I just found this graphic on a Facebook page called Moving The Sun To Shine in Dark Places:
[The graphic shows an eye chart with the text "The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision."]
It’s appropriate in this context to note that I spell out the text on the graphic in order to make the blog accessible to my blind readers. Because yes, indeed, my abundantly well-intentioned friends on the left: Blind people read. They even read blogs. On the Internet!
But I digress.
About your graphic… How can I put this? I’ll try to be as direct as possible: Using the word “blind” as a pejorative is not the way to go when you’re fighting for social justice.
Why? Okay, let me spell it out.
In this context, “blind” is entirely negative — nearly the worst thing that could happen to a person. And the people worse off? The ones who can literally see, but who have no vision for making the world a better place. Thus, blind people are just one tragic step above people who are too cowardly, or too selfish, or too morally bankrupt to care whether the world goes to hell in a handbasket.
You see, you lost me when you attempted to inspire people to moral action by appropriating the experiences of disabled people and attempting to speak in their voices. You looked at blind people and assumed that blindness is a tragic condition, roughly synonymous with an absence of moral and philosophical vision. And then you used your outsider’s judgment of a situation about which you know nothing to bolster your cause. You fell into one of the worst tropes our society has to offer about disabled people: that disability is a physical and moral tragedy.
May I make a suggestion? When you’re fighting for social justice and general kumbaya, avoid the ableist language. Is that so hard?
© 2013 by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg