35 Best Jane Elliott Quotes on Racism and Racial Equality

Jane Elliott, an American diversity educator born in 1933, is known for her “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” exercise.

This experiment, initiated in 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, exposed her all-white third-grade students to racial segregation based on eye color to simulate racial discrimination.

Documented in “The Eye of the Storm” in 1970 and again in PBS’s “A Class Divided” in 1985, the exercise spotlighted how the “superior” group exhibited arrogance while the “inferior” group became subservient.

Elliott’s efforts gained national attention, leading her to abandon traditional teaching to focus on advocating against discrimination.

However, her methods were controversial, with some applauding her approach while others criticized its potential psychological harm.


Research into the effectiveness of her methods yielded moderate results. Elliott is credited as a pioneer of diversity training, conducting sessions for major corporations and governmental bodies.

Her impact is recognized worldwide and she has been featured multiple times in media and academia.

Here is the compilation of her best quotes on racism.

Top 10 Jane Elliott Quotes


1. “Racism is a learned affliction and anything that is learned can be unlearned.” ~ (Jane Elliott).


2. “To sit back and do nothing is to cooperate with the oppressor.” ~ (Jane Elliott).


3. I love playing smart and tough and having funny lines. ~ Jane Elliott.


4. People who are racist aren’t stupid. They’re ignorant, and the answer to ignorance is education. ~ Jane Elliott.


5. The flowers of the forest are wide awake. ~ Jane Elliott.


6. I don’t wanna go to my grave knowing that we didn’t make a difference. ~ Jane Elliott.


7. If I can bring people a moment of fun and relief in their lives, well, that’s the win. ~ Jane Elliott.


8. Nobody is born a bigot. You have to learn bigotry. Bigotry is a learned response. ~ Jane Elliott.


9. I don’t tweet or do any other social media, so I don’t know what’s being said out there. ~ Jane Elliott.


10. “Education in this country is about how to maintain the status quo and to perpetuate racism.” ~ (Jane Elliott).

Best Jane Elliott Quotes

11. “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 Elliott).

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

13. “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 Elliott).

14. “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 Elliott)..

15. “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 Elliott).

Best Jane Elliott Quotes

16. “Age is how we determine how valuable you are.” ~ (Jane Elliott).

17. “Somebody has to wear the black hat and give the audience someone to shake their fists at. They want someone to hate. And if that’s what you want to pay me to do, I’m happy to do it!” ~ (Jane Elliott).

18. “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 Elliott).


19. “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 Elliott).

20. “I think I’m the only 65-year-old actress in Los Angeles who hasn’t had plastic surgery, so somebody’s gotta play the old-lady parts!” ~ (Jane Elliott).

Famous Jane Elliott Quotes

21. “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 Elliott).

22. “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 Elliott).


23. “I don’t have a Twitter account. I don’t go to fan club gatherings. I’m not one of those actors who spends a lot of time engaging with the audience.” ~ (Jane Elliott).

24. “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 Elliott).

Popular Jane Elliott Quotes

25. “If you have been a slave all your life, used to being ordered about and abused from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, it’s impossible to adjust to normal life overnight. I had never been free to make my own decisions before and had no idea how to do it. I was like a bird that has been bred in captivity suddenly being released into the wild: I fell apart.” ~ (Jane Elliott).


26. “What did you people who are wearing blue collars now find out today?” ~ (Jane Elliott).

27. “God only created one race; the human race. Color groups are just…color groups!” ~ (Jane Elliott).


28. “First, you have to require that teachers learn what they haven’t about history.” ~ (Jane Elliott)..

29. “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 Elliott).

30. “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 Elliott).


31. “Talking won’t do it. Talk is cheap. Change requires action.” ~ (Jane Elliott).

32. “Nothing thrills me more than to be good at something. It’s very rewarding, and I feel grateful and blessed, and I never take it for granted.” ~ (Jane Elliott).

Inspiring Jane Elliott Quotes

33. “No white group has founded a major religion on this planet. The major religious 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 Elliott).


34. I’m not curing cancer or running a small county. I haven’t developed a greener car. I just play act. ~ Jane Elliott.

35. 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 Elliott.

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Short Biography of Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott, born in 1933, is a former schoolteacher turned diversity educator best known for her “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” exercise, initiated in 1968 following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.


This exercise, meant to teach her all-white class about discrimination, gained media attention and was later turned into documentaries, including “The Eye of the Storm.”

Elliott’s approach led her to leave teaching for full-time public speaking and diversity training, impacting schools, corporations, and various organizations worldwide.

Full Name Jane Jennison
Occupation(s) Anti-racism activist, diversity educator
Known for “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” exercise
Years active 1968–present
Nationality American
Website janeelliott.com
Born 30 November 1933 (age 90 years), Riceville, Iowa, United States
Education University of Northern Iowa
Parents Lloyd Jennison, Margaret Jennison
Spouse Darald Elliott (m. 1955–2013)
Children Sarah Elliott

Despite mixed reactions and ethical debates surrounding her methods, Elliott’s work has contributed significantly to discussions on racism and diversity training.

