by Carl Jarvis

(Editor's Note: "From Your Perspective" is a column that appears occasionally. Its contents vary from technology to religion, from internal goings-on to items of concern in the blindness field in general. The opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the opinions expressed herein.)

"You stay in your place, Blind Boy, and we'll git along just fine."

Sound a little familiar?

Back in my youth, which was somewhere just prior to the last Ice Age, this was a commonly heard phrase. Only it was not directed toward the blind. It was applied to a group of folks we called Negroes.

In those days I took my lunch at a small café on the Seattle waterfront, filled with longshoremen, truckers and produce workers, all white. This was in the latter part of the 1950s, and the daily papers were full of stories of unrest among the Negroes. And the kindest, most tolerant words I ever heard in that restaurant were, "Well, they're all right, if they stay in their place.”

No, I never piped up and asked just where that place might be. I was the long, lanky one, and they were the broad, burly ones. But when you get right down to it, isn't that what we blind folk are being told today? Oh sure, it sounds a little different, but it means the same thing. From the person who stops us on the street and says, “You people are so wonderful and deserving." Or the local politicians who ooze, "You people deserve everything.” Of course they deliver nothing. But so long as we stay in our place, we're all right.

And just where is our place? Well, they don't know. Because when we are there, we're invisible. Out of sight ... literally. And as long as we sit quietly in our place, like good little sub-citizens, they will feel compassion, pity, sadness and even a sort of love. And best of all, they will take care of us. Maybe not real good care, but beggars can't be choosers, can we?

But if you want to be called an ingrate, or a malcontent, just rise up from your street corner and demand to be treated with respect, as an equal citizen. If you do, be prepared to duck, because the you-know-what will hit the fan. I think most folks reading this article recognize the techniques used to keep us in our place. If we can be properly "managed,” then we won't cause any problems.

But what is always troubling in these class struggles is that some of our fellow brothers and sisters sell out. In a sense they are the house servants of the old South. If they please their master, they will be allowed to live in or near the big house. And so they become self-serving and even turn on their people. And while the house servants stand in the shade and drink cool water from a tin cup, the field hands drink brackish, tepid water from a rain barrel by cupping their unwashed hands.

And so it is among the blind. This is why I belong to the American Council of the Blind. ACB works on behalf of all the blind. No one in this organization is getting rich off the backs of fellow members. Nor are we beholden to big business or the federal government. We own our own souls and we represent ourselves, and no one else. Please, let's keep it this way.

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