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Breaking Down Boundaries Through Bluntness

Whats behind the pushback diversity trainer Jane Elliot gets from many white students about her now-famous Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise? The exercise aims to explain the daily struggles of nonwhite students, and the pushback doesnt come from a place of hate, but one of ignorance or even arrogance.

Its the common problem in our culture of denial, both in the sense of denying identity within race and thus denying the problem as well as denying the reality of historical context.In this video ( students reactions to the exercise range from nave, idealistic view of modern equality to outsider perspectives that inappropriately equate racial injustice with personal experience.

We live in different realities, but when you deny what this person is going through or what this person is going through, youre denying their reality, said Elliot in reaction to some students poor reactions to the exercise.

We are as different on the inside as we are on the outside and we have the right to be so. People: Dont deny differences. Accept them, appreciate them, recognize them and cherish them. They are extremely important.

Creating a sense of empathy is what Elliot sees as most important when driving home the point. She is persistent, even harsh, in order to surpass the established boundaries that many of the students that she encounters have. In the case of the class in the video, going too far seems to be just the right amount of push to knock these boundaries down.

I first saw the clip of Jane Elliot featured below on the post I Never Thought I'd Want To High-Five A Teacher For Yelling At A Student, But I Was Wrong by Laura Willard, which directly inspired this post.