Race Without... Sight?

by Philip Lacasse on September 8, 2015 - 7:52pm

In “Study investigates whether blind people characterize others by race” (Science Daily, August 25, 2015), the authors argue that a new research study conducted by Assistant Sociology professor Friedman of the University of Delaware shows that blind people also place people into racial categories despite their inability to see. By interviewing 25 blind individuals, her research demonstrates that unlike how people who can see almost instantly place people into racial categories, blind people do so over a longer period of time through the process of getting to know someone. Blind people tend to make educated assumptions about someone’s race based on their personality and other non-visual cues rather than instantly categorizing someone on their visual appearance. The study also shows that once blind people have placed someone into a racial category, they are not even certain to be correct. Friedman’s research draws her to believe that race is much more ambiguous than previously thought and that there are more than simply visual ways to recognize racial categories.

In my opinion, although Friedman only interviewed 25 blind people, I believe her findings are accurate. Her research shows how powerful and influential the concept of race is in our society. It is amazing how someone who cannot even see still ends up placing people into racial categories like people who can see. It shows how deeply rooted racial profiling is in our society whether people would like to admit it or not. It also shows how ambiguous the process is even for blind people as they too are not completely certain that they are correct when assuming someone’s race. I believe Friedman’s research also contradicts Jared Diamond’s work in “Race Without Color”. Diamond states that racial classification is almost entirely a visual process that is based on visual traits where as Friedman shows that there are other non-visual ways to racially classify people. Although both Diamond and Friedman agree that placing people in racial categories is a highly subjective process, Friedman’s work shows that racial classification is not only a visual process making it even more complex than previously thought. Overall, I agree with Friedman’s work because I believe that the way someone speaks, their tone of voice and their personality traits can lead people to believe that they belong to a certain racial group, regardless of their visual appearance.


I’m responding to this post based on my sheer interest in blind individuals being able to sort people into racial categories. This is absolutely intriguing because racial identifiers are traditionally thought to be visual traits like skin color. The fact that blind people, if given enough time to know the person, can place someone into a racial category says a lot about the current concept of race. It seems race isn’t as black and white as one might think. I agree with the notion of race not being a good identifier for human beings and the Science Daily study helps to further substantiate this claim. It appears we have prejudice about people based solely on skin color when skin color is not a good indicator of character or personality. Blind people being able to make judgment on a person’s race without even being able to see them is evidence of how we view people of different “races”. Even so, the guesses blind individuals make are not guaranteed to be correct. People should view this study as an example of why using race isn’t a surefire method of categorizing individuals into groups. There are far too many discrepancies in the research regarding “race” for it to be used as a valid concept. Do individuals simply have a bias towards individuals of a different race? Overall, an insightful post with an interesting topic that adds to the argument against “race” as an identifier.