At our last group meeting, we started off the night with a small group activity. Peter divided us into two different groups: blondes and brunettes. We had to build a structure using pasta and marshmallows that would reach from the table to the ceiling, and Peter was going to prove that the blondes were smarter than the brunettes.
Just by saying this, the brunettes were determined to prove just the opposite, however, we received fewer supplies and knew that it was going to be a lot harder to complete the task, despite having MORE members on our team.
During the experiment, Peter would go over to the blondes’ side and give them positive reinforcement, ideas of how to set it up, extra supplies, etc. However, when he came to the brunettes side, he would say we did not know what we were doing and “Are you sure you want to do that?” to make us doubt our abilities.
When one of our group members had a great idea that was sure to lead us on the right path, Peter moved him to the blondes’ side saying he was too smart for the brunettes but was not sure if he belonged yet on the blondes’ side. Peter then told the brunettes that we were not allowed to speak. This made things even more difficult.
It didn’t take long for me to realize this was psychologically based. It reminded me of the Blue eyes vs. Brown eyes experiment that I read about a few years ago in school. I knew Peter was up to something and wanted to see what. At the end of the experiment, Peter came over to our structure and smashed it!
I was so shocked and thrown off. He just destroyed all of our hard work! It wasn’t until I took another look at the signs Peter had made that I fully related this task to South Africa and what Peter was trying to get across. The signs said “Blondes only, no Brunettes” and “Brunettes”. This immediately made me think of “Whites only, no Blacks” and “Blacks”.
Our experiment did not show what actually went on in South Africa at all but it was just a little glimpse into how segregation and power played a role. There were more blacks/brunettes but that did not mean they had the upper hand in things or could succeed. If they were not given enough materials or tools to succeed, they were going to be continuously put down while the whites/blondes were allowed to rise. If they were told they could not do something, they were going to believe it.
This definitely gave me more of an insight into what South Africans felt and had to go through during apartheid, and why they still treat Americans/white people differently even though it has been 20 years since apartheid has ended.
I hope when we are there, even though it’s just for a couple of weeks, we can try to show to these children that they are not any less than anyone else. They are just as smart and deserve the best.