Twenty-four years ago, Oprah Winfrey had a former third-grade teacher on her show who blew every racist’s justifications for their own stupidity right out of the water.
Jane Elliot was that guest. She is well-known for her “blue-eyed/brown-eyed” experiment (you can read more about that here) which taught her young students in Iowa how racism is learned, not something they are born with. In 1992, she appeared on Oprah’s stage along with a group of racists who were convinced that they were better than minorities. The elderly school teacher told the ignorant white people who were basking in their “superiority” just how wrong they were:
“I heard somebody in the green room say that racism is inbred, no it is not. Racism is not part of the human condition. Racism is a learned response you have to be taught to be a racist, you are not born racist — you are born into a racist society. And like anything else if you can learn it, you can unlearn it. But people like this choose not to unlearn it because they are afraid they will lose power if they share it with other people. They are afraid of sharing power, that’s what it’s all about.”
This is absolutely true. I am sure that you have probably heard a right-winger say,”Everyone is a little bit racist, we are born that way.” This is not true at all. Babies are like blank canvases, they are taught every single thing they know. People and society teach children to be racist, nobody is preconditioned to hate. That’s nonsense.
Elliot went on to tell the hate-filled idiots on the stage that they suffered from a mental illness:
“What we’re dealing here with is mental illness. Racism is mental illness. Racism was defined by the President’s Joint Council On Mental Health In Children in 1959 as being the number one mental health problem among children in the United States. And they didn’t say ‘among black children,’ they said ‘among children.’ If you judge other people by the color of their skin, by the amount of a chemical in their skin, you have a mental problem. You are not dealing well with reality.”
She is correct. Judging somebody because their skin is darker than yours due to extra melanin is as ridiculous as it is sick.
This conversation took place more than two decades ago and yet, it still resonates today. We have an entire political party that consistently campaigns on platforms of racism and hate. Look at Donald Trump’s rise to the top, while KKK members appear at caucuses with Trump signs to show their support…in 2016. The right likes to pretend that we live in some magical “post-racial” America, but that isn’t any truer now than it was twenty-four years ago. The only difference is that some people hide it better now.
Watch Jane Elliot’s remarks below:
Featured image via video screenshot