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Jane Elliott is my hero!

My hero, Jane Elliott appeared on the Oprah show sometime in 1992 to conduct her ‘blue eye experiment’ on the audience (videos embedded below). While many have questioned Elliott’s methodology over the years, she is everything I want to be in my life and she has done some real work to eliminate racism. The one thing she said on this episode that has stuck with me (from the ripe old age of 12) is this:

“When you say to a person of color, ‘When I see you, I don’t see you Black; I just see everybody the same’ think about that. You don’t have the right to say to a person, ‘I do not see you as you are; I want to see you as I would be more comfortable seeing you.’” ~Jane Elliott

Yet another Elliott quote that is a favorite of mine is this:

“God created one race, the human race and human beings created racism.”

You think that’s what you are saying in this post, but it isn’t. You have bought into the party line completely. Your post is a fantastic example of the failure that is our country’s educational system.

“Education in this country is about how to maintain the status quo and to perpetuate racism.” ~Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott would tell you:

“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 some people choose not to unlearn it, because they’re afraid they’ll lose power if they share with other people. We are afraid of sharing power. That’s what it’s all about.”

And she’d also say:

“To sit back and do nothing is to cooperate with the oppressor.”

And now, I’m going to quote myself:

I’ve been involved in the “race conversation” for sometime now. I see this kind of thing over and over again. It comes down to (at least in part) the way people within a culture define words.

What we have here is a failure to communicate. (stolen from ‘Cool Hand Luke’)

White people are the majority. The privilege that comes with that is to see yourself reflected pretty much everywhere. The diversity among whites is promoted in the larger culture. We have the privilege of being INDIVIDUALS. Things I do as a white person aren’t assumed to be a representation of all whites. As a white person, I’m presumed good. My internal world is most important and my thoughts about others make me either racist or not, according to the institutionalized rules of our society.

Because of this privilege, most white people define racism from this perspective — as an INTERNAL feeling and/or thought about POC. Actions are almost completely ignored and this is intentional. Because no one can prove anything related to an internal state or opinion. It is a convenient definition for white people. It allows for the benefit of the doubt among other whites who buy into this bullshit definition. This is why white people think it’s ok to say stupid shit like “reverse racism.” Could this be a result of power-drunken-ness? Do they feel so powerful in this society that they’ve tricked themselves into believing they can actually read other people’s minds?

No. The truth is worse than that — it is a double standard. Actions are only taken into account regarding racism for white people when it is the actions of POC that are being evaluated. Well, back in the “good ‘ol days” anyway.

This prejudice and perspective is embedded in white people now to the point that it is automatic. The majority of white people actually believe wholeheartedly that the actions they take are not performed with racist hatred in their hearts. This belief is possible because we educate in a way that makes it unnecessary for whites to actually “feel” racism inside while performing racist acts. And since they don’t “feel” or “think” racist — ignoring the fact that this in and of itself IS privilege — they automatically assume there’s some other explanation for their behavior and the behavior of others who look like them.

This is a mental fog of separatism applied unevenly. It is what allows denial to be the one predictable response to any claim.

What I have learned in observing POC is the exact opposite of this completely self-serving state. Instead, there’s congruence, an intelligence that helps them acknowledge that they cannot read minds. What they can see is action, what they can hear are words. What they see and hear and deal with are very real actions that are devoid of emotion and it is rooted in keen observational skills. The definition of racism for POC is limitation imposed upon them, by others who may or may not even know why they are oppressing another human being. The thought or feeling has no meaning. Actions truly speak louder than words.

Since POC are congruent and have no need to grapple with the cognitive dissonance that comes with privilege, they can see these things more clearly than the disconnected, individualistic white person.

This is the tragedy of perspective ignored. Not by POC, because they don’t have the privilege to ignore it. Double consciousness is a massively overwhelming burden. POC don’t get to ignore a part of the equation in interaction with others like whites do as a matter of survival.

Get educated about what racism actually LOOKS like. Stop tripping over your own privilege or at the very least clean the grime off your goddamn window.
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