At 87, Anti-Racism Activist Jane Elliot is still the pendulum who aims to shift racism out of the United States of America's psyche. Whilst her ambitions and teachings are outrageous to some, to others, she's their voice. The elementary school teacher started teaching about racism through the "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes Experiment" in 1968 and realises the potential women play in her message.
"International Women's Day is a positive thing as long as we realise that all women are from the same race. It's time for us to get over the idea that different faces belong to different races. There's only one race, and we're all shades of brown," Jane asserts at the beginning of our conversation. She's been living her message for decades now and is a natural symbol for the International Women's Day 2021 theme: Challenge.
I noticed her no-nonsense style during our first interview in 2020. That's when the media revived Jane Elliot's name. Before then, she gained notoriety in the '70s, but it seemed that her work was quietly forgotten until the senseless death of George Floyd. That spark of fury from thousands of people across the globe initiated conversations about race and racist behaviours. Fury pushed Jane Elliot back into the media spotlight on a topic that separates women into camps.
"The only reason people call me is that I am saying things that are true and we know it's true, but we won't listen to the same things that come out of a black man or a woman of colour because we would automatically say they are playing the race card," the Southern-born activist says. Still, the teacher at heart, she isn't shy about getting onto virtual platforms three times a day, five days a week, to educate people on race. Her message is straightforward. It's about getting people to give up their right to the privilege that comes with racist behaviours and realising that the only race that exists is the human race.
Jane maintains that white women know their privileges and black women know how hard they need to fight to own those privileges. But the difference is resilience. "It's time for pale-faced women to realise that they do not have the same staying power that women of colour have because they've never had to." Diversity isn't a theoretical idea in the Elliot household. Her grandchildren come from diverse backgrounds. Some of her grandchildren's marriages also reflect her belief that we all come from the same race. She beams at the idea that her Latino grandson will be equipped with her teachings when he grows up and faces questions on race. Jane is committed to a family that reflects the United States of America's greater family: all colours of brown.
Jane Elliot's voice may hopefully be heard in a second book. I asked her to write one, and she agreed (as you do!). Let's hope that this time next year, we'll be holding that book in our hands and that we are a step closer to diversity like we tell ourselves we wish to be.
Watch the full interview here