NOVEMBER ISSUE 1961
PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN BROTHERHOOD FOR THE BLIND
A CHARITABLE AND EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
2652 SHASTA ROAD BERKELEY 8, CALIF.
THE BLIND AMERICAN
Published monthly In Braille and inkprint and distributed free to the blind by the American Brotherhood for the Blind, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, President. National headquarters and editorial offices at 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley 8, Calif.
Editor: Floyd W. Matson.
Executive Secretary: Anthony Mannino, 205 South West Avenue, Room 206, Los Angeles 4|, California,
Published at 1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky.
VOLUME 1 No. 7 NOVEMBER, 1961
Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2010 with funding from National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
BLIND FRANCISCAN CLERIC ATTAINS GOAL
by Anthony Mannino
THESE MOUNTING ATTACKS ON WELFARE An Editorial
NAGLE VS. HILDRETH: ARIZONA AID LAW DEBATED
WHERE IS THE WHITE CANE LEADING US?
THREE OUT-CASTES OF AMERICAN SOCIETY
by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek
A "NEW OUTLOOK" ON THE NPB CONVENTION
"BEAUTY FOR THE SIGHTED AND THE BLIND": A Book Review
by Floyd W. Matson
BROTHERS ... & OTHERS
by Anthony Mannino
(Editor's note: Mr. Mannino is Executive Secretary of the American Brotherhood for the Blind and makes his home in Los Angeles, California.)
On Saturday, December 23, 1961 in the chapel of Old Mission Santa Barbara, California, a young blind man will realize an ambition which most people thought impossible for him to attain. Frater Keith Porster will be ordained a priest in the Order of Friars Minor.
This is, to the best of our information, only the second time in the long history of the Catholic Church that such an event has occurred (and we have been unable to confirm either the fact or the circumstances of the first occurrence). Understandably, as soon as I learned of the coming ordination of the blind cleric, I arranged for an interview with him in connection with a chartered tour of the Mission by the Los Angeles Catholic Guild of the Blind.
Frater Keith is twenty-seven years old. His home was originally in Sacramento, California, but now he and his parents reside in Santa Barbara, It was at the age of fourteen, while still with sight, that Keith decided upon the priesthood as his life work. He began his studies at St. Anthony Seminary in Old Mission Santa Barbara. The four years there were followed by a year as a novitiate at San Miguel, and another three years at San Luis Rey. This completed his preparation for the final four years at the Senior Seminary in Old Mission Santa