In a free write compose an essay (not to exceed 2 pages) on the film “Brown Eyes – Blue Eyes”. The following questions are provided to assist in gathering your thoughts.
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- What did you learn?
- What scene or scenes do you think you’ll still remember a month from now and why those scenes?
- Did any part of the film surprise you? Do you think someone of a different race, ethnicity, or religion would also find it surprising?
- How was the exercise that Elliott designed a response to the children’s question, “Why would anyone want to murder Martin Luther King?” Did the film provide an answer to the question?
- Census categories have changed over time to reflect the complexities of American demographics and identities. Consider how some of the following groups experience racism differently:
- People who are bi or multiracial.
- People who have black skin, but are from very different places
- e.g., a 13th generation descendant of African slaves,
- a recent immigrant from Jamaica,
- a third generation Cuban,
- a political refugee from Somalia,
- People “of color” who are not black (e.g., Asians, Pacific Islanders, Latino/as, etc.)
Impact of Discrimination
- What did the children’s body language indicate about the impact of discrimination?
- How did the negative and positive labels placed on a group become self-fulfilling prophecies?
- Both Elliott and her former students talk about whether or not this exercise should be done with all children. What do you think? If the exercise could be harmful to children, as Elliott suggests, what do you think actual discrimination might do?
- What features did Elliott ascribe to the superior and inferior groups and how did those characteristics reflect stereotypes about blacks and whites?
- How did Elliott’s discrimination create no-win situations for those placed in the inferior group?
- How did she selectively interpret behavior to confirm the stereotypes she had assigned?
Looking at the Structures that Nurture Bias
Looking for Answers
- At recess, two of the boys from different groups get in a fight. Elliott asks the one who was teased if responding with violence made him feel better or made the teasing stop. What does the answer suggest about the use of violence as a political strategy?
- At the time, who was using violence for political purposes and why?
- How is the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise related to the Sioux prayer, “Help me not judge a person until I have walked in his shoes”?
Brown eyes and blue eyes Racism experiment (Children Session) – Jane Elliott