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I'm not so Blind as to Blindly turn a Blind Eye to those things I'm not too Blind to See

Time for a mild rant. Am I the only one who finds it annoying to constantly hear variations of the word blind used to convey meanings like ignorant, foolish, stupid, unthinking, and so on? It's an incredibly popular metaphor, and on a near daily basis, you can read and hear in the media some form of the following expressions:

  • he's just blindly following.
  • How can you be so blind?
  • We can't simply turn a blind eye to the problem.
  • They are blind to our intentions
  • Don't rely on blind faith alone.

    I think it's time employing the word blind in this manner followed the path of words like "gay" and "retarded". No doubt, words like "gay" and "retarded" are still far too often used to label the things a person doesn't like or disagrees with, but there is at least a growing understanding that using these words in that way is inappropriate. Blind as a synonym for ignorant, however, is still widely accepted and viewed as inappropriate by only a very small number of people.

    I have no problem with the word blind when it is used more literally. I'm perfectly fine with describing myself as blind. I volunteer for the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. And terms like blind spot, blind alley, and hunting blind are entirely appropriate uses of the word blind. This is not an attack on the word blind, only on some of the ways it gets used, and my suggestion is quite easy to implement: when you mean foolish, ignorant, stupid, unthinking, etc, just use one of these words instead of blind or variations like "blind eye".

    Nor does it follow from my suggestion that we should similarly abandon words like "look' and "see". What I advocate is trying to separate negative connotations from words that certain groups of people also identify with. It's fine to call something stupid because there is no National Organization of Stupid Americans. No one identifies with this term. However, there is an Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, and I identify as blind. Not surprisingly, I would prefer it if the term that describes me not also be synonymous with stupid, unthinking, foolish, ignorant, etc, and I also do not believe it is mere coincidence that blind is synonymous with these terms and that blind people face prejudice and discrimination as a result of the misconceptions the public holds about blindness.

    Blindness is such a popular metaphor that I don't expect it's going to be abandoned anytime soon, but perhaps a few people will read this and think twice the next time they use the term blind when what they really mean is ignorant.


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