Blind People: Racism Exists In Those With Visual Impairments?

Do blind people and racism correlate at all? If a person can’t see, are they able to distinguish different races and be unfavorable towards them?

Discovery News reports on research that was presented at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago held last week. Asia Friedman, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Delaware, conducted the research and declared in a press release that although the process is much slower, blind people can assign races without even seeing an individual.

“The visual process of assigning race is instantaneous, and it’s an example of automatic thinking — it happens below the level of awareness.”

Friedman adds that blind people need to gather their information over time before assigning a race to anyone. This also entails getting familiar with someone at length — such as listening more to their voice and experiencing their touch.

“With blind people, the process is much slower as they piece together information about a person over time. Their thinking is deliberative rather than automatic, and even after they’ve categorized someone by race, they’re often not certain that they’re correct.”

So, does this mean blind people are immune to racism? According to Friedman, not exactly. Shockingly, those in the study did hold some cultural stereotypes. She said after interviewing several subjects, they believed being blind made them less likely to develop stereotypes. What she learned, however, was that many of them did hold racial stereotypes and make racial conclusions. The main difference was their definition of race wasn’t based on the appearance of a person.

As CNN notes in its report on blind people and racism, a book by Osagie K. Obasogie — a professor of law at University of California Hastings College of Law — also delved into how blind people may make assumptions based on people whom they cannot see. Obasogie has researched how blind people think about race and wrote “Blinded by Sight.”

He says that people who’re born blind actually do think about a person’s physical appearance, including skin color and facial features. They make snap judgements on what they perceive certain people to possess in terms of their physical appearance.

Obasogie doesn’t think anyone should underestimate blind people.

“I would push back against the idea that blind people somehow enter every social interaction with a blank slate.”

The researcher and author added that it’s closed-minded to think otherwise. After all, the more than 100 blind people he spoke with said they may try asking others more about that person and their race before meeting them. If they still don’t know before meeting them, the blind person may try figuring it during an interaction instead of keeping an “open mind,” Obasogie says.

“If race is such a strong and deep part of our social order that blind people who have never seen anything can see and pay attention to race… it shows how deep the problem is.”

It looks like there could be a link between blind people and racism in certain situations. What do you think of the study?

[Photo Credit: Morgue File]