femmanism

My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

Indecently Exposed – 2004

on March 25, 2012

This is a documentary about white Canadians’ racism toward non-white, specifically Native, Canadians.  We all like to think that Canadians are so nice – we would never be racist!  But that’s a big problem.  Since we would never be racist, we can hate a whole group of people based on their race and think it is justified.  Or just not recognize it within ourselves.  I know I have certainly been guilty of doing this.  “I’m not racist, but” (always the beginning of a wonderful sentence) “what do Native people want?  They don’t pay taxes, but they want all the benefits?  They want our government to do everything for them?  Can’t they just get over it?”  Sadly, yes, I did say those things, and I did believe them.

So I knew I had to watch this documentary if I wanted to become a better person.  Based on the trailer I had seen, I thought it was going to be awful.  Some old white woman was going to go into a room and treat all the white people like shit and think she’s teaching them a lesson.  I was going in defensive and with a bad attitude, but trying to keep as much of an open mind as I could. 

Within 5 minutes of starting the movie, my defenses were down, my bad attitude was gone, and my mind was wide open.  Jane Elliott is absolutely my new hero.  She starts off by bringing the ‘Brown Eyes’ into a room with her, where they sit in chairs and discuss what is going to happen in the experiment.  Meanwhile, the ‘Blue Eyes’ are forced to sit on the floor in a separate room, are given nothing to do, and are not allowed to talk to each other.  She then tells the ‘Brown Eyes’ that while they are working, the ‘Blue Eyes’ are resting.  How is that fair?  ‘Blue Eyes’ are so lazy.

And that’s when I got it.  These horrible racist statements feel true because we hear them framed like this all the time.  White people feel better thinking that we’re working and ‘they’ (whoever it is that we would like to discriminate against in this moment) are resting.  But no.  We are being given the opportunity to be a part of our community, to contribute, to learn, to be respected.  And we pretend it would be easier to ‘rest?’  This is absolutely white privilege at it finest – we don’t even see how lucky we are.

When the ‘Blue Eyes’ are finally brought into the room with the rest of the group, the experiment really begins.  Jane Elliott shows how racism and discrimination really work, and it is just awful.  Some of the ‘Blue Eyes’ get it right away.  Women and younger people tend to be pretty quick on the uptake.  Women understand discrimination, and are not used to always having all the power.  Young people may just be more willing to learn.   But a couple of the older white men put up a fight.  Clearly, they don’t believe they could do anything wrong.  They can’t take the experiment seriously because they know that no one would ever treat them the way Jane Elliott is treating them.  They would never be treated like a minority.  But isn’t that the point?

Despite those ignorant men, this was really beautiful and powerful to see.  Watching other people get it, feeling myself get it, and getting to hear stories from the ‘Brown Eyes’ was so humbling.  I highly recommend this documentary to any white person who is ready to confront that little bit of racism inside them that it would be so much easier to deny.  One of the ‘Brown Eyed’ men said he would rather deal with someone who admitted their racism than someone who denied it.  We have to admit it before we can change it, and we have to change it.

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