Activist Jane Elliott leads San Diego event with candid conversation on race

Jane Elliott is used to speaking her thoughts. At 85, the fiery anti-racism activist doesn’t look forward to an introduction before stealing the microphone at a packed San Diego event Saturday.

“Can I say something yet?” she asks the occasion’s organizer, the Rev. Shane Harris, who’s been delivering announcements and awards at the podium for the past half hour.

The Individuals’s Alliance for Justice is holding a reception to honor Ladies’s Historical past Month, shining a spotlight on 5 ladies who’re leading social justice in San Diego. However Elliott, a white lady from Iowa, is the headliner.

Harris, the founder and nationwide president of the alliance, is used to commanding the pulpit, but he’s a very good sport as Elliott sternly factors to a chair and orders him to “sit down.” It’s her flip to speak.

Greater than 90 individuals gathered at the Union-Tribune’s headquarters to hear Elliott converse. The occasion was overbooked by about forty individuals, with attendees crowding into the back and sidling as much as the walls.

Elliott is used to crowds. She’s spent the previous 50 years speaking out towards racism in America, first thrown into the nationwide spotlight as an unorthodox faculty instructor within the Nineteen Sixties.

The day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Elliott decided to show her third-grade classroom — all white youngsters — what discrimination seems like. She sorted the scholars into two groups: blue-eyed youngsters and brown-eyed ones. The youngsters have been informed those with brown eyes have been smarter, quicker and better than individuals with blue eyes. The brown-eyed college students shortly turned cruel and entitled, while the blue-eyed ones turned timid.

The train proved to Elliott that prejudice is a discovered conduct, she stated. Which suggests it may be unlearned.

The classroom exercise thrust Elliott into headlines and onto tv sets on the peak of the civil rights motion, ultimately making her the topic of documentaries and textbooks through the years.

Melvin Callender, who drove from Oceanside to listen to Elliott converse, stated she made an influence on him as a toddler when he saw her interviewed on “Oprah.” And Jasmine Johnson, who introduced her eight-yr-previous son Ezra to the event, had watched all of Elliott’s speeches on YouTube.

“I simply needed to be in the identical room together with her,” Johnson stated.

Elliott’s speech was direct and rattling. Her overarching message is that racism may be destroyed by way of schooling because it’s fueled by ignorance greater than hate. It’s a subject she’s as keen about at the moment as she was 50 years in the past. Even her sweatshirt carries the message: “Prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.”

“It’s time to recover from the thought of different races, there’s just one: the human race,” Elliott stated.

The tiny white-haired lady appeared to captivate her audience, who chorused in approval throughout the speech.

The event also honored five ladies who are preventing on behalf of civil rights and social…

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