February 15, 2002
Expert on discrimination to speak at Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The developer of the "blue eyes, brown eyes" discrimination experiment will speak at Purdue University at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Loeb Playhouse.
Jane Elliott, who is a frequent guest on "The Today Show and "Oprah Winfrey," conducted the experiment in her grade school classroom in 1968. In the experiment, students with blue eyes were treated as inferior and subjected to acts of discrimination compared to brown-eyed students. The exercise was designed to force people in the "majority" to experience life as powerless victims based on physical traits over which they have no control. As a result, the blue-eyed subjects became despondent and unable to focus on even routine tasks.
Elliott says such demoralization results in low self-esteem and underachievement.
"The way white women and people of color behave is not the result of a weakness or peculiar to their gene," Elliott says. "It's the way human beings behave who are treated unfairly on the basis of physical characteristics."
Elliott says Caucasian Americans must be conscious of, and seek to counteract, their cultural biases.
"A white person who has been raised and socialized in America has been conditioned to be a racist," Elliott says. "We live in two countries one black and one white."
Elliott has used the results of her experiment as the foundation for diversity training. She lectures nationwide and has had her work featured in three award-winning films, including "Eye of the Storm," "Eye of the Beholder" and "The Angry Eye."
Dario Perdomo, ideas and issues director for the Purdue Student Union Board, says Elliott's lecture should be thought-provoking.
"Many who have attended Jane Elliott's lectures and workshops report it was a life-changing experience, Perdomo says. "This lecture is made possible by the donations from many Purdue departments and student organizations in an effort to raise awareness of discrimination."
The speech, sponsored by the Project Respect: Eye on Diversity Committee, is free and open to the public. The committee consists of 12 administrative units and student organizations, including the Black Cultural Center, the Diversity Resource Office, the Purdue Student Union Board, the Student Wellness Office and the Dean of Students. A free public reception for Elliott will be held after her speech outside of the Loeb Playhouse near the mural in the Stewart Center.
CONTACTS: Dario Perdomo, (765) 494-8976; Renee Thomas, Black Cultural Center director, (765) 494-3091, rathomas.purdue.edu.
NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Individual interviews with Elliott will be available immediately after her speech.
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org