“We are a nation of nutcases”

Anne Walkup, Staff writer

A prominent anti-racism activist told her audience members they were all breathing in tiny particles of each other’s organs in order to prove the inherent insanity of racism.

Lecturer and educator Jane Elliott addressed a crowd of students, faculty, and community members that nearly filled Ice Auditorium on Thursday evening.

In her talk “Power, Perception, and Prejudice,” Elliott asserted that there is only one race–the human race–and that because of this, we are all connected to each other. “[When] you inhaled those internal organs, it showed how we’re all related to each other…You’re all cousins.”

Elliott offered illustrations from many disciplines, including evolution, history and geography, and interwove them to convey her message that racism is everywhere, even if it is not apparent.

In one example, she showed the audience a typical world map that highlighted regions inhabited mostly by white people. In doing so, she explained that even something so commonplace as a map can reinstate racist ideas.

“It was interesting how [Elliott] pointed out how people who don’t think they’re prejudiced actually are,” freshman Isabel Berger said.

Because Elliott is so renowned, the Black Student Union (one of the campus organizations sponsoring the event) was unsure if they would even be able to bring her to Linfield.

BSU Vice President Camila Arguello said she jokingly mentioned bringing Elliott to campus but decided to email her anyway, not expecting a reply. To her surprise, Arguello said that Elliott did respond and agreed to come speak.

Elliott also addressed the subject that initially led to her fame: her Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment. She described how she temporarily created a prejudiced environment in a third grade classroom by discriminating against the students based on their eye color.

Elliott recounted how quickly the children caught on to the discriminatory behavior because of the lessons they had learned from their parents. “We weren’t born racists. We weren’t born bigots. We have to be taught.”

She said that these racist ideas are fed by a flawed education system, simply because racist issues are generally not addressed in the classroom.

“Instead of teaching the ‘three R’s,’ reading, writing and arithmetic, we should teach reason, rights and responsibility.”

Elliott made it clear from the beginning of the speech that her priority was not to make her listeners like her.

“After five minutes you’re going to dislike me. After an hour and a half you’re going to hate my guts” were some of her first words.

Regardless, the audience responded positively and gave Elliott a standing ovation at the end of her speech.

Elliott’s ability to use humor while still emphasizing her passion in regard to the severity of the issue resonated strongly with the audience members.

“I love how angry she was,” freshman Isabell Standley said.

And at times, Elliott became impassioned indeed. “[Racism] isn’t just stupid, it’s insanity…We are a nation of nutcases,” she said.

“What the hell kind of country have we created that allows you to see people of color as less than you?”