WCU students and faculty commemorated Civility Day on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006. The theme “Express Yourself! Community, Individuality, and Respect” addressed issues regarding awareness of respect and civility towards all. The celebration was filled with guest speakers who reminded all to embrace the beauty of differences between people. Illustrious speaker Jane Elliott helped to make a large impact on those who listened her to stories. She spoke about diversity issues, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and discrimination, and how it has affected her personally and the people around her.
Elliott said, “If you don’t agree with [homosexuality], don’t be one.and if you are opposed [to abortion], don’t do anything to be put in that situation.” Her brusqueness captivated her audience’s full attention from the start.
She also pointed out that racial discrimination was misinterpreted because, “We are all members of the same race, the human race is the only race there is.” It is startling to realize that the color of one’s skin or their sexual orientation is such a large issue in this day and age. Elliott stressed that all discrimination was iniquitous since there is no way to prevent looking or feeling a certain way. Differences should be celebrated, not scorned at and disrespected to outstanding degrees.
In 1968, on the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, Ms. Elliott devised a brown eyed/blue eyed exercise for her third grade class to participate in in order to fully grasp the outrageous effects of discrimination. For half a day, she had all blue-eyed children identified as the inferior group, and all brown-eyed children as the discriminators, who treated blue-eyed group with the same tactics that were applied to people of color.
The results of that experiment were unbelievable. Elliott saw firsthand how quickly children were able to surrender to discriminatory behavior. In a short period of time, the exercise led to vicious actions by children, who had basically been raised to be unknowingly prejudice. Through this exercise, she was able to conclude, “You can literally change the future by teaching kids.”
Elliott spoke about how children are taught that America is like a huge melting pot for everyone to mix together and become united. She argued the point, saying, “A melting pot shouldn’t have to work; it should be like stir fry, nothing should be blended up, it’s all better when all the individual components stand alone.”
Before sharing her life encounters with the WCU community, Elliott stressed that her experiences could not be argued with, for she was simply sharing them. She travels around the country to change the awareness and ignorance of all varieties of discrimination in the world. Her message to everyone is, “[Educational facilities] will school you, not educate you. You need to educate yourself.” For more information on Jane Elliott, visit www.janeelliott.com.