Minority status

            When I became blind, I also lost a love relationship and my emotionally-satisfying work—kind of a triple crown.  In rehab I learned that the loss of sight was even fraught with more loss.  Techniques of daily living proved to be quickly “in-the-face” deficits, practical and enormously frustrating….how to pick out my clothes, to do my hair, to identify and negotiate food from plate to mouth, to step out of my house safely.  Rehab addressed these basics immediately, allowing the more subtle psychological losses to surface, the sense of social adequacy and lowered self-esteem.    What I only learned much later was that I’d also lost status.  I was no longer in the majority.  I was now a member of a minority group.

It didn’t strike me in the beginning, but as I moved through my first year as a blind person, and talked to people in other minority groups, I began to catalog some similarities.  There were stereotypes.  Not only would blind people be depressed and pretty helpless, they would also be good—no swearing, no drinking, no mischief or humor.    We would marry only another blind person and we’d know most of the blind in the country, not just the vicinity.  In the classroom or meeting, we were generally the only member of that particular minority  attending.  We represented      that group.  We were the ambassadors.  I never knew how much I’d taken to heart the words of the rehab director when I graduated, “Go and be good missionaries for the blind.”  I color my hair and clean my house excessively to be a good missionary.

What I didn’t understand until years later, though, is how much I’d identify with others in minority groups, who also experienced discrimination, whose personalities were also dominated by their minority status.  (Once in a bar when I was single, a guy putting moves on me whispered to a friend, “I’ve never had sex with a blind woman.”  Not sure if he ever managed it, but I didn’t help him achieve that.)

What I realize is that I empathize with all members of minority groups.  I immediately cut them slack, because they’ve known struggle and have had to work so much harder to keep up with those in the majority.  This doesn’t translate into a perfect connection to all, but it does mean an openness, a willingness.  And it does mean that when something like the recent Orlando shootings happens, I share the horror of the whole country, but possibly even something individual and personal.

And although it’s become almost a cliché to be grateful for one’s difficulties/challenges, or at least a cliché in my story, I am grateful to have been dropped into a minority group. And so I list the names of the victims of June 12 to say my individual, personal goodbye.

 

 

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

 

 

 

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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