[nabs-l] Blindness vs. Other Minority Groups

Chris Nusbaum dotkid.nusbaum at gmail.com
Sun Nov 6 20:58:21 UTC 2011


Your message was also very well-written, Cortnie! I agree 
totally! Welcome to the list!

 ----- Original Message -----
From: Cortnie Ryan <cortnie.ryan at gmail.com
To: National Association of Blind Students mailing list 
<nabs-l at nfbnet.org
Date sent: Tue, 1 Nov 2011 01:13:06 -0400
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] Blindness vs.  Other Minority Groups

Hello, my name is Cortnie.
This is an extremely interesting topic of discussion.  One in 
which
I've pondered multiple times.  I'm relatively new on this mailing 
list,
and haven't quite had the nerve to put my thoughts and opinions 
down
for all to see.  Shy? I don't know.  Anyway, on with the show, I 
guess.
First off, I should say that the way this was brought to the 
table was
very well-said, and I could tell it's something that was thought 
about
at great length.  Yes, forgive me for stating the obvious, but a 
cause
for controversy is definitely a possibility, but these issues 
need to
be discussed in order to reach a potential and satisfactory
resolution.  Mind you, this is only my opinion, but it's an 
opinion I
feel very strongly about.  No, I don't feel that it's different 
at all.
What you may feel as a compliment to another person, may, 
essentially,
be a slap in their face.  Saying that you do something well for a 
blind
person is no different than if you were to, as previously stated, 
do
well for being a woman.  Quite frankly, that sounds sexist and
degrading, no matter how well-meaning the comment was.  It's all 
about
the perception.  What someone else may see as complimentary, you 
may
see as an insult.  There have been many times those types of 
statements
have been made to me.  For instance, "Wow, I'm impressed.  You do 
really
well with crossing the street...  for a blind person." Yet, 
comments
like that aren't made to any other minority.  A more tactful 
approach
is taken.  I'm unsure why it's that way, but I'm inclined to 
believe
that it's a lack of education as well as the fact that most 
people see
blindness as a physical disability or, I really hate to use this 
word,
but a handicap.  We as blind people may be a small fraction of 
the
population, but blindness has been around as long as gays have, 
or
even unconventional religious practices and beliefs.  Take it 
from
someone who has struggled through a couple different situations.  
I
found my experiences to be quite similar.  Lots of stereotyping, 
but
different approaches were made when dealing with it.  We all just 
want
to be accepted and cared about for who we are on the inside.  
That's
all that should matter.  Unfortunately, though, that's not what 
people
see when they meet us.  Our supposed disability overshadows our
disposition and personality.  It's the same with our success.  We 
can't
possibly make it in the fast-track world of the all-mighty 
sighted.
Note the sarcasm.
Well, there's so much more I could write about this subject, but 
then
it would just become even more of a rant.  I'm trying to avoid 
that.
Once again, very well written.

On 10/31/11, Joshua Lester <jlester8462 at students.pccua.edu> 
wrote:
 Wow!
 Arielle, I've been waiting to say something about this issue!
 I was listening to the National Quartet Convention, (Southern 
Gospel
 music's largest event,) when legendary singer/songwriter Bill 
Gaither
 made this comment, while introducing the next group.
 Gordon Mote, is his pianist, and he happens to be blind, so bear 
this in
 mind.
 Bill Gaither said this, while introducing the Southern Gospel 
trio,
 "Greater Vision."
 "Now, we go from lesser vision, (refering to Gordon,) to Greater
 Vision," (referring to the group.)
 It's okay to make fun of blindness, but if I told a joke against
 someone else, I'd be criticized.
 There's a double standard in the politically correct world.
 What's good for the goose is good for the gander!
 Blessings, Joshua

 On 10/31/11, Arielle Silverman <arielle71 at gmail.com> wrote:
 Warning-this topic has the potential to start a heated debate, 
but I
 also think it is an interesting and important topic for us as 
blind
 people to think about.
 Lately I have been thinking a lot about how the problems faced 
by the
 blind are similar to or different from those faced by other 
minority
 groups in this country historically and in the present.  More 
than
 that, I have been thinking about how the general public sees us 
as a
 group in comparison to how they view other minority groups.  It 
has
 struck me that oftentimes members of the general public treat us 
in
 discriminatory ways or stereotype us without even considering 
that
 this kind of treatment resembles stereotyping and discrimination
 against other minority groups.
 Let me give a concrete example.  In his book Freedom for the 
Blind, Jim
 Omvig writes of a time when he was directing a training center 
and a
 female staff member at the center commented, "You do your job so 
well,
 sometimes I forget you're blind!" Seeing the teachable moment, 
Mr.
 Omvig brought up this incident to his students during a 
philosophy
 class, and to illustrate his point he said to the woman, "You 
are such
 a good teacher, sometimes I forget you're a woman!" From what I
 recall, the staff member got a bit upset and insisted that "no, 
what I
 said about you being blind was very different from what you said 
about
 my being a woman.  I was just trying to give you a compliment!"
 Now, as blind people most of us understand the problem with her
 comment-the implication that being blind must not be very good, 
so
 someone who does a good job isn't like other blind people.  To 
me this
 sounds like the same problem as making the analogous comment to 
a
 woman-but she didn't see it that way.  Why not? Is there a 
difference
 here?
 I have often been quite frustrated when people I know and
 trust-friends or family members, who have very liberal views 
about
 race, would never utter a racial slur or support discrimination
 against racial minorities, women, gays etc.  who nonetheless 
have no
 qualms about saying negative things about blindness.  Like 
saying blind
 people are all worse than the sighted at something, or that 
blind
 people are more dependent or less successful than the sighted, 
etc.
 They will sometimes say these things to my face and don't 
understand
 why I don't like to hear these things.  Sometimes family members 
will
 make comments comparing me favorably to other blind people.  
They think
 they are giving me compliments, and fail to understand that I 
don't
 want to hear negative things spoken about the blind as a 
collective.
 Yet these same people would never tell an African American that 
they
 are "smart for a black person" etc.  I remember during the 
protests
 against the Blindness film in 2008, I was perplexed by how many 
people
 just didn't get it, and didn't see what harm the film could 
do-and yet
 an analogous film where everyone developed black skin or female
 anatomy with such dire consequences would never be accepted in 
our
 modern society.  And finally, in my research, I have observed 
that the
 college students in my experiments have no problem saying on a 
survey
 that the blind are much less competent than the sighted, yet 
would
 never say such things directly about another minority group-in 
fact,
 lots of fancy indirect measures have been developed to tap those
 attitudes because people nowadays are so unwilling to admit 
their
 prejudices, unless it's toward the blind.
 So, what's up? Are stereotypes about the blind somehow more 
accurate
 than stereotypes about ethnic minorities? Is discrimination 
against
 the blind somehow more justified? Or is it just that we are such 
a
 small group that we haven't developed the same history, had the 
same
 scale of civil rights activism, etc.  to raise people's 
awareness? Do
 you guys think we deserve the same considerations as other 
minorities
 in this country? If not, am I missing something? If so, how do 
we get
 members of the public to see this?
 Also, as an aside, I'm curious to hear from those of you who are 
"dual
 minorities" being both blind and a member of a minority group in 
this
 country (ethnicity-wise, or a different group like GLBT, 
uncommon
 religious beliefs etc.) How do you think your two identities are
 similar? Different? Do you feel they interact with one another?
 I look forward to the discussion.
 Best,
 Arielle

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