When you are walking outside, what do you see?
Do you see human beings, peacefully coexisting in what we call ‘society’? Do you see natives, or foreigners? Migrants or tourists? Black or white people? What is the first impression you have when you see these people? And how would they feel about you?
What do you think is the root cause of why we have these impressions?
We all see the world in a specific way. Education and life experience have made us in who we are. And it is that experience that guides us in how we view the world. How we reason. How we interact with others. To help us, we have given our experiences labels. These labels ‘help’ us to decide on how we should act and feel. Labels like: sex, age, sexual orientation, nationality, profession, etc. But do these labels really help us understand? Help us get along? Don’t they make us prejudice?
In 1968, a teacher named Jane Elliot decided to teach her class of all-white 3rd graders a valuable lesson. It was the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered and she knew there was no ‘normal’ way of explaining this to her children. So she decided to do an experiment.
She divided the class into 2 groups, separated based on eye colour; brown or blue. One group was given ‘superiority’ over the other. And to make it easier to recognise from a distance, the kids who were ‘inferior’ were told they needed to wear a collar. The next day the roles were reversed.
This experiment clearly shows 3 things:
- Bigotry is taught, no one is born a racist;
- Information given by authority figures will be considered as truth;
- Administering labels changes our behavior.
We are teaching children that dualism is a big factor in life. The biggest maybe. Day/night, good/bad, white/black, etc. We are teaching them what is right, what is wrong. What is good behaviour. What bad behaviour looks like. All the things in life that “matter”. And since their main source of information is a figure of authority (parent/teacher/community leader/etc), they will most likely absorb it as truth.