A Class Divided

“Treat everyone as though they were your brother!”

Today my colleagues and I were at it again, debating the state of racism in our country and how it subsequently affects the economy at large. And while we tried to argue the reasons behind why black people are still struggling, how they have a sense of entitlement and how they won’t support each other – one colleague mentioned a particular experiment that one class teacher conducted many years ago.

In this experiment, the teacher is able to split the class onto two groups by eye colour. She then continues to explain why the kids with one eye colour are better or greater than the kids with the other eye colour. She also gives certain privileges and rights to the one eye colour group while removing them from the other eye colour group. The results are life changing!

A Class Divided. (video from YouTube)

It’s a relatively long video so for those of us with less time, I’ve noted some statements that stood out for me:

  • Teacher: “Do you think that you would know how it feels to be judged by the colour of your skin?…No you wouldn’t unless you experienced it yourself.”
  • Boy (voice over): “It seemed like when we were down at the bottom, everything bad was happening to us.”
  • Teacher: “What’s wrong with being called ‘Brown Eyes’?”
    • John:”It means that we’re stupid, well not that but…”
  • Teacher: “Why didn’t you call him ‘brown eyes’ yesterday?…Were you doing it to be fun, funny or were you doing it to be mean?”
  • Teacher (voice over): “I used Orton Gillingham findings, we used the card pack and…The brown eyed children were in the low class the first day and it took them five and a half minutes to get through the card pack. The second day it took them two and a half minutes. The only fact that had changed was that now they were superior people.”
  • Teacher: “It’s not funny, it’s not fun, it’s not…pleasant! This is a filthy nasty word called Discrimination. We’re treating people a certain way because they are different from the rest of us. Is that fair?
    • Group (blue eyes): “No.”
  • Teacher: “Does it make any difference whether their skin is black or white…Is that how you decide whether people are good or bad?”
    • Whole Class: “No….No!”
  • Susan (older): “I’ve seen white people do it. I’ve seen other people do it. It’s not just the blacks…Everyone acts differently it’s just the different colour that hits you first.”

And so I ask: Is this not what happened to us? Is this not still happening today? Is this not what we’re doing to each other through xenophobia? The Apartheid system was and still is a simple but well executed psychological regime with a simple message – “Treat them differently because they are different to us and thus are inferior to us”. That system was so well executed that to this day black is still not as beautiful as white. In this country, you’re more likely to get more compliments purely because you’re “Yellowbone” than if you weren’t.

So how do we change this? How do we execute our own psychological regime that will empower the inferior without discriminating another?

From the video we can clearly see that discrimination is imprisoning. But it imprisons the mind first and everything else becomes a result of an imprisoned mind.In other words, if someone has imprisoned you psychologically, then there’s nothing you can do physically which will ever liberate you. In fact, the more you struggle externally for liberation, the more you’ll prove the idea that you are indeed inferior. The only way, is to liberate your mind!

We must strive to raise our children differently! We need to raise liberated young minds!

The question is, how?

Perhaps we can build on what Bantu Steve Biko started through his Black Consciousness Movement. We need to change the bad connotations that are associated with being black or dark skinned. And it’s in everything we say and do- who we compliment and why? How we esteem to look. It’s in how we treat ourselves; it’s in how we treat each other – does complexion really matter?

We, us the average Joe (not the government), have the power to make a change! This is an idea we need to communicate in every way possible –  at home, in schools, through media (most importantly music), as groups of friends, societies, sports clubs, churches…in everything.

We must live out the idea that black is just as beautiful, as good, as superior as any other race!

A Class Divided has changed the way I see myself as an individual. It has opened my eyes to how I have acted as a result of how I see myself and what I have believed to be my possibilities as person. I hope it has made a change in your life as well!



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