Revolutionary Allyship: The Legacy of Ms. Jane Elliot

Image result for jane elliott
A fairy revolutionary godmother, Ms. Jane Elliot

I am the first to admit, during this month of examining revolutionaries (or what it even means to considered a revolutionary), I didn’t think that an almost 85-year-old white woman would even be on the short list of such considerations. Until I began to remember my high school psychology class.

Jane Elliot proved the craziness of racism, bigotry and discrimination as only an educator can: in her third-grade classroom in 1968. Notably, she began what is classically known as the Blue eyed-Brown eyes Experiment–the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Which, at the age of 84, Jane still runs.

The goal of this experiment is to have the children see how insidious racism is and how it must be taught, how it has to be reinforced, and what happens when it is deconstructed. Jane is noted to have said on more than one occasion that racism is a mental disorder; racism in this nation was caused by White people, and White people must deconstruct it.

She is the archetype of what an ally should be!

Jane Elliot is what I wish more allies would be. She has been doing this work for (as of last year) 50 years. She has decided to make fighting racism, beginning at what could have been the pinnacle of Whiteness and its privilege in the country, a life’s work.

A White woman, whom is an educator, dedicated to anti-racism work is a phenomenon! The fact that she is still part of the conversation of anti-racism work, I with the likes of Angela Davis, is mind-blowing. Not because of her age–but the consistency of the work. The longevity of her work.

She is not an ally for a fad or t-shirt campaign. Jane isn’t an ally because that is what all her friends were doing. She didn’t become a notable icon for social justice because she shared a hashtag or showed up somewhere. Jane Elliot is a revolutionary, because she believes in what she is doing.

Jane is doing this work because the work needs to be done. This is monumental, because this is what revolutionaries do! They are change agents. They are trouble makers. They point out the squeaky wheels and broken windows.

In short, they are Firestarters.

Ms. Elliot, early in her teaching career.
Don’t ever say what a teacher cannot do.
Thank you. Jane. Thank you.


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