I watched, "A Class Divided: Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Experiment," for my Diversity and Inclusion program at eCornell this weekend. My takeaway was how the students reacted to the privilege of being superior or the degradation of being inferior based on eye color.
I felt like crying when Jane Elliot said that the superior brown eyed kids who were acknowledged and encouraged the second time around, had started reading and working faster than blue eyed children who were now spoken down to. One brown eyed kid said it was because he couldn’t think with the collar on his neck. The collars were worn by the lesser citizens. The reaction of being told you are less than or worse than resulted in the same looks I have seen on children in Detroit Public Schools, where I grew up and mentored.
My biggest takeaway was once they were told they were equal, they all agreed that no one deserved to be judged or discriminated against or treated less than. They all giggled and hugged, except one student who was in the corner trying to destroy the collar that represented being inferior. He did not process his feelings like the others, he ended up isolated and was having a kind of post traumatic experience.
I imagine if this would have continued, it could have cause him to become the statistic. He would become kid who has conduct disorder or opposition defiant, with a criminal record. By the time he gets to work, is on a self-fulfilling prophecy of "underperforming" or "overperforming" workaholism and he would be looked down upon because he blames "the man."
The saddest part of this documentary and experiment was the extreme, emotive looks on the faces of the kids. Now that I have seen the looks, I recognize those same looks on people at work today. I think all of us wear one of those extreme faces the kids had, right now in our lives. Perhaps after watching or re-watching the documentary, we will all remember and recognize: the look of aggravation because, "you don't really even know me enough to judge me;"
or, the look of defeat as in, "I won’t win this battle anyway;"
and, the guilty prideful look because, "I didn't even earn this and I am just like you."