”Blue eyed people are stupid, dumb, slow and lazy. They are unreliable, they blame others for their own faults and do not cooperate.’’ This stereotyping was part of a Dutch television show called the Great Racism Experiment by BNN. A social experiment where people were separated based on the color of their eyes. The leader of the experiment was setting the brown-eyed up against the blue-eyed.
At first, the blue-eyed people laughed about the absurdity of the basis for their separation. The brown-eyed looked astonished when they were told that they were much wiser and stronger than the blue-eyed. The stereotypical description was repeated time and again and the possibility for the brown-eyed to stand up against the leader’s judgmental behavior was hardly taken up.
Then the blue-eyed were accused of doing things the wrong way. They didn’t listen, didn’t answer questions, they were using the wrong words or had a wrong facial expression. Thereby they failed to give correct answers and didn’t know a thing about social customs and norms. This negative approach initiated revolt by one or two blue-eyed, but eventually most of them assimilated to the rules. They knew they were overpowered and had no say in the way they were treated.
The gap widened. One brown-eyed girl decided to become a part of the inferior group, for she didn’t agree with the way they were treated and wanted to show her sympathy to the blue-eyed. But no other brown-eyed raised a question or argument to confront the leader. Their position was quite comfortable, even though they didn’t approve the unequal treatment. A blue-eyed boy broke down in tears. He said he knew what this experiment was about. Being judged on superficial features was something he had to deal with every day. Then the experiment came to an end.
When they were asked to put their emotions to paper the superior blue-eyed characterized themselves as angry, small, excluded, humiliated, powerless and helpless. Then the brown-eyed were asked to write down what the blue-eyed looked like during the experiment. Alone, attacked, void, frustrated, sad and uncomfortable were words that came up. But then the leader of the group told them that they were brave, strong, courageous and self-conscious in her eyes. The way they felt during the patronizing wasn’t what she noticed. The blue-eyed helped each other and stood up for their rights, they took a position and were not afraid to speak up for themselves.
The power is in the hands of the superior. Corresponding with the survival of the fittest theory, some are just not adapting as well as others do so the winners may rule. It’s not just an idea that comes along with social theory, it’s actually implemented in our minds. Thinking from our point of reference we project our own cultural norms and values upon others, without any consideration for the uniqueness and equality of otherness in general. Therefore we qualify people on their superficial features and depersonalize them by putting them in a certain social or cultural background.
The Great Racism Experiment uncovers not only the absurdity of stereotyping. Moreover it reveals shocking reality: we all take part in this game of winners and losers.