[nabs-l] Ignorance vs. Prejudice

Jedi loneblindjedi at samobile.net
Tue Jun 16 18:16:59 UTC 2009


I think there are just some people out there who get that different 
doesn't mean deficit regardless of the difference we're talking about. 
There are, for example, some men who really understand that women 
aren't so fundamentally different from them. There are White people who 
get it that ethnic differences among themselves and between themselves 
and other races doesn't automatically spell deficient. If anything, 
these are differences to be shared and cellebrated while discovering 
our common ground. And yes, that goes for blindness, too.

I have a few sighted friends who just naturally get it, and many more 
who just plain don't. there's no real way to predict who will get it 
and who won't, but I'm always fascinated to discover who gets it and 
who doesn't.

Original message:
> I have probably the best friend you could ask for.  Aaron is probabl
> the coolest sighted guy ever.  We don't normally talk about blindness,
> it's something I don't wish to always talk about, but Aaron accepts
> that I use my computer differently than others.  I guess being able to
> chat on FB and AIM makes me more of a person than if I don't.  There
> are those who use MSN and Skype who can probably see my point.  But a
> lot of people use FB.  But one of the nicest things about Aaron is
> that he doesn't ever say I can't do something because I'm blind.  I
> don't know if other sighted people in Florida really view us that way.
>  That's just my two cents worth.
> Beth

> On 6/16/09, Rania <raniaismail04 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I think it has to do with both the experience the person has or has not had
>> with blind people as well as the personallity of the person. I have found
>> some people to just except me for who I am and ask me questions like how I
>> use the computer. Once I explain how it works they understand at least to me
>> it seems that way. I really like it when sighted people whom have never been
>> around a blind person are interested in learning what they can by asking me
>> questions. That shows me that they are excepting of my blindness and how I
>> do things.
>> Rania,
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Arielle Silverman" <arielle71 at gmail.com>
>> To: <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
>> Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 1:01 AM
>> Subject: [nabs-l] Ignorance vs. Prejudice

>> Hi all,

>> Recently we’ve been talking about airline discrimination, which has
>> historically served as a good representation of the kind of
>> second-class treatment that we often get in everyday interactions with
>> members of the public. I think Jedi made some good points in
>> describing the tendency of some sighted people to judge us as
>> incompetent based on the role of sight in their own lives and their
>> assumption that losing their sight would leave them incapacitated. It
>> is true that we are a tiny minority (even within the disabled
>> community) and that a lot of sighted people simply don’t know how we
>> perform everyday tasks. In some cases this ignorance leads to
>> discriminatory treatment (“The blind person can’t sit in the exit
>> row”) or stereotypes (“Blind people are slow”).

>> What I’ve always found fascinating, though, is that lack of
>> knowledge—ignorance—doesn’t always translate into discrimination. In
>> fact many sighted people are simply curious, and if we tell or show
>> them how we use the computer, read or travel, they quickly accept our
>> alternative techniques and treat us just the same as everyone else.
>> But this doesn’t happen all  the time. And then, on the flip side,
>> there are those who know all the facts about blindness and still
>> “don’t get it”. This includes, for  instance, the mobility instructor
>> who’s taught O&M for thirty years but who still insists that you
>> should walk three blocks out of your way rather than cross a busy
>> intersection. Many of us find that our own parents make more of a big
>> deal out of our blindness than do people we’ve just met, even if our
>> parents have met competent blind people or been to blindness
>> workshops, know Braille, etc. So there definitely is a difference
>> between ignorance and prejudice. The combination of both is bad, but
>> you can easily have one without the other. And it’s prejudice, not
>> ignorance, that actually causes us trouble.

>> Unfortunately, while we can easily remedy ignorance with simple
>> education, alleviating prejudice isn’t that simple. It seems like much
>> of the persistence of people’s prejudices comes from their emotional
>> or “gut” reactions to blindness. The experienced teacher of blind
>> students may know all the facts about Braille, including the fact that
>> children who learn Braille while young can read just as fast as
>> sighted children. And yet, on some gut level the teacher feels an
>> aversion to Braille, seeing it as a stigma or a symbol of weakness. So
>> no matter how well this teacher is trained, if she gets a kid in her
>> caseload who has partial sight, it’s going to be  a struggle for the
>> teacher to actively teach the child Braille. The parent who finds his
>> child’s blindness frightening, likewise, is going to have a hard time
>> letting the child play outside or do chores, no matter how  much he
>> reads about what is best for blind children, unless he figures out how
>> to let go of  his fear. I think so much of the success of our training
>> centers comes from their ability to not only teach us practical
>> skills, but also help us  overcome our own fears and negative feelings
>> about blindness.

>> And yet, as Monica has demonstrated, there  are those sighted people
>> who display a lack of prejudice and who automatically include us and
>> treat us normally without any prior knowledge about blindness or
>> education on our parts. We all know sighted people like this, even
>> though we often tend to spend most of our mental energy grumbling
>> about the sighted people who treat us strangely. My boyfriend never
>> met a single blind person before me, and yet in some ways seems to
>> instinctively “get it” more than my mother, for example, who besides
>> raising me for twenty-four years, also read many of the leading  books
>> about raising a blind child. (Never mind that many of the messages
>> espoused in those books are rooted in prejudices of their own).

>> So  what do you guys think makes the difference between those members
>> of the sighted public who show prejudice and those who don’t? Is it
>> something about their personalities or experiences? And if simple
>> educating isn’t enough to address people’s deep-seated emotional
>> reactions, what can we do about it? Do we have any control over
>> whether the sighted guy on the street grabs us or treats us with
>> respect? It’s easy enough for us to tell who will be responsive to
>> education about blindness and who won’t. But for those who aren’t
>> responsive, how do we deal with them civilly while still protecting
>> our rights and our freedom? And how do we deal with educators like O&M
>> instructors, who have power over what we learn or what accommodations
>> we get but whose judgments are affected by their misconceptions about
>> blindness?

>> I look forward to a lively discussion on this topic, as it’s central
>> to how we act as an organization and how we can really change what it
>> means to be blind for ourselves and for others.

>> Arielle

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