Jane Elliott, Educator, asks white people if they would like to be treated like a black person?

Jane Elliott, famous for her “Eye of the Beholder” practice of allowing children to see prejudice, has had a quote going around. Here it is:

" A white woman, race educator Jane Elliot says to an auditorium full of people “I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society, in general, treats our citizens – our black citizens – if you, as a white person, would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand.” Unsurprisingly, no one moves. She pauses. “You didn’t understand the directions. If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are, in this society, stand.” More marked silence and lack of movement. She continues, “Nobody’s standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening. You know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you’re so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others.”
LINK to the quote.

What do you all think? If nobody raises their hand does it prove prejudice and racism?

To turn this around, what would happen if she asked black people if they would want to be treated the same as whites?

You could even change it further. Would a person living a middle class life want to change places with a person who is blind or in a wheelchair? Would that confirm prejudice against the disabled?

Your thoughts?

You know, this was actually an interesting topic.

But then I read that last paragraph.

No thanks

I apologize, I am not a very good writer. It was just my thoughts to start a conversation. I guess I could have just left that part out and seen where the discussion went.

In general, asking a question like this in an auditorium full of people is not a fair way to present the question. It puts peer pressure and social fear of standing out like a sore thumb in public on people. An anonymous survey would be a more accurate way to get answers.

I’m not disputing that the vast majority of white people don’t want to be treated like a black person, but if there were 1% or 5% who might have replied yes in an anonymous survey, they could have been intimidated by this public question in an auditorium audience.

The issue is that you seem to think that the central issue facing society is to what degree individual white people are assholes. Your final paragraph suggests that defending yourself, your ego l, your honor against a perceived slight is the part of this speech that seems most relevant and worthy of discussion to you.

It’s like your sister comes to you with a bloody face, having just been hit by her SO, and your first and most urgent concern is that she admits that not all men hit women and that you share no blame in this.

Velocity, you’re doing the same thing. You’re objecting to a rhetorical device because it might not be fair to some small portion of the audience. How dare she make them maybe feel a little bit bad when maybe, possibly, they didn’t “deserve” this? That’s just not relevant. It’s the smallest, least important factor.

It seems like one of the greatest obstacles to fixing systemic racism is personal ego.

I’d say the analogy is more apropos if amongst the things she told you during this situation is some variation on “why do men do this?” In that case, it’s right to be taken aback by this while at the same time not the most important thing to address.

The meta-conversation is also why I both dislike the term BLM, and also why I do not barge into every discussion explaining why the term “white privilege” sucks. In the former case, the meta-conversation is that the information “Black Lives Matter” is new to me, but if you assign me any humanity, it should not be new information. In the latter case, while “white privilege” is a vague and problematic term itself, trying to discuss the term implies that I think the issues with the terminology are at least or more important than stopping systematic violence.

Sure, but, isn’t that part of the point? If they know it would make them stand out, then they know it’s not something most people would want to do. If most people wouldn’t do it, then it must generally be worse to be treated as black than treated as white.

It’s a speech. She’s not trying to get an accurate survey, but to make a point that being treated like a black person is worse than being treated like a white person.

This is incorrect. The Meta-conversation is “Society does not act as if black lives matter, because it lets all these black people die without trying to stop it.”

If I believe that black lives matter and am trying to stop it, then there’s no reason for me to think that someoen saying “Black Lives Matter” is directing it at me. There’s no reason for me not to say “I agree!”

There’s never any reason that protesters are talking to you unless you disagree with their message.

It’s not just not the most important thing, it’s not a thing at all. The impulse to defend oneself in that sort of circumstance should be handled like a fleeting thought that your cousin is hot: sure, you can’t control the initial reaction, but it should not be nurtured.

Emphasis mine.

Speaking as a straight white male – WHAT??? WHY is it appropriate to he “taken aback”? Not only is it not the most important thing to address; it doesn’t need to be addressed AT ALL. What exactly is wrong with that question? It’s completely valid-- why DO men do things like that? And again, speaking as a straight white man who DOESN’T do things like that and never would, I don’t have an answer, but that doesn’t make the question any less valid; and I would in no way take it as a personal attack.

I guess we have a different level of when stereotypes are offensive to a group as a whole. I always found even comedy routines that indulge in stereotypes cringy even when they weren’t meant to be taken seriously.

Right. But this isn’t a comedy routine. It’s someone bruised and bloody and crying. Your own worries about yourself and perceived commentary on YOU, as an individual, shouldn’t be indulged.

“Why do men do this” isn’t a stereotype. No one who asks that is implying that ALL men do it. I get that that’s a trendy hashtag in some circles – “not all men!” – but if your reaction to victims of sexual violence – the vast majority of which IS perpetrated by men* – is immediately to circle the wagons and complain that the brush being used is too broad, that really makes me question your motivation, I’m sorry to say.

*even when the victim is male, the perpetrator is also more likely to be male then female. Pretending that this problem has nothing to do with men is baffling to me.

Did I say that it was my reaction? I said it would cross my mind. I specifically said that I would not complain in that circumstance.

It is a stereotype. The plain language meaning is that men as a rule do this. The objection - whose truth value doesn’t depend on it being “trendy” - is valid, but to object to it in many circumstances would - like I have already said - imply that it was more important than the other topic at hand.

Not only is there enormous social pressure not to stand up, but it takes place at a lecture by Jane Elliot, famous race educator. No one who would disagree would pay to hear her lecture.

I feel like we often raise boys, more than girls, to by hyper sensitive to the idea that they are to blame for something. And i think it starts from a well-intentioned place: we want them to be good little boys, not bad little boys, and so we make it seem like bad little boys are the scum of the earth, beneath contempt. But that backfires by creating adults who are super sensitive to being blamed for anything, who treat being falsely blamed for something, even incredibly obliquely, as a matter of paramount importance. This is why apologizing means you “lost”. This is why men historically had duels.

Girls are more often raised to deliberately take the blame–or diffuse it-- to keep the peace.

Which takes us back to the OP: it’s coming from a place that assumes the central question of racism is whether or not white people are all assholes, and that before we move the conversation forward, black people need to come together and affirm that all white people are blameless unless convicted in a court of law.

Which however often helps perpetuate the vicious cycle since dominant-group fragility is not effectively confronted because of the risk. And as you point out, that’s also translated to being in the sociocultural dominant group – those in that group become themselves sensitive to being seen as deserving to be counted among the socially respectable and morally “right”, and expecting that the default condition is that they should be seen that way, unless proven beyond reasonable doubt to have actually done wrong.

We all are driven instinctively to react “wait, but what about ME”, it’s a base reaction to any situation, but part of our growth as people is to overcome that and get it that it’s not all about us.

This, honestly, is why broader media representation is good for everyone. Little boys are actively prevented from being exposed to media where the main character isn’t a girl. They get the message that “girl” stories are inappropriate for them from every angle. And white people are protected from stories with non-white protagonists. So it’s quite possible for a white boy to reach adulthood without hardly ever really seeing a story where someone like him wasn’t the main character, where the white boy’s feelings and choices and character development isn’t the main point of the story, the whole reason the story exists. So it’s no surprise that attitude is internalized.

Part of the problem is that many white people aren’t fully aware how “this society treats our black citizens.” They don’t realize, for example, just how often black people are stopped or harassed by police where a white person would not be.

So, not standing might mean “No, I wouldn’t like to be treated that way,” or it might mean, “I don’t know—how are our black citizens treated?”

(Or, of course, it might mean “I don’t want to be the first person in the room to stand up, no matter what the question is.”)