THERE is a very special speech which has been circulating on social media this past week by American anti-racism activist Jane Elliott. It comes from back in the 1990s.

In it, she speaks directly to an audience and asks every white person in that audience to stand up if they would be happy to receive the same treatment as black citizens experience in American society. After a pause and no reaction, she asks the question again. And still no one stands up. Elliott’s analysis of the audience’s lack of reaction is blisteringly honest: “You know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you; I wanna know why you are so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others.”

Elliott’s question still haunts Trump’s America as it burns and riots in reaction to the horrific murder of innocent black man George Floyd.

A former primary school teacher from Riceville, Iowa, Elliott first came to prominence for her “blue-eyes/brown-eyes” experiment back in 1968, when racial tensions were reaching a crescendo in the US with the assassination of Martin Luther King.

The day after the murder, Elliott conducted a racial discrimination exercise on her class of all white eight and nine-year-olds. She divided them into two groups according to eye colour and told the blue-eyed group that they were superior to the brown-eyed group, while the brown-eyed children were made to wear identifying collars and told they were less intelligent and badly behaved. She noticed that the blue-eyed children began to behave arrogantly as a result, while the other group seemed to acquiesce to their lowly position.

The next day she switched the groups and noticed that the results reversed too, although this time, the brown-eyed children seemed to be more sensitive to the suffering of the blue-eyed oppressed children. Her simple experiment in prejudice and how to tackle it caused shock waves across American society and led her to become a pioneer in diversity and awareness training. It also led to a backlash by most of her co-workers and much of the local community, but Elliott was undaunted. Now in her 80s, Elliott continues to fight racism and hold up a mirror to those ignorant enough to judge someone on the basis of the colour of their skin.

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Bishop Desmond Tutu is often quoted as saying “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”. Jane Elliott is never neutral and would most likely bridle at a description of her as being a “white influencer” while still recognising the title’s inherent truth. She experienced great abuse when she spoke up against racism in the 1960s but that hasn’t stopped her taking a stand against it and making that her life’s work. Looking at the huge global response of solidarity with US citizens protesting the murder of George Floyd, it would seem that many believe there is no room for silence or indeed neutrality anymore.

But is global solidarity enough when you’ve got someone like President Trump turning off the lights and retreating to his bunker as the protests encircled the White House? The image of Trump tweeting from his underground hideout is riddled with metaphor when it comes to racism – a retreat from reality, a refusal to look at truth, a doubling-down on ingrained prejudice, a withdrawal into bigotry.

Trump shrinks in response to widening discontent and demands for urgent change. America and the world roar together that “black lives matter” to a president who refuses to listen – and thinks only his life matters because he is white, the president and, of course, Trump.

Trump is fortunate in his opposition as some daft Democrats line up on the US media to suggest that the unrest is being stirred up by “foreign actors”, pointing the finger at Russia and even China. What complete piffle. These are homegrown, Yankee Doodle Dandy riots made in the US of A.

Meanwhile, on the subject of neutrality, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has declined to discuss Trump’s inflammatory tweeting about the riots in America and when pressed would only describe the footage of the death of George Floyd as “very distressing”. It would seem that Raab has chosen the side of the oppressor probably in fear and desperation over trade deals and Brexit.

Similarly Raab’s boss Boris “Watermelon smiles” Johnson is unlikely to emerge from his own Brit-bunker to acknowledge or condemn his American counterpart’s courtship of white supremacy and blatant refusal to address endemic racism in his country. After all, this is the man who caused a spike in racial attacks against Muslim women when he described them as “letterboxes and bank robbers”.

SUCH is the distrust of the UK Government on issues of racial equality that the initial Sky News report that publication of the official study into the prevalence of Covid among minority communities had been delayed due to the American riots was given immediate credence. They are so out of touch, such a crass insensitivity would be par for their course and the panicked official reaction to the media storm resulted in yesterday’s rushed release.

It’s exactly this kind of barely concealed acquiescence and willingness to turn a blind eye to the shocking scenes from across the Atlantic that could inflame racial tensions at home. British minorities are already suffering from a virus that is known to unfairly target these communities leading to far more loss of life than in other ethnic groups. Like America, BAME people feel unsafe in the UK and Westminster makes the situation worse.

It’s no surprise to anyone that this integrity-bypass UK Government refuses to take a stand against Trump. Sitting on the fence and declining to comment is just the moral equivalent of saying only certain lives matter, that you are willing to allow this racism to continue as long as it isn’t happening to you. Jane Elliott’s key question to the white people in her audience is as relevant now as the day she asked it. And the sound of silence in the official response brings shame upon us all.