But while Griffin may personify an overt form of prejudice, the kind that draws near universal scorn, it's the unconscious, sublimated or throwaway manifestation of racism that tends to receive most institutional focus. Later this month a Manifesto Club report entitled The Myth of Racist Kids will argue that primary schoolchildren are being subject to a counterproductive level of anti-racist vigilance, in which childish insults are scrutinised for racism.
The report's author, Adrian Hart, says: But most of these 'racist incidents' are just kids falling out. They don't need re-educating out of their prejudice — they and their teachers need to be left alone.
It would be hard to reach a conclusion more at variance with the position of Jane Elliott. A former primary schoolteacher from Iowa, Elliott is the godmother of modern diversity training.
Inthe year of race riots in America and Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech in this country, Elliott taught third-grade eight- and nine-year-olds in a school in Riceville, a small all-white community in Iowa. On 5 April of that year, the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated, Elliott organised an exercise to show her class how racial discrimination worked. She was convinced that the best way to tackle the problem was with the very young, so she divided her all-white children into two groups based on eye colour.
She told the blue-eyed children that they were superior to their brown-eyed classmates, and she told the brown-eyed, who had to wear identifying collars, that they were less intelligent and poorly behaved. The result, according to her, was that blue-eyed children began to behave arrogantly and, after a short while, the brown-eyed children began to accept their lower Jane elliott blue eyed brown eyed experiment.
The next day she reversed the experiment, and the results reversed, although this time the brown-eyed children, having already experienced discrimination, were more sensitive to the suffering of their blue-eyed peers. The idea was simple and effective. Something as genetically incidental as eye colour became an analogue for the genetic superficiality of skin colour, and it was shown that when one group was favoured over the other, both groups quickly assumed their designated roles as oppressed and oppressor.
Word spread of this impromptu psychological test, and Elliott found herself explaining her theories on the Johnny Carson Show.
She was also called to the White House, and later an influential TV documentary, The Eye of the Storm, was made about her school experiment, followed thereafter by two books.
Elliott had gone from being a midwestern schoolteacher to the pioneer of a global industry of diversity awareness and training. She has gone on to repeat the blue eye-brown eye experiment on countless occasions, first at her school and then in workshops for adults, businesses and government offices throughout America and the world.
Most recently she re-ran the exercise in this country for a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary that forms part of a season on science and race. This time the participants were made up of a multi-racial adult group.
And the result, in Elliott's own words, "wasn't as successful as I am accustomed to being". It's a fractious, disjointed affair, in which few of the volunteers seem prepared to accept or play the roles assigned to them.
The "oppressed" don't want to be oppressed and their "oppressors" show little appetite for oppressing. Part of the problem is that the blue-eyed group is exclusively white, while the brown-eyed group is predominantly non-white, so that eye colour is no longer an analogue or metaphor for race but a direct referent.
The division is not random but instead largely racial.
And in this age of racial awareness, it's not that easy to find white people who are willing to role-play on a basis that assumes they are racist. In The Eye of the Stormmade inwe see Elliott as a beehived schoolmarm, firm but not unlikable, a sort of strict Marge Simpson. Nowadays, grey-haired and mean-eyed, she's honed her shtick to that of a drill sergeant or prison commandant.
She describes herself as the "resident bitch for the day", and speaks to the blue-eyed contingent as though they were criminally stupid or stupidly criminal. The performance suggests someone who would be a natural in a Maoist re-education camp: In the event, two of the brown-eyed group decide they are not prepared to take part in the humiliation of the blue-eyed group and are therefore told to leave. Elliott tells me it's "really difficult to get people of colour to play the role of the oppressor during the exercise.
It takes a long time and a lot of Jane elliott blue eyed brown eyed experiment to get them to act white". It's a curious comment from someone who is supposedly an enemy of racial stereotyping, not least because, as I remind her, the two who refuse to "act white" are in fact white.
And how many white brown-eyed didn't walk out? In truth, no one plays their roles particularly convincingly, and the experiment ends in ill-feeling and confusion. Elliott puts the failure down to the presence of TV cameras and says she won't allow the exercise to be filmed again. But perhaps the real problem is that all the participants are genuine volunteers, and role-play works best when there is some form of coercion, for example, when you are obliged to attend by your employer.
In that circumstance, Elliott wields some real power and, as footage shows in the documentary, she can be savage, reducing grown men and women to tears, all along in the certain conviction that it is good for them.
Many people of colour think the whole thing is an accident. It's not an accident.
It's what we do. It's how we perpetuate our power. Leaving aside exactly why this self-perpetuating white power structure would institute diversity training and employ people such as Elliott, it still doesn't explain why she needs to target individuals with such ferocity in her exercises. Her best answer is that it makes them think twice about what they say.
Forbidden jane elliott blue eyed brown eyed experiment new xxx video
At the end of the exercise, in corporations, invariably some white male turns to the person beside him and says, 'Does this mean I'm gonna have to watch what I say for the rest of my life?
And I say, 'Absolutely'. Elliott is keen on verbal watchfulness. She believes that racism is in the eye of the beholder and therefore one needs to be ever-sensitive to the possibility of giving offence. I mention the case of the official in the mayor's office in Washington DC who resigned some years ago after using the word "niggardly", because he had caused racial offence to colleagues.
Elliott knows that the word has no racial connotations but she has little sympathy for the official. It's kind of like holding a Jane elliott blue eyed brown eyed experiment in a dynamite factory.
There's an unforgiving quality to Elliott's approach, a puritanical zeal that, for all its good intentions, is hard to warm to.
She sees no distinction between America and Britain in terms of racism — the differing histories of slavery and colonialism, the fact that mass immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon in Britain, and racial division has not been nearly so extreme or violent here, are all of small consequence to her. White ignorance is the problem, and we white folks have now managed to export that problem all over the world.
She's reluctant to agree at first when I say that the situation has improved. After all, no one could imagine an African-American president 40 years ago. We don't make history, history makes us.
If ever there was an argument in favour of accepting the status quo, and therefore against all that she is doing, then that must surely be it. Eventually she relents and agrees that there has been progress and, what's more, that she thinks it will continue. And so people of colour are going to be the people in positions in power in the future. White people are finally beginning to realise that.
Some of them are scared to death. There's a fierce, even admirable, relish in her words, but also the nagging suspicion that she's more excited by white fear than she is by black success.
How Racist Are You? Topics Culture The Observer.