Գլխավոր էջ New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development A Collar In My Pocket: The Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise, by Jane Elliott. Lexington, KY: Create...
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Book Review—A Collar In My Pocket: The Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise, by Jane Elliott. Lexington, KY: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2016. 244 pages, $24.95. New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development 29(2), 63-65 Gerson A. Sanchez 1 On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and murdered. Inspired by King’s death, and infuriated by ignorant and racist comments made on television that night, Jane Elliott, a White teacher from Iowa, made the decision to teach her all White third grade classroom about the harsh reality of racism. The purpose of A Collar In My Pocket: The Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise (Elliott, 2016), is to delineate the development, application, outcomes, and personal consequences of the now famous Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes (BE/BE) experiment. Though A Class Divided (Peters, 1971) explained part of how Jane Elliott implemented the BE/BE experiment, A Collar In My Pocket, is especially unique because it is written from the creator’s perspective. In Elliott’s words, “I want you to know what happened as I experienced it” (2016, p. vii). The book is comprised of 26 chapters and the chapters are organized chronologically by year. It begins in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. King and continues through the 1990’s. The first three chapters describe how the exercise was created and implemented. Specifically, chapter one explains why and how she created the experiment. The second chapter addresses how the experiment was implemented in the classroom. By separating her students by eye color, Elliott taught about racial discrimination in the United States. Additionally, in this chapter, Elliott argues that racism it is taught and learned; and because it is learned, it can be unlearned. The third chapter not only shares letters from the third grade classroom addressing lessons learned about racism, but it also shares Elliott’s first experience on television. Chapter four describes Elliott’s first experience conducting the experiment with adults, and cha; pter five addresses how Canadians responded to the BE/BE experiment. Both chapters four and five address the difficult, and at times, negative experiences Elliott endured. These experiences provide the reader with a better understanding of Elliott’s skepticism when approached by ABC News to film the BE/BE experiment; the topic of chapter six. In chapter seven, Elliott contends that discrimination is the problem, not prejudice. Whereas prejudice is simply a powerless attitude, discrimination assumes that those in power utilize differences to subjugate minority groups. Regarding prejudice, she argues, “Your opinion of me, or of anyone else, is your problem. Don’t make 1 Florida International University Corresponding Author: Gerson Sanchez, Florida International University 10750 SW 11th ST Miami Florida 33174 , Author Email: email@example.com Copyright © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company 64 New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 29(2) it a problem for me, or for anyone else, by treating people badly simply because you flat-out don’t know any better” (Elliott, 2016, p. 62). Two main issues arise from this argument. First, this logic relegates racism to individual attitudes, thus ignoring and failing to address structural racism. Second, this argument dangerously excuses Whites from being racists because they simply “do not know any better”, implying that education cures racism. By viewing racism as irrational, or not knowing any better, this view “misses the rational elements on which racialized systems originally were built” (Bonilla-Silva, 1997, p. 468). The subsequent chapter outlines Elliott’s experience with her new classroom composed of dyslexic children; how the BE/BE experiment was recorded by ABC (“The Eye of the Storm”); and how the experiment affected Elliott personally. Chapter nine shares an experience conducting the experiment with adults at a conference dedicated to discussing matters on children and youth. Chapter 10 includes an empirical study that proved that former students who had been through the BE/BE experiment were less racist than students who had never been part of the exercise. This study was important to Elliott because it evidenced the positive effects of her work. Chapter 11 references A Class Divided (1971) stating its failures to sell in bookstores. Chapter 12 addresses consequences faced by Elliott’s children due to their mother administering the BE/BE experiment.. In chapter 13 Elliott shares family memories along with a recipe for cookies. This is the second recipe Elliott includes in the book, the first being in chapter eight. Sharing recipes in a book about racism and discrimination may seem odd to the reader at first, however, this book is more than just a description of the BE/BE experiment. This book is an opportunity for readers to also learn more about the individual who continuously administered a controversial exercise. Thus, sharing family memories and recipes complements the book as a way for readers to better understand the author. Elliott also provides examples of combatting sexism in 1977 when she began to teach at a junior high school (chapter 14). In Chapter 15, Elliott relives a reunion with the students that participated in the “Eye of the Storm” 14 years prior. Chapter 15 is insightful as it provides a follow-up with the original participants of the BE/BE experiment Chapter 16, 17, and 18 describe Elliott’s transition from a public-school teacher to a corporate trainer. In these chapters, Elliott shares multiple experiences that resulted from administering the BE/BE exercise, such as having her life threatened because of her strong stance on racism. Chapter 19 and 20 describe Elliott’s many visits on the Oprah show, how her life changed over time, and how the experiment continued to influence her. Chapters 21through 24 address Elliott’s experience going abroad to discuss the BE/BE exercise; more experiences with administering the experiment; and an attempt at creating a movie based on the BE/BE exercise. In chapters 25 and 26 Elliott outlines lessons learned from decades of experience and practices that can be implemented to eradicate racism. Though non-Whites can also employ such practices, the final chapters are primarily dedicated to Whites who espouse racism. The final pages of the book outline reading material for readers interested in topics such as ageism, homophobia, and racism. This book is intended for those interested in race and racism. Though the experiment has been discussed over time, this is the first and only book that tells the story of the BE/BE experiment as experienced by Jane Elliott. Essentially, this autobiographical work is unique because it takes the reader through Elliott’s life as a White woman who began her fight for justice in the midst of Jim Crow. This is could be an attractive quality to readers interested in understanding more about the experiment and the woman behind it. However, despite the rich personal account provided by Elliott, this book has room for improvement. Addressing issues of race and racism can be difficult and often complicated. Though the book focuses on racism, an explicit definition of racism is never provided. Regarding race, part of the misperception resides in the fact that “race in the U.S. is concurrently an obvious and complex phenomenon. Everyone ‘knows’ what race is, though everyone has a different opinion as to how many racial groups there are, what they are called, and who belongs in what specific racial categories (Omi & Winant, 1994, p. 3). Seeing as there are numerous definitions of racism, providing a definition would have been helpful to better align the reader with the author’s line of thinking. 65 New Horizons in Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 29(2) Another area that could be improved is the organization of the book. Though the book is organized chronologically by year, the author tends to oscillate between stories and memories that can sometimes confuse the reader. Recounting decades of work can be a daunting task, which is why providing direction on how the book is organized could help readers better navigate through the work. Despite the critiques mentioned here, the work is still a dynamic piece that adult educators and those in the field of human resource development can gain insight from. Though it is not necessarily dynamic for its organization or various anecdotes, it is nonetheless important because of the author’s contribution to area of racism. This book can help readers understand that standing up for justice can have consequences in both personal and professional settings. Elliott’s children suffered, her parents lost their business, and her life was threatened on multiple occasions due to her work on racism. Thus, reading this book can further help strengthen the morale of those fighting against oppression. This book can also provide professionals in the field of human resource development with various techniques regarding trainings around diversity and race in the workplace. Understanding that racism still affects people of color in the workplace (Cortina, Kabat-Farr, Leskinen, Huerta, & Magley, 2011, utilizing the BE/BE exercise could help supervisors and other employees better understand how they perpetuate racism, and the consequences of such perpetuation. For those readers interested in implementing the BE/BE exercise in the workplace, this book would serve as invaluable resource. Created and implemented by an educator who has lived her life repudiating oppression, the Blue Eye Brown Eye exercise was conceived during the Jim Crow era in the U.S. Though it has been almost 50 years since Elliott began her exercise, oppression continues to plague individuals around the world. Reading this work will help readers not only understand that standing for human rights is not always an easy plight, but that everyone bears responsibility when confronting oppression. References Bonilla-Silva, E. (1997). Rethinking racism: Toward a structural interpretation. American Sociological Review, 62(3), 465-480. Cortina, L.M., Kabat-Farr, D., Leskinen, E. A., Huerta, M., & Magley, V. J. (2011). Selective incivility as modern discrimination in organizations: Evidence and impact. Journal of Management, 39(6), 1579-1605. Omi, M., & Winant, H. (1994). Racial formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (2 nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. Peters, W. (1971). A class divided. New York, NY: Doubleday and Company.