Memorial lecture to aggressively address racism

Eric Ramirez, Channels Contributor, Eric Ramirez, Channels Contributor, and Eric Ramirez, Channels Contributor

Jane Elliott, who first opened the eyes of her students to the myth of white superiority and what it meant to be black in America, will deliver the keynote speech, at the 13th Annual Leonardo Dorantes Memorial Lecture Nov. 12.
The lecture, “The Anatomy of Prejudice,” attempts to educate individuals on the issues of racism, ethnicity and diversity in America and encourage the development of healthy and positive attitudes toward all cultures, said Ron Baker, dean of Education Program.
Elliott, a renowned teacher and lecturer, has been widely acclaimed for the creation of the controversial “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” discrimination experiment.
Elliot began the experiment as third-grade teacher in her classroom in 1968 immediately after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
In her all-white classroom in all-Christian Riceville, Iowa, Elliot used “the sensitizing exercise” to study how participants labeled each other inferior or superior based on the color of their eyes, Baker said.
Elliott instructed her students to victimize each other by telling them that blue-eyed people were better than brown-eyed ones and vice-versa.
By doing so, she exposed her students to the experience of being the minority and to the emotions the minority faces, said Baker.
“Those who have been through this exercise have said it is an emotionally significant and life-changing experience,” he added. “This groundbreaking exercise is the pinnacle of all other diversity programming in the country today.”
Tina Kistler, assistant professor of Communication and member of the Lecture Committee, said, “We need to recognize that even though we are in the 21st century, there are groups out there that are still being discriminated against. We need to learn how to be more civil to one another and create a better community.”
The Dorantes Memorial Lecture Series was established in 1991 in honor of City College student Leonardo Dorantes who was tragically murdered in a race-related attack. The Lecture Committee invites speakers to try to educate students, staff and the community alike in areas regarding racism and prejudice every year.
Despite the common criticism by many, Elliott has continued her tireless efforts to educate children and adults on issues of racism, said Kistler.
Elliot has set out to prove that racism is a learned response and that humans display it in different forms, although many times they aren’t even aware of it, she added.
Over the years, Elliott has earned a high profile, as several television networks such as ABC and PBS have covered her work. She is also the recipient of the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education, said Baker.
Now retired from her teaching career, Elliott has been a guest lecturer at many colleges and universities and also has been a guest on numerous television shows.
The event, which is free and open to all members of City College and the community, is from 12:30 to 1:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 12 at The Garvin Theatre.