A Good Home

Blind Trust

My friend Kaye gave me a shock.

We were in the middle of a conversation some years ago when I casually said something about “being a black woman” and Kaye asked:

“You’re black?”

“Of course!” I replied. Then: “Wait …. You didn’t know that I’m black, Kaye? How is that possible? We’ve known each other for years!”

“Well,” Kaye promptly replied. “How would I know?”

“But how could you not know that I’m black?”

“Cynthia…. I’m blind, remember?”

Right. Of course.

But once I get a bee in my bonnet, Lord help us. So I kept going:

“Well,  what about all the talks we’ve had about life and diversity, and social injustice and ….”

“Yes… It’s one of the reasons we get along so well. We care about many of the same things. But I still didn’t know you were black, Cynthia.”

Shock. Realization. Awe. Followed by peals of laughter from both of us.

“I think we can now conclude that I am a total idiot…” I finally said. 

Of course, I’ve not captured the dialogue word-for-word here, but close enough for truth.

Diversity is a wondrous thing. In humans, nature and even ways of thinking. But after that conversation, I wondered what the world would be like if we couldn’t see each other’s colour, body shape and such things. If we could only “see” people through their character.

I thought about it again this morning when blogger David Prosser shared this link to a video of one man’s experiment.  Here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=ZnfAYBgs948

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60 thoughts on “Blind Trust”

  1. Many years ago I read of a lady who ended up in a burns unit in the US, and there she made friends with another burns victim. It wasn’t for some months that she realised that under all the bandages he was black.
    Your blog post rings very true 🙂

  2. Thanks very much for sharing this Cynthia. Hugs cross all racial barriers. If you removed that microscopic layer we call skin you would not be able to define race easily. What we all have is minor racial or cultural differences, but nothing can change the fact that we’re all people.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs xxx

    1. Well said, Brad. Kaye has to do so because she can’t see any of the things we often use to accept or dismiss another person. She may have to work harder, but maybe what she ‘sees’ is the real stuff.

  3. I once had a Canadian/Somali colleague who, one day, came into my office to complain that his ideas were not being accepted by our boss, “because I’m a black man”.
    I immediately stood up and loudly said “WHAT? You never told me that before, and we’ve been friends for a couple of years now – When we first met, you told me you were a Canadian!!!”
    He just stood there for a few seconds, mouth open, then started laughing and came over to shake my hand, saying “Now I remember why I love the Irish and why we’re friends”

  4. It’s an interesting world, isn’t it? We make so many assumptions about what people know and don’t know, see and don’t see. And then we realize that those assumptions are wrong – this time in the best of ways. And the video made me think about the courage it takes to test assumptions and allow yourself to hope, and how much we learn from those who passed that young man by as well as those who hugged him. The power of the crowd is strong.

    1. So true, Margaret. I did wonder too, what those who passed him by — what were they thinking? Fear of the other? I even wonder if I would have been the first to go and hug him. Maybe not. We project our stereotypes and fears onto people based only on the way they look. Unfortunately, that can cost someone a dwelling, a job, or even the benefit of the doubt where it really matters.

      1. Fear of the other, fear of looking foolish, fear of being the first, fear of being conned, just plain fear… So many possible reasons! I try very hard, not always successfully, not to judge others based on my own assumptions. Perhaps that’s the best we can do?

  5. Oh gosh, that video made me cry. When the first person to touch him for a hug came forward.. til then I thought “what the heck is WRONG with those people who aren’t going near him?”

    I’ve often thought about how things are better when people can’t see each other: so many of the preconceptions and nonsense just fall away. Thanks for this post, Cynthia.

  6. i became blind during my early twenties, so everyone i knew before then still look the same to me in my mind. but others i met after becoming blind gain characteristics i deem best suits their personalities. a month or two ago i learned that a friend of mine – that i met through blogging – was actually white. for some reason i pegged her to be black, chubby, with red painted nails. it took me a while to be able to stop seeing her like that in my mind.

    1. Jina, I love your reply — what a great story. Thank you very much for sharing. I understand how you could have pegged her differently. I subconsciously do picture people when I’ve talked to them only by phone a few times. When I meet them, I’m always wrong!

  7. Great story; great video! I liked your story because it showed how good your friendship with Kaye is. You had known she was blind but because that made no difference to your friendship you had forgotten. She had had no need to ask you if you were black or white and you had had no reason to tell her. I admire that young man in the video so much!

  8. Thanks for this, Cynthia. Lovely story, both thought-provoking and sobering. That’s what the world badly needs, a metaphorical blindness to human differences. I’m afraid we’re a work in progress!

  9. There is something you’re doing right when your attitudes aren’t shaped by color, religion, sex. They’re still powerful influencers but if they don’t define you to the exclusion of others–OK, I’m losing my way. Big ideas to think about here, Cynthia.

  10. I’m glad I caught this post. It made me laugh. Then it makes me a little sad that we can’t all see without our eyes what people are really like, not what they look like. The video made me cry. Thanks for sharing it.

  11. We find more in common, than devision, when we diminish the prejudice of our eyes. The other day, I came upon this quote, in an essay (“Our Universal Unity”, by Stephen Jay Gould, in Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, c. 1998). He was discussing how science and society are constricted by our prejudice of assuming that evolution, society, progress etc. go from “primitive” to “advanced”:

    “I could not imagine a greater difference between earthy communities – a senior American Ivy League professor, and an illiterate Malawian farmer, twenty-five years old, with five children…, and an annual family income of about eight dollars. Yet her laugher, her facial expressions, her gestures, her hopes, her fears, her dreams, her passions, are not different from mine. One can understand the arguement for human unity in a purely intellectual and scientific sense, but until this knowledge can be fleshed out with visceral experiences, one cannot truly know in the deeper sense of compassion.”

    Oh, I do love his writing style.
    -Oscar

  12. I had to comment again. My husband is legally blind to say the least. He has lost so much vision in his only eye in recent years that he was forced to retire in 2014.
    Growing up, he attended and lived at “Arkansas School For The Blind”. Although he witnessed discrimination at times from elderly staff members there, the students had a special bond that transcended race. Many of them have remained close friends for decades.

  13. This lovely story illustrates that we are all people but are often blinded by prejudices, preconceptions and hatred. Your friend, without sight, had the clearest view of all – she was able to see you for the person you are. If only we could all have such insight. 🙂

  14. Thank you so much Cynthia for this powerful post. I loved the video and found your story very moving. I recently read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which is packed full of insight about race and culture. One quote which has stayed with me is “I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America.” Isn’t it just so important to be aware that any divides between us are of our own choice and making, and can therefore be bridged whenever we choose.

  15. Thank you for that, Cynthia. I cried – and sometimes laughed – through just about all of it. I give this man so much credit for his heart and bravery. He shows us all the way.

  16. Love that story! It really made me chuckle. Loved the vid, too. I think one of the joys, and curses, of the internet for me is that we don’t really know who we’re talking to, which can break down some of those barriers but sadly can also put other barriers up.

    Food for thought anyway.

    Cheers

    MTM

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