[nabs-l] Blindness and Race

Beth Taurasi denverqueen1107 at comcast.net
Fri Jan 24 01:39:08 UTC 2014

Wow.  I agree with Ryan.  WE pay too much attention to the outside.  We 
judge too much by the person's hair, eye color, and so on.  I remember 
listening to a documentary in which a social worker purposefully judged 
the person by his eye color.  She separated a group of people by eye 
cfolor, and made the blue eyed people feel so bad it turned into a 
nightmare.  Her exercise, she said, taught the people about how 
discrimination works.

On 1/23/2014 7:37 AM, Ryan Silveira wrote:
> This is a great story, Arielle.  Like you, I used to think that blind
> people are "less" racist than sighted people.  I don't necessarily
> think this is true.  I think that blind people may be less apt to
> understand why people are judged by their skin color.  I think the
> racism that blind people develop is more based on a cultural prejudice
> than one solely based on skin color.  For example, a lot of black
> people have a certain way of speaking.  That accent and speech pattern
> is due to their cultural and educational background, not to their skin
> color.  A blind person can often tell when a person is black and
> develop a prejudice, but again, that is a cultural prejudice, not one
> based on skin color.  I remember when I first learned about the races
> in the first grade, I could not for the life of me understand why
> people judged others based on their skin color.  I still have a hard
> time grasping that fact.  I think we, as a society, pay too much
> attention to what is on the outside and not enough attention to what
> is inside of a person--what makes you Arielle or me Ryan.  I think
> that, because we cannot see skin color, we are more apt to judge a
> person based on their personality which is, in a way, somewhat less
> judgemental than someone who simply looks at a person and judges them
> by their skin color.  That is not to say that we don't have our
> prejudices, but we are somewhat less judgemental because we can't see
> skin color or other physical traits.  Thanks for sharing your story;
> it makes for a great discussion.
> Ryan
> On 1/22/14, Elif Emir <filerime at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I love reading your story. Thanks for sharing it.
>> Elif
>> 2014/1/22, Arielle Silverman <arielle71 at gmail.com>:
>>> Hi all,
>>> Since I'm blind and also a social psychologist, I think this is a
>>> fascinating topic. I am curious how other congenitally blind folks
>>> learned about race and in what context. The stories relayed in the
>>> article are tragic and show us just how far we still have to go as a
>>> society.
>>> I will never forget the day in second grade when we watched a movie in
>>> school about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. They
>>> were talking about a time when a group called white people was treated
>>> better than a group called black people in certain parts of the
>>> country. I had never heard of white people or black people before. My
>>> parents never discussed race at home, partly because they were
>>> progressive and didn't think race was relevant, and partly because we
>>> lived in a very un-diverse neighborhood where practically everybody
>>> was white. I'd met a few black people by then, apparently, but didn't
>>> know the difference. Of course the movie never said anything about
>>> white and black people having different skin colors, since that was
>>> supposed to be obvious for sighted people. So I went through the
>>> lesson thinking the whole conflict and status difference between white
>>> and black people was completely arbitrary and very strange.
>>> When I got home I told my family about the movie and asked them if I
>>> was a white person or a black person. I still remember my mother's
>>> hesitation and the surprised tone in her voice when she informed me
>>> that I was white. I also remember asking why the black people in the
>>> 1950's didn't just dress up like white people if they wanted to be
>>> treated better, to which my sister (who was ten, and sighted)
>>> responded with characteristic sarcasm, "Um, it would be a little hard
>>> for them to do that". I didn't understand why it would be hard for
>>> blacks to dress up like whites, but it was apparently obvious to
>>> everyone else in the world, so I didn't ask.
>>> In the days and years thereafter, I would often overhear my mom
>>> telling this story to her friends and asserting that my blindness gave
>>> me a special gift of not being able to judge people by their
>>> appearance. I at first thought her hesitation in answering my question
>>> was because I had asked a stupid question. I eventually realized it
>>> was a kind of pride of my naivete. For many years I truly thought that
>>> my blindness protected me from  being racist. I held on to that
>>> because it made me feel like it made up for all the other ways in
>>> which people thought my blindness made me inferior.
>>> Eventually, my view was challenged at an NFB convention, when I  told
>>> some of my scholarship committee mentors that I thought blind people
>>> must be less racist than sighted people. They argued that in their
>>> experience this wasn't the case, and that blind people can often
>>> differentiate race by listening. Today, I believe that blind people
>>> are just as capable of developing racist attitudes as sighted people
>>> are. Although being blind allowed me to stay naive longer, and
>>> although I can sometimes, but not always, guess the race of folks I
>>> meet, the main reason for my lack of racial prejudice was from my
>>> background rather than my blindness. My sister obviously figured out
>>> what race meant before I did, even though we grew up in the same
>>> environment. She might have figured it out visually, but she, too,
>>> grew up without having significant racial prejudices.
>>> In some ways I am glad that my first exposure to race came from a
>>> lesson about MLK and civil rights. I am not sure how I would have
>>> discovered it otherwise. Perhaps a few years later, when I became best
>>> friends with a girl who lived in south Phoenix and complained about
>>> her black classmates calling her "white bread". Although, again, I
>>> would have just found the comment and the situation peculiar. Anyway,
>>> if I had been sighted, my first introduction to race might have been
>>> different, but probably not worse.
>>> Arielle
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