By Dawn M. Sanders
I ‘see’ from the latest news headlines that: the judge presiding over the man who shot Michael Brown, a Black unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri in the deep South of the US, has decided against all reason, not to indict the police officer who perpetrated the murder.
Michael was just eighteen when he was shot and apparently lay for four and a half hours in the streets – having died from the bullet.
He was just a little older than what my son is now and had his whole life in front of him.
No reason has ever been given as to why the young man was shot so randomly – he hadn’t committed an offense, but… His skin was black within a hotbed of long-standing, deep-rooted racism running through the deep southern United States.
Why am I writing about this and why can I empathise with the plight and struggle for people of colour and open contempt for them?
Because… I’m severely visually impaired and, when I went to school and grew up in Southern California, in what could be dubbed the “post-segregated era” of the ‘70s and ‘80s, parents still didn’t want their white kids hanging out with the black or Mexican-American kids.
Everybody tended to “stick to their own” and if you didn’t, you were seen as rebelling or some kind of deviant.
I remember when my mother freaked out when I was twelve and had a boyfriend who was black – Rodney was sweet and, why shouldn’t I – I just didn’t ‘get the blind prejudice’ especially from a woman who was half Mexican herself.
Yet my mother seemed to subscribe to the whole ‘white is right’ mentality of so-called middle-class America – even though, we were anything but middle-class, as she raised five of us on her own on welfare benefits.
Growing up severely visually impaired, shunned in the playground, at football games or at lunch tables, I always hung just about where I could squeeze in, which was with the kids of colour, be it black or Mexican, or just with the geeks and rejects…
I always secretly felt: I could relate more with the kids of colour, because they had it harder, they were disadvantaged and many of their parents too, were uneducated as my mother had been.
I’m constantly faced with people who are “blind on the inside”. People look at me and see a white stick before a woman; people presume I don’t clean my house – that someone else does it; people assume I need help getting on a bus, even though I bloody walked to the bus stop; people presume, I can’t make a cup of tea in a self-serve café; people avoid speaking to me and stick to people they can make eye contact with; people presume, the only way to communicate with me, is by “helping me”; yes, I only ‘need help’ – not love and friendship like the rest of society. I consider every one of these kinds of people blind on the inside!
Just as Bijan Stephen wrote about: I’ve been refused entry to nightclubs: “because of health and safety” the all-prevailing excuse of the twenty-first century, on the assumption that: if you’re severely visually impaired you “can’t see what’s going on and might get hurt.”
Yet, these people: from nightclub managers, to policemen to judges, use and abuse their power to systematically dis-empower others because they’re blind on the inside, but clever enough on the outside to get to where they are: in high places where they can look down atop the hierarchy of society with a bad sense of vertigo when they spot any form of ‘difference, person of colour or something that doesn’t blend in with the mundane mediocrity that constitutes what is “normal or okay.”