by Victoria Simpson
In an unfortunate new discovery, researchers have found that blind people can be just as racist as their seeing counterparts, reads a recent report on CNN.com.
Blind people take longer to categorize people than sighted people, and there is more ambiguity in their categories, but they can still hold racial stereotypes, says Dr. Asia Friedman, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware who conducted the study.
Dr. Friedman’s has yet to publish her study in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, however it has people talking.
The study conducted in-person and over-the-phone interviews with 25 individuals who had lost their ability to see at some point in life, or who were born blind or severely visually impaired. Most of whom lived in the northeastern part of the United States.
Participants were asked what they thought about race and how it affected their feelings about people.
The findings indicated that although people who can’t see don’t judge others by their appearance, they do categorize individuals based on non-visual cues like names and their voice.
Dr. Freidman found that those mental calculations sometimes led participants to make predictions about a person’s lifestyle, behavior
and socioeconomic class.
“I think blind people are inculturated into ideas about class and race, just like anybody else,” Friedman is quoted as saying, “and the ideas can come from a whole range of places, including news, family, teachers and peer groups.”
The good that can be extracted from this study includes the ability to gather better insights into how blind people make judgments about aspects of life that usually involve visual cues, such as crossing the street or shopping for clothes.
But the racism factor is inescapable.
“Blind people understand race the same way as sighted people,” Osagie K. Obasogie, a professor of law at University of California Hastings College of Law who has researched how blind people think about race, is quoted as saying.
And Freidman’s study, in his view, points to problems.
“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,” he says, “… it shows how deep the problem is.”
Dr. Freidman’s study was presented last Tuesday at the America Sociological Association annual meeting in Chicago.