Racism through a blind man’s eyes is probably less complicated than through those of a man with sight.
To look at the world through the eyes of a blind man is to stop your mind from judging before actually knowing or understanding with actual experience. When we close our eyes, every stranger is accepted without prejudice and bias, safe from visual judgement.
Prejudice is a natural human defense mechanism, a survival instinct developed from over 200 thousand years of human evolution and millions more of fight-or-flee evolution as more primitive forms. Through our senses such as sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, our mind decides whatever unfamiliar is not safe for us (unless it falls under the category of positive prejudice, by which we are easily fooled in the form of pleasant-looking, confident artists and the like).
It is quite easy to postulate that our known experiences define our zone of familiarity or comfort. Anything falling out of the ordinary would alarm us. How sensitive are we? How about if a person speaks the same language with a slightly different accent, a person who has a small tattoo on his neck, a man who likes to wear make-up, a person who seems to have a slightly different skin tone. Our cognitive filter would pick that up in seconds. Our minds are well equipped with preconceived ideas of “us” and “them”. Many of us will find it slightly disconcerting when we first talk to strangers. Our minds are busy or distracted with questions trying to place or pre-judge them. We call them strangers – strange people – people with whom we are not familiar or accustomed to, or people different from us/you. In that logic, we are all rather hard-wired racists.
Racism is nothing more than refusing to accept or understand the unfamiliar to the point where the unfamiliar is repulsed. A sighted person will have a much larger zone of repulsion as compared to a blind person. For the sighted, the moment the stranger is viewed, the stranger is categorised. Without the curse of vision, a visually challenged person needs to work harder and listen for audible strangeness; a blind and deaf person needs to interact/touch before harboring any form of prejudice. We seem to be lied to by our senses all the time.
For a visually impaired person, they cannot make judgements based on visual senses. Therefore, skin, hair, eye colour, height, body shape, physical disability, tattoos, jewelry or choice of shoes cannot be preconceived until they are close enough to communicate. However, as humans, they will harbor other judgement criteria as their sense of hearing, touch and smell is elevated to compensate for their vision impairment. Racism exists in all of us. I believe we have to realize that, in order to resolve this human issue, we have to train ourselves to accept the world for what it is and to learn to embrace and love our diversities rather than merely “tolerate” differences. Find a way to agree to disagree.
Racism belongs in the dark ages together with shamans, slavery and other assorted intolerances. With 7 billion people trying to live on this little blue planet, our built-in racist genes need to be silenced by educating ourselves. We cannot influence or change history, but need to understand underlying behaviors so as to be able to nurture acceptable cultures for a decent 21st century society.