Dr. Jane Elliot on Politics and Racism with Humor

The event at Memorial Hall on Friday seemed just as much a stand-up comedy special as a somber lecture on racism and prejudice.

As Jane Elliott walked to the small stage, surrounded by a crowd of nearly 2,000 people, she received a standing ovation. A leather chair meant for Elliott to sit in was ignored for the entire two hour duration of her lecture, which she delivered to “the most diverse audience I’ve ever spoken too.” Elliott never attempted to be politically correct nor shied away from vulgarity.

“Some of you might hate me just from my opening remarks. Your governor and mine should be shot at sunrise,” Elliott said.

Elliot is famous for her classroom experiment known as the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise. The day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Elliott found it difficult to explain the meaning of the event to her all-white elementary classroom in Iowa. Her exercise allowed the children to be discriminated against because of their eye color, an experience that Elliott and the now-adult children say helped them ultimately overcome prejudice.

(Source: Jane Elliot Facebook fan page) Videos of Elliott’s experiments and interviews are widely circulated on social media.

(Source: Jane Elliot Facebook fan page) Videos of Elliott’s experiments and interviews are widely circulated on social media.

“My God, we are replicating the brown eye/blue eye experiment at a national level,” Elliot said. Evidently exasperated with contemporary race relations, she added, “I should never had to have done the experiment in the first place. I shouldn’t have to be doing this presentation!”

It did not take long for the elephant in the room to be brought up; the still controversial election of Donald Trump. Elliott refused to acknowledge him by name or title and simply referred to him as “number forty-five” for the evening. She described his face as an “anal aperture” and his mouth as “spewing forth excrement”. Elliott claimed that his election “was a direct result of having a black man in the White House.”

“To talk about politics, you have to talk about racism,” Elliott added.

Humor and audience participation were a big part of the evening. Questions were constantly posed to the crowd, and at one point people were asked to stand according to their race, an exercise that ended with everyone sitting down as part of the “human race.” Two audience members, one a short black woman, another a tall white male, were brought onstage and were individually asked about how certain characteristics such as height, age, gender and skin color affected them in their daily lives.

Elliott professed a love for the contemporary hip-hop duo Run the Jewels and subsequently led the crowd in chanting “Fuck Donald Trump!,” citing Killer Mike as an inspiration. At one point a male voice shouted “Amen!” in agreement with Elliot, who replied “A-women!” back to him. There was no shortage of applause for Elliott, who at one point asked for the audience to snap instead of clapping, a request that was not easily fulfilled.

“Do not applaud everything I say, think about it first,” Elliott said.

Besides her demonstrations involving members of the audience, Elliott spent the majority of her time touching on a number of subjects. She endorsed Colin Kaepernick’s protest, explaining that she thinks the Star Spangled Banner is one of the most racist songs in our country’s history, citing the third verse that references American slavery. Elliott claimed Jesus was almost certainly a person of color because of specific Bible verses describing him and his Middle Eastern heritage. At one point she said “We Christians have done some horrible things in the name of Christ.”

Elliott also criticized the education system, relating anecdotes of racism in the teacher’s lounge, history books and in her experiences conducting her exercise. Children became violent with each other simply because of their different eye color, and some even criticized Elliott herself for having blue eyes instead of brown.

“If you have graduated from high school in this country, you have been indoctrinated to the idea of white superiority,” Elliott said.

She directed the audience to her website, where typical racist statements are clarified and a list of commitments to combat racism can be found. Elliott encouraged the audience to use these materials as a way to overcome their own prejudices.

“We’ve been indoctrinated with racism for 400 years, but we can get rid of it if we choose to,” Elliott said.

 

jlongmeyer@unews.com

3 Comments

  1. Fred James Martin

    August 25, 2018 at 3:04 PM

    I wouldn’t let this insane woman within 500 ft. of my children. She is the epitome of white guilt and a danger to any child that she comes into contact with.

    • Susan

      February 24, 2019 at 1:21 PM

      You sound racist and that you taught your children to be racist.

    • Kyle

      March 24, 2019 at 3:27 PM

      Fred James Martin would rather tell his kids a beautiful lie than tell them the ugly truth.

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