"I am not here to be loved," Jane Elliott told a UNCP audience of 800 at Givens Performing Arts Center. "I am going to offend every one in this room."
The former elementary school teacher and noted expert on racism discussed attitudes on racism, sexism, ageism and every form of discrimination during her speech October 9 as part of UNC Pembroke's Distinguished Speaker Series.
Microphone in hand, the small, white-haired grandmother proceeded to deliver an hour-long, blistering sermon against prejudice of all kinds.
Elliott created the legendary "Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes" experiment that, she says, proves that racism is a learned behavior and not part of the human genetic code. The experiment taught children to discriminate against one another on the basis of eye color.
"We had one (brown-eyed) girl with a mind like a steel trap who never misspelled a word until we told her that brown eyes were bad," Elliot said, demonstrating the power of prejudice in shaping children's self-images.
"There is some hope though," she said that was revealed when the tables were turned on the once-superior eye-color group. "Once exposed to ugly treatment, the children were not as vicious" when it was their turn to be the superior group.
Elliott took President Bush to task for promoting war with Iraq.
"450,000 Iraqi children have died from starvation and lack of medicine as a result of our embargo," she said. "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."
"We would not be doing this if those were white, Christian children," Elliott said. "We are creating our own enemies of the future."
Elliott pleaded with the mostly-student audience to end "the myth of white superiority" and the "miseducation" of American youth.
"It's time to change the way you talk and change your behavior," she said. "If what your are learning on this campus is how to get power, you are going to do a lot of bad things with it."
"On this campus and in this world, it should be all right to be who you are," Elliot said. "Anything you learn, you can unlearn, including racism."
The Distinguished Speaker Series will continue with actor and director Henry Winkler on Nov. 12, actor James Earl Jones on Feb. 18, actress Rita Moreno on March 11 and UNCP graduate and Oklahoma basketball coach Kelvin Sampson April 28.