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Jane Elliot Quotes About Activism and Racial Equality

These Jane Elliot quotes will remind you to pay more attention to the problem of racial inequality. They will inspire you to stand for what is right.

What is so special about Jane Elliot?

Jane is a teacher, a lecturer, and she is responsible for the “Blue-Eyed/Brown-Eyed Experiment.” On April 5th, 1968, one day after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Steven Armstrong was the first student to arrive to class.

He asked Mrs. Elliot, “Why’d they shoot that King?” She waited patiently for the other students to arrive before conducting her exercise. It being the 60s, all of her students were white, which meant she would have to come up with another way to illustrate her point. 

She split the children into two groups: those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes. The brown-eyed children were the “superior group” for the first day (unbeknownst to them). They received extra privileges like more lunch, increased playtime, and they sat in front of the class.

Backview of a Lady

The blue-eyed children were sent to the back rows. The children could not drink from the same water fountain. It took less than a few days for the “superior children” to become arrogant and rude. The other children became timid and subservient. The quotes reflect her thoughts on the experience, and activism later in her life. 

Thought provoking Jane Elliot quotes

1. “I’ve got news for you: There are going to be people other than Christians in the hereafter. What are you going to do about it? Are you not going to go?” — Jane Elliot

2. “Should the color of some other person’s eyes have anything to do with how you treat them?” — Jane Elliot

3. “We don’t know anything about racism. We’ve never experienced it. If words can make a difference in your life for seven minutes, how would it affect you if you heard this every day of your life?” — Jane Elliot 

4. “What did you people who are wearing blue collars now find out today?” — Jane Elliot

5. “450,000 Iraqi children have died from starvation and lack of medicine as a result of our embargo. If you believe God loves little children – and hundreds of thousands more Iraqi children will die if there is war – you have to believe that God will judge us very harshly for this.” — Jane Elliot

6. “You convince those who are analogous to the brown-eyed people that they are superior, that they are perfect, that they have the right to rule. And you convince those who take the place of the blue-eyed students that they are less than. If you do that for a lifetime, what do you suppose that does to them?” — Jane Elliot

7. “…It’s time to insist that educators recognize the myth, teach about the myth, but teach the truth, that there’s only one race: it’s the human race.” — Jane Elliot

8. “Nobody’s born a bigot, you have to learn bigotry. Bigotry is a learned response.” — Jane Elliot

9. “I don’t wanna go to my grave knowing that we didn’t make a difference.” — Jane Elliot

Jane Elliot quotes and words of wisdom

10. “To sit back and do nothing is to cooperate with the oppressor.” — Jane Elliot

11. “I am absolutely opposed to political correctness. You cannot confront hate speech until you’ve experienced it. You need to hear every side of the issue instead of just one.” — Jane Elliot

12. “I loved raising my kids. I loved the process, the dirt of it, the tears of it, the frustration of it, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, growth charts, pediatrician appointments. I loved all of it.” — Jane Elliot

If you’re enjoying these quotes, read our collection of Easter quotes, celebrating the holiday.

13. “I’m a practicing Christian – and I’m going to keep practicing till I get it right – but I don’t feel everyone has to practice the same religion that I do. You have a right to worship who you choose and how you choose to.” — Jane Elliot

14. “About 10,000 years ago, males and females were acting equitably and were treating one another as equals, and then males took over the power because they have physical power and physical strength.” — Jane Elliot

Jane Elliot quotes about our country

15. “We don’t need a melting pot in this country, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in different things. You want the vegetables — the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers — to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences.” — Jane Elliot

16. “We are still conditioning people in this country and, indeed, all over the globe to the myth of white superiority. We are constantly being told that we don’t have racism in this country anymore, but most of the people who are saying that are white. White people think it isn’t happening because it isn’t happening to them.” — Jane Elliot

17. “White people’s number one freedom, in the United States of America, is the freedom to be totally ignorant of those who are other than white. We don’t have to learn about those who are other than white. And our number two freedom is the freedom to deny that we’re ignorant.” — Jane Elliot

18. “White people in this country are tweaked. We are raised to believe a myth of White superiority. Malcolm X, in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, said that White people’s “belief that they are ‘superior’ in some way is so deeply rooted that these things are in the national White subconscious.” — Jane Elliot

19. “This country isn’t a melting pot. Think of this country as a stir fry. That’s what this country should be. A place where people are appreciated for who they are.” — Jane Elliot

