An alternative source for public housing info founded by a former resident of Liddonfield Housing Project who writes true stories about project life and hard times in the northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. Stories and articles post on most Mondays. This blog is best viewed in Internet Explorer 10 or the latest version of Firefox or Google Chrome.
In June of
1969, J. Edgar Hoover said that the Black Panther Party was the greatest threat
to the internal security of the country.
Fred Hampton, Chairman of the
Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was making
speeches and holding rallies in Chicago.
He encouraged other blacks to rise up against the oppressive American
government. In one of his speeches he
told his followers, “You are a revolutionary!”
Hoover vowed that 1969 would be the last year the Black Panthers
existed. In December, police held a raid
at Fred Hampton’s apartment and fired 99 shots.
Fred Hampton was killed while he was sleeping. A Grand Jury found that police had lied about
what happened during the raid, but their discrepancies were insufficient
evidence to charge them for violation of civil rights.
By September the new school year began at St. Dominic. In Sister W’s history class, we learned about
the Founding Fathers who fought against their British oppressors in defense of
liberty during the revolutionary war and how they drew up the Declaration of
Independence. George Washington was a
revolutionary. Thomas Jefferson was a
revolutionary. John Hancock, Benjamin
Franklin and John Adams were revolutionaries.
They were immortalized in museums, in literature and in song. American history taught us that sometimes
revolution was necessary, righteous and justified. It was even in the Constitution that
oppressed men had the right to overthrow an unjust government.
said, “Put your books away, children.
Today, we’re going to play a game.”
The whole class cheered. “Settle
down, now, children!” said Sister W. We
tried to subdue our jubilance as we stashed away the boring history textbooks
with stories about men who had stern faces and wore powdered white wigs. Sister told everybody with blue eyes to go to
the back of the classroom, while the brown-eyed students were to sit at the
front. It was a strange thing to do, but
we went happily along with it, eager to play the game. Sister had a bag on her desk and we all
wondered what was in it. After we were
in our new seats according to eye color, she pulled candy and cookies out of
the class was smiling and happy. We were
going to have candy and cookies! But
then something happened that no one expected.
Sister said the tasty treats were only for the brown-eyed kids. The blue-eyed kids could not have any. A hush fell over the room, penetrated by
startled gasps. “But why?” asked one of
replied, “It’s all part of the game.”
Suddenly, I did not like this game because I had blue eyes. The kids in the blue-eyed section watched in
dismay as our teacher handed out the candy and cookies to the lucky brown-eyed
kids. All we could do was hungrily lick
our lips and wait for Sister to tell us she was just kidding. Instead, she pulled more fun stuff out of the
bag. This time it was coloring books and
going to let us color with crayons!” the girl sitting next to me remarked. Frowns were turned into smiles in the
blue-eyed section, but that did not last very long because Sister let us know
very quickly that the coloring books and crayons were reserved for the
brown-eyed kids. Now, we were slumping
in our seats, folding our arms and pouting.
Every time we asked why she was doing this to us, Sister repeated that it
was all part of the game.
entire school day, Sister favored the brown-eyed children over the blue-eyed
ones. They sat at the front. They got the best of everything. Their needs and wants took priority over
ours. They were showered with praise
while we were ignored. By late
afternoon, I began to hate my blue eyes.
I began to wish I had brown eyes instead, not just today and not just
for the treats, but for the rest of my life because it had started to seep into
my brain that brown-eyed people were indeed superior somehow.
before it was time for class to be over, Sister W revealed the meaning behind
it all. “Children, I made you play this
game to teach you about prejudice,” she said, “I wanted you to experience for
yourself what it is like to be discriminated against, to be treated as less
important because you belong to a group of people who look a certain way.” Finally, the game was over. We talked about prejudice while Sister handed
out to the blue-eyed students the long awaited candy and coloring books she had
been hiding in her desk drawer. She said
she picked the blue-eyed students to be the objects of discrimination because
they were in the majority. The
brown-eyed students had been lucky, but she hoped they would have learned
something from the experiment as well.
Some of them said they felt bad for us.
Some of them wanted to share with us, but were hesitant to question the
On the way
home from school, my brain was still messed up from the prejudice game. I kept expecting people to say, “Send that
blue-eyed girl to the back of the bus!”
It was a week before I snapped out of it, before I realized once more
that it was okay to have blue eyes.
Part 4 of this series will be posted on Monday, August 13, 2012. RELATED STORIES: