An interesting study emerged from the University of Delaware surrounding racism. Asia Friedman, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delware conducted a study to determine racial stereotyping made by blind people.
The study suggests that a racism may evolve without the ability to “see colour”. Some blind people, similar to some sighted people, conduct judgements about other inviduals based on race.
The research conducted interviews over the phone and in person with 25 inviduals who are without vision or are severely visually impaired. Some of the participants were born without sight, while others lost sight in childhood or adulthood. The focus of the study is determine the way participants think about race, and how it affects their opinions about the person.
The findings discovered that blind invididuals have racial stereotypes just like sighted individuals, however, “in all cases it takes them longer to categorize people by race and there is more ambiguity”.
Freidman reported that over half of the participants who were blind since birth did not think about a person’s appearance, which is a “good thing”, as they are less likely to make immediate judgements about a person. Another participant explained that without sight, it is “harder to judge someone visually right off the top of your head”.
Despite the lack of attention of physical attributes, respondents did acknowledge that they do place individuals into racial categories. These categories often derive from nonvisual cues like voices and name. As such, these categories lead non-sighted individuals to make assumptions about one’s lifestyle, behaviour and socioeconomic class.
Friedman said “I think blind people are inculturated into ideas about class and race”, which reflects similarly to those with vision.
Osagie K. Obasogie, a law professor at the University of California Hasiting College of Law adds that “blind people understand race the same way as sighted people”. Humanity in general develop the conception of human variation including physical differences, regardless of the ability to see.
Friedman’s study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but was discussed and presented at the American Sociological Association annual meeting. The research provides new insight into the development of racial perception and judgement of an individual’s character, with and without vision.