20. “I get the same results with the exercise in Berlin or in the Netherlands that I do in the U.S. or Australia or Curacao. And what’s even more distressing is the fact that I’ve gotten the same results using the exercise with adults in Scotland and Australia in the year 2002 that I got using the exercise with children in Riceville, Iowa, in 1968.” — Jane Elliot

21. “And people who say, ‘We aren’t all racists.’ If you graduated from high school in the United States of America and you didn’t learn how to be a racist you need to take the whole program over again, because that’s what the program is: how to be a good American.” — Jane Elliot

22. “They need to realize that one of the things, one of the driving forces in this election was the knowledge people have that within 30 years white people will have lost their numerical majority in the United States of America.” — Jane Elliot

23. “When is this racism — when is this situation going to end for people of color in this country,” she asked, frustration heavy in her voice. “And when is anti-Semitism going to end for people who are of the Jewish faith in this country? And when is hatred of Muslims going to end for people who are Muslim in this country?” — Jane Elliot

Jane Elliot quotes about racism

24. “No white group has founded a major religion on this planet. The major religions were started in the Orient and the Middle East, not in Greece and Rome. I always knew you racists didn’t have a prayer.” — Jane Elliot

25. “We learn to be racist, therefore we can learn not to be racist. Racism is not genetical. It has everything to do with power.” — Jane Elliot

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to check out our collection of racism quotes about respect and equality.

26. “When you say to a person of color, ‘When I see you, I don’t see you Black; I just see everybody the same’ think about that. You don’t have the right to say to a person, ‘I do not see you as you are; I want to see you as I would be more comfortable seeing you.” — Jane Elliot

27. “You are not born racist. You are born into a racist society. And like anything else, if you can learn it, you can unlearn it. But some people choose not to unlearn it, because they’re afraid they’ll lose power if they share with other people. We are afraid of sharing power. That’s what it’s all about.” — Jane Elliot

28. “Education in this country is about how to maintain the status quo and to perpetuate racism.” — Jane Elliot

29. “Racism is a learned affliction, and anything that is learned can be unlearned.” — Jane Elliot 

30. “People who are racist aren’t stupid, they’re ignorant. And the answer to ignorance is education.” — Jane Elliot

31. “Racism is only, as we practice it, about 500 years old. We could destroy it, if we chose to. But that would take education.” — Jane Elliot

32. “I watched my students become what I told them they were; I watched little wonderful brown-eyed white people become vicious, ugly, nasty, discriminating, domineering people in the space of 15 minutes.” — Jane Elliot

33. “I watched brilliant little blue-eyed white Christian children become timid and frightened, and angry and unable to learn.” — Jane Elliot

34. “And people who say, ‘We aren’t all racists.’ If you graduated from high school in the United States of America and you didn’t learn how to be a racist you need to take the whole program over again, because that’s what the program is: how to be a good American.” — Jane Elliot

35. “This is the most Hitlerian administration I’ve ever seen. This man is talking about racial cleansing.” — Jane Elliot

36. “Black Lives Matter movement is the most important thing to have happened on this continent since Martin Luther King Jr.” — Jane Elliot

37. “We have to start seeing [all] people as our relatives. You are a member of my family; I will not allow you to be abused because of somebody else’s ignorance about the color of your skin.” — Jane Elliot

You might also like these John Brown quotes about freedom, vision and slavery.

What did you learn from these Jane Elliot quotes?

Both Jane and her students were affected deeply by the experiment. Jane continued to become a voice against racial intolerance and was invited to conduct the experiment on adults at a White House Conference on Children and Youth. She even appeared on the Johnny Carson show. Eventually, ABC produced a documentary about her work called Eye of The Storm.

Jane Elliot is 86 years old and is still an advocate for racial justice. Her work is eye-opening in how systemic racism is in our culture. If a few children could begin to feel superior after just a few days because they had the “better eye color.” it shouldn’t take much to understand how 400 years of racism has impacted us all.

I had never heard of her experiment before, but maybe I should have paid more attention to this problem before now. I will continue to be an advocate and fight for what is right because like Jane, “I don’t wanna go to my grave knowing that we didn’t make a difference.”

So, what’s your biggest takeaway from these Jane Elliot quotes and sayings? Do you have any other favorite quotes to add? Let us know in the comment section below.

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor
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