffered by these realities. I do want for a second though to focus on the face that being a 'youth' in our culture and society also means to be one who is pushed to the margins. Considered less mature, considered less responsible, considered to have less insight, less wisdom, less authority, less power, not as smart, not as..... the list goes on.

Here is a link to a case of statutory rape where the perpetrator, the teacher of the 14 year old girl, received a sentence of 31 days in prison. 31 days partly because the judge decided the 14 year old was "older than her chronological age". The girl later committed suicide in part because of the trauma of the rape. Older than her chronological age, because she was a 'troubled teen' or an 'at-risk youth' or however you want to say it. Basically, she was a kid, who dealt with all kinds of other crap in her life and then got raped by her teacher and the judge put most of the blame on the victim...

Being a youth is often like having the 'blue eyes' or 'brown eyes' in this experiment. Treated as less than a full equal by many of the people whom you encounter.  Unlike Jane's experiments true discrimination also often brings violence and shame... youth in every neighbourhood are experiencing these things in their homes every day... just because they are 'a kid'. (and in our society the only people who it is legal to hit are our kids... which is sick)

But pay attention to the study of Jane Elliot, because one of the first ways that we rise above this discrimination is to make sure that we take our own actions into our hands and not add to this type of fear and hate. We need to make certain that we are creating safe spaces. We need to battle daily to push the fear, hate and oppression out of the room!

Racism is a daily reality in Canada. Sexism is a daily reality in Canada. Agism. Homophobia. It's not about not seeing the differences between me and you, it's about recognizing those differences, embracing them, celebrating them and finding a more complete experience of being human together. (watch the second link below to find more along this line of thinking... really good stuff).

The answer starts with each one of us. Remember each other's humanity and treating each other with Love, Dignity and Respect at all times. It is TRUE REBELLION!


Here are links to a couple other Jane Elliot vids - WATCH THEM!!

Angry Eye - Part 1

Angry Eye - Part 2

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