Overcoming Prejudice

Overcoming Prejudice

Is there prejudice and bias against you because you’re blind? Of course there is. Isn’t that illegal? No, it’s not illegal to feel prejudice toward another person for any reason one may choose. What’s illegal are acts like refusing to serve a person in a reastaurant because of their race, ethnic origin or religtion or failure to hire a person because of a disability, or firing them because of having a disability or failure to promote someone due to any of the above.

People who express their prejudice in the public arena or workplace have become a bit cagey and sophisticated and know they need to say the right things if they want to do the wrong things and it’s up to the person selected against to “prove” the decision was based on bias. No easy task and in my opinions, the laws place pressure on people not to act in an unfairly prejudicial manner, but it doesn’t stop the behavior: not by a long shot. So are they completely worthless? No, not completely. They do put pressure on us all to open our doors, if not our hearts and when doors are open, in time,hearts open too. It’s called “acclimation” in psychological circles.

Prejudice against blind musicians isn’t usually expressed the same way that other types of prejudice, such as racial bias, are experienced. It’s usually not associated with hostility or mistrust, but more likely misspent pity, assumptions of what you can and can’t do and the “can’t do” list is typically lengthy and the “can do” list is microscopic. I’ve been treated to this prejudice many times in my life as a blind man and as a musician. As a musician, I felt the reality was could I make the sound and if I could was it as good as or better than someone else making the sound? If life were that simple: it’s not and it’s not.

Stereotypes are deeply imbedded within us and resist direct challenge. The word stereotype comes from the old printers who created a plate with words on it, stamped paper and created a “stereotype” where if you saw one page, you saw them all. All the pages looked alike. While examing the origin of words another word comes to mind in this discussion: respect. “Re’, the prefix indicating “again” and “spect” or “to see.” When you respect someone you “see them again” and when you sterotype someone you see what you think you already know about htem.

So how do you impact and alter someone else’s thinking and prejudgment and overcome a stereotype they hold of you? You can’t, not by direct challenge to it at any rate. The prejudice that we need to address and overcome are the ones we harbor about ourselves and how others view us. This isn’t one of those positive attitude brings postives results rants, is it? No, but it is about the best way to change other peoples’ minds is to change your own mind.

When we foster prejudicial beliefs, we assume relationships between a person and our expectations whether that relationship actually exists or not. We all know it’s not just directed to blind people, but every race, ethnic origin, religion, society, culture, nation, region, state and even town can trigger prejudicial associations. Black, Indian, Irish, men who are short, women who are heavy, people who are rich, those who are poor, those we politically disagree with are stupid and those we politically agree with are enlightened; and yes, those who are blind.

“You’ve accomplished so much for a blind man!” is a comment that is well-intended, sweet, complementary and drowning in prejudice. How much should a blind man be able to accomplish? The comment assumes there’s a standard for blind guys and by that standard, I’ve done well. So, in terms of my accomplishments, how do I measure up to someone whose blood pressure is 110 / 70?

So as a blind musician, are you making the right sounds at the right time? Do you diligently practice, improve and refine your skills and knowledge? Do  you contribute to the music dancing in the air? Do people like you for who you are? Do  you include yourself or exclude yourself from participation and life? Do you acknowledge your accomplishments and forgive yourself your flaws or do you curse your blindness and life? Do you prejudge yourself?

In his confirmation hearing for the job of Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts declared that he had no prejudices or bias, just an adherence to the U.S. Constitution and to uphold the law. I don’t agree with his politics, but he is a brilliant man and a superb jurist and that brilliant man and superb jurist made an absolutely absurd declaration. We all have prejudices, If we’re going to overcome prejudice, we first have to become aware of its existence. We all prejudge, and perhaps the most insidious, and damaging, is the prejudice we direct to ourselves.

What’s your opinion? I’d love to hear from  you. Please reply to this or write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com – thanks for stopping by. Prof. Dave

Comments are closed.