In 1962, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jane Elliot put her class through a stereotyping experiment inducing prejudice among the third graders regarding the colour of ones eyes. This experiment has since been used with many groups to educate and bring awareness to what it is like being in the minority versus privileged group.
After individuals go through this experiment it makes you realize that discrimination and prejudice is an idea built into people’s minds. Once this ideology is embedded into someone’s mind it is extremely difficult to get rid of. Even though according to the law in Canada, everyone is equal, this imaginary ideology still creates societal conflicts today. These prejudices that should be left in history continue to affect us because of history and this old-fashioned mentality. In this experiment Elliot proves that discrimination (whether for race, gender, sexuality etc.) is a learned behaviour and not part of human genetics. Proving that it is a learned behaviour means that it can also be un-learnt.
The way that Elliot executes the exercise, it is very difficult for the minority group to fight back. When they argued, it made them seem argumentative and disobedient which would just reinforce the conceptions of their group. This goes to show that when being discriminated against, one feels hopeless. Short-term, it is easier to with-stand the abuse than to push-back.
This experiment also shows that discrimination doesn’t just go to the extent or the colour of skin, but that prejudice can fall to anything that makes people different including race, culture, gender, sexuality, disabilities and yes, even your eye colour.
This case study brings out the truth of what lies behind discrimination that I think it is crucial in order to move forward. I would like to believe that I am a very liberal, open, and accepting person, but I am sure that I do have some subconscious prejudices to certain groups of people. I find it very hard to believe that someone is able to not have any judgement at all towards a certain group because the way our society functions creates conflict and people are generally quite opinionated. I believe that people who hold negative views of others usually have a reason. Perhaps the people around them such as friends and family passed certain views on to them. Or maybe someone said something offensive once or confirmed a certain stereotype. However these events or comments do not reflect on an entire group of people. Everyone is unique and acts differently.
I hope that in the future experiences like the one in “A Class Divided” will not be necessary. However I believe that it will take a long time to achieve that goal and in the meantime I hope that people lose their ignorance towards what discrimination truly is and that they become more open-minded and accepting.