Humility: The Risk of Failing

In 1968, in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a third grade teacher, Ms. Jane Elliott, in all-white, all-Christian, Riceville, Iowa, involved her students in an exercise in discrimination based on eye color. It was her attempt to help them to understand some of the reasons why Black people were taking to the streets and demanding equitable treatment with whites.  Since then she has conducted the same exercise with people of all ages in cities all over the United States and in several other countries. “

Watching an interview about this experiment has formed a container for me I call l Hit with Humility”.  In a piece of this interview on The Rock Newman Show I watched where Jane Elliot talked about her Brown Eyes Blue Eyes experiment. What I didn’t realize was that the first time she did this experiment with her 3rd grade students – in a spur of the moment decision she chose brown eyes as dominant and blue eyes as inferior . She herself was blue eyed. As soon as the students (3rd graders) caught on to the experiment they realized they now had the authority to call in to question the intelligence and capabilities of their teacher. She talked about the pull down map escaping her grasp and flipping back up into the roll with a loud snap. One of her students responded with a comment like “Well, what do you expect with those blue eyes. Here we go again.” She was embarrassed, she was angry , she was humiliated, she wanted to retaliate and take back her authority, but she realized if she did that would ruin the experiment and so she let  them continue.

To me, in this instance, she chose a path of humility over power, not because she was incapable but because she saw a need.

We can’t just put ourselves out there when we are winning, when we are on top, when we think we have nothing to learn. Humility means taking a risk on the chance that you might fail, or you might be on the losing side, or you might have as much to learn as everyone else.

Lydia Patrick

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