The Phoenix Network:
 
 
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
 

Black or blue

MLK EVENTS
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  January 7, 2009

What if blue eyes were like black skin?

It's too easy to say — and to believe — that if you don't engage personally in racist (or sexist, or homophobic) speech or behavior that you are not racist (or sexist, or homophobic). But watching the film Blue Eyed serves a reminder that by not speaking up against the mundane discrimination we unknowingly witness every day, we are just as culpable for perpetuating the cycle.

The 90-minute documentary, directed by Bertram Verhaag, highlights the work of Jane Elliott, a dynamic, abrasive, and brave diversity trainer. She is famous for her "Blue-Eyed" exercise, pioneered in a third-grade classroom in Iowa in 1968 and now used in adult-education seminars, which exposes white people to the discrimination that black people, women, and gays and lesbians face daily. Basically, the exercise calls for blue-eyed people to wear collars that set them apart, then spend an afternoon being ostracized, condescended to, and verbally abused, while brown-eyed people (including many blacks) look on and share their own experiences of prejudice. The result is increased consciousness of the constant struggles faced by anyone who isn't a white, straight male.

Blue Eyed documents this exercise as experienced by a group of 40 professionals — teachers, police, social workers, and school administrators — in 1995. It is uncomfortable to watch as Elliott harangues the blue-eyed group; at least two of the participants are so affected that they start crying. Indeed, even though we know that Elliott is trying to make a point, it's difficult at times not to perceive her as intolerable, sanctimonious, or just plain mean.

We see a softer side of Elliott in interviews, in which she describes the (mostly negative) effects her work had on her parents and her children, as well as the (mostly positive) outcomes on students who participated in Elliott's early sessions. While she never really explains why she became interested in this work in the first place, there's no mistaking Elliott's passion, and the perception-altering effect it has on others.

The film is being screened (admission is free) at SPACE Gallery at 7 pm on Tuesday, January 13, as part of the Portland NAACP's observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is on January 19 this year. Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the 100-year-old Portland NAACP branch, will speak, and Maine author Annie Sibley O'Brien (who has written about multiculturalism) will facilitate a discussion after the film.

Related: Review: 5 Broken Cameras, Review: Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story, 100 things to do in Maine this summer, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Holidays, GLBT Issues, Special Interest Groups,  More more >
| More


ARTICLES BY DEIRDRE FULTON
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   NO TAR SANDS  |  July 10, 2014
    “People’s feelings are clear...they don’t want to be known as the tar sands capitol of the United States."
  •   YOUR GUIDE TO ALL THINGS PRIDE!  |  June 19, 2014
    From the outset, O’Connor says, they were “foward-focused” — they had to be, given that they were basically starting from scratch — and committed to being as inclusive, positive, accessible, and transparent as possible.
  •   A RUBY CELEBRATION  |  June 18, 2014
    Hundreds of people — “a who’s who of gay liberation” at the time — came to the first-ever Maine Gay Symposium in April 1974.
  •   PULITZER-WINNER COMING TO PORTLAND  |  June 11, 2014
    Formerly a reporter for the New York Times covering global terrorism (which is where he won the Pulitzer, in 2002), Hedges is best known for his anti-corporate stance, his criticism of US foreign policy, and his call to action.
  •   DISCOVER THE PROS OF HAVING LESS STUFF  |  June 11, 2014
    The Minimalists’ take on simplification is more about why than how, Millburn says, speaking from the passenger seat of the “tour bus” — a 12-year-old Toyota Corolla — that’s taking them on a 100-city tour that stops in Portland on Friday evening.

 See all articles by: DEIRDRE FULTON



  |  Sign In  |  Register
 
thePhoenix.com:
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
TODAY'S FEATURED ADVERTISERS
Copyright © 2014 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group