By Nolan N. Wilson
Editor’s note: This post is in response to the blog titled “Does Our Advocacy Work Relate to What Dr. King Stood for?”
Too often, on the national holiday celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., individuals or notable causes, attempt to irresponsibly associate, compare, and in some cases, overstate their plight with that of Black America. Instances of this kind of false equivalency also occur during February, which as a month specifically identified as Black History Month, is dedicated to learning about, acknowledging, and celebrating the struggle, contributions, and rich history of “Black” Americans in this country. As a member of both the African American race and the blind and visually impaired (“blind”) community, I find your blog to be apathetic, historically negligent, and brutally overstated.
Article One, Section Two of the Constitution of the United States declared that any person who was not free would be counted as three-fifths of a free individual for the purposes of determining congressional representation. As citizens in America who are blind, we have never been legally considered less than a whole person, or as property, or as a commodity to be sold and traded.
As individuals who are blind, we have not been denied the fundamental right to vote. There is no record of us ever facing poll taxes, literacy tests, physical and psychological violence, and intimidation, and even after being granted the opportunity to vote, we still face legal and illegal gerrymandering to marginalize the impact of our vote.
It is grossly negligent to assert that low vision devices are just as important for the blind community as one of our most fundamental constitutional rights as citizens of the United States to live where and how they choose. How can one compare redlining, illegal bank practices, the building of major highways through Black neighborhoods, the burning of crosses in front yards, and the actions of neighborhood and home associations to restrict the home purchases of Black Americans in their neighborhoods with the opportunity to purchase low vision devices for blind Americans? This comment is brutally overstated and demonstrates a lack of understanding and empathy for the struggle of African Americans in this country.
The advocacy of and for Americans who are blind is a very important and notable cause of which I am an active participant. The right to independent access to the ballot, the right to be educated in the least restrictive environment, accessible currency, independent access to prescription medications, access to low vision devices, and the installation of accessible pedestrian signals represent just a few of the noteworthy causes that ACB and other similar organizations and individuals have fought for and continue to pursue.
Dr. King fought and died for equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged, and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest and civil disobedience. For this reason, I believe, in principle, that the advocacy for and by Americans who are blind is representative of what Dr. King stood for. However, the comparison or similarities with the struggle of African Americans stops here.
We should all be careful to not overstate or over generalize the nature of our struggle or fight with the experience of others. The cause and advocacy of and for individuals who are blind stands alone as a notable and noteworthy cause without the offensive, overstated, and apathetic comparison to the plight of African Americans.