Elliot speaks at Washburn

Richard Kelly

In 1968, in a small town in Iowa called Riceville, Jane Elliot held a social experiment in her third grade classroom. That experiment is still being talked about and shared today.

Her original experiment, which gave those who have a certain eye color more opportunity and caused those with the other eye color great distress, ultimately taught her students about how it feels to be discriminated against. Elliot, who spoke at Washburn this past Thursday formulated the experiment based off of a book she had read about the treatment of those with different eye colors by Nazis and that there was a criteria for who was able to live based on that and also off the death of Martin Luther King Jr., which was the day prior to her experiment.

Her visit to Washburn also discussed racism and sexism in different forms. She, through her tough remarks, ultimately hoped to make everyone in the audience realize how often discrimination and prejudice occurs and that people need to be looked at as individuals. She noted that often whites don’t know how it feels to be discriminated against and that’s much of the reason they don’t see it and are so oblivious to it.

“Overall, the number one thing to do as a white person is simple,” said Elliot. “Watch your mouth.”

Later in her speech, Elliot also had other harsh words to say for whites who can’t see the racism in America.

“Racism is not a black problem, not at all,” said Elliot. “It’s our problem.”

She did go on to say that she has a rule, called the platinum rule, of treating others how they want to be treated and that “differences are valuable” and to appreciate them.

The event was sponsored by the Topeka YWCA’s Resource Advocacy Change for Equity Committee. Michael Bell who previously has served as the vice-chair of the City of Topeka’s Human Relations Commission first had the idea of bringing Elliot to Topeka based on how she motivates people.

” I thought that it was the best way to teach others what blacks have to go through because it’s coming from another perspective,” said Bell.