Quick Facts about Jane Elliott

  • Jane Elliot is an educational activist known for promoting equality.
  • She created the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Experiment in 1968.
  • The experiment taught kids about discrimination.
  • A 1970 documentary, “The Eye of the Storm,” spotlighted the experiment.
  • The goal was to show the effects of prejudice through firsthand experience.
  • Elliot is celebrated for her anti-racism efforts.
  • Her teachings have reached people all around the world.
  • Participants say the experiment changed their views on racism.
  • Elliot has focused on fighting discrimination her whole life.
  • She’s also tackled issues like sexism and ageism.
  • Her work breaks down stereotypes.
  • Influential leaders have recognized her influence.
  • Elliot has a deep grasp of why people discriminate.
  • She aims to empower young people to stand against injustice.
  • She’s received many awards for her contributions.
  • Her experiment encouraged schools to discuss racism.
  • Elliot’s speeches inspire people globally to reflect on their biases.
  • She’s written books on promoting understanding and equality.
  • Her legacy is evident in education systems worldwide.
  • Elliot has helped change attitudes towards others.
  • Her efforts bridge gaps across different communities.
  • She’s shown how one person can use education to drive social change.
  • Elliot broadened her focus beyond race to other forms of bias.
  • Her work has inspired policy changes and new teaching methods.
  • She encourages looking at people as individuals, not stereotypes.
  • Elliot’s workshops have had a lasting effect on attendees.
  • Her experiment is a key example of experiential learning.
  • She’s known for her compelling and persuasive speaking style.
  • Elliot’s impact is seen in the ongoing use of her teachings.
  • Her life’s work is a testament to the power of dedicated activism.

Top Questions about Jane Elliott

Q: Who is Jane Elliott and what is she known for?

A: Jane Elliott is an American diversity educator famous for her “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” exercise, which she first conducted with her third-grade class to teach about discrimination.

Q: When did Jane Elliott first conduct the “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” exercise?

A: Elliott conducted the exercise for the first time on April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Q: What inspired Jane Elliott to teach about racism’s effects?

A: The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and a scene on TV where a white reporter asked a local black leader insensitive questions about controlling their people inspired Elliott to teach her students about racism’s effects.

Q: How did Elliott’s “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” exercise work?

A: In the exercise, Elliott divided her class based on eye color and treated one group as superior, showing the children firsthand what racial segregation felt like.

Q: How did “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” exercise change society?

A: After being featured in “A Class Divided,” it sparked lots of talks on racism and prejudice, pushing folks to think about their own biases and the harm discrimination does.

Q: What was the reaction of the children to the “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” exercise?

A: The “superior” group became arrogant and bossy, while the “inferior” group became timid and subservient, affecting their academic performance and social interactions.

Q: How did the public react to Elliott’s exercise when it was first publicized?

A: The exercise received mixed reactions, including negative feedback after Elliott appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, with some accusing her of causing psychological damage to white children.

Q: What impact did Elliott’s work have on her personal life in Riceville?

A: Elliott faced backlash in Riceville, with some teachers and community members shunning her and her family facing hostility.

Q: How did Elliott’s exercise evolve into diversity training for adults?

A: Elliott adapted the exercise for corporate environments to promote teamwork and reduce discrimination, leading to her becoming a full-time public speaker and diversity trainer.

Q: What are some notable recognitions Elliott received for her work?

A: Elliott was featured on ABC as “Person of the Week,” listed on McGraw-Hill’s timeline of 30 notable educators, and added to the BBC’s annual list of 100 Women.

Q: What are the criticisms of Elliott’s exercise according to academic research?

A: Critics argue the exercise could be psychologically and emotionally damaging, and research shows moderate results in reducing long-term prejudice with inconclusive evidence on its overall benefits.

Q: How did students initially react to the idea that brown-eyed children were superior?

A: Initially, there was resistance among the students, but after Elliott falsely linked melanin to intelligence, the resistance fell away.

Q: What were the effects of reversing the exercise roles on the blue-eyed children?

A: When roles were reversed, the blue-eyed children taunted the brown-eyed ones, but the intensity was much less compared to the first day.

Q: How did Elliott link her lessons on Native Americans to the lesson on Martin Luther King Jr.?

A: Elliott used a Sioux prayer about empathy and understanding, intending to let her students experience discrimination as a “colored child” for a day.

Q: What led Elliott to leave teaching for full-time public speaking?

A: The demand for her to speak and conduct her exercise outside the classroom led Elliott to leave teaching and focus on fighting discrimination full-time.

Q: How did companies perceive the benefits of Elliott’s diversity training?

A: Companies saw diversity training as a way to improve teamwork, avoid legal issues, and create a more inclusive environment, following Elliott’s model.

Q: What else has Jane Elliot done?

A: Besides her famous experiment, she’s run diversity workshops and spoken worldwide, earning praise for her work in equality and social justice.

Q: Where can I find out more about Jane Elliot’s work?

A: Check out interviews, documentaries, and books about her online, or visit her official website for more on her workshops and talks.

Q: Was the “blue eyes/brown eyes” experiment ethical?

A: No, it wasn’t considered ethical because it caused psychological stress to the kids involved, even though it aimed to show how bias and discrimination develop.

Q: Does Jane Elliott have any children?

A: Yes, she was married to Darald Elliott until his passing and has four kids. She’s lived in Osage, Iowa, and Sun City, California, and received an honorary degree from CSU Bakersfield in 2019.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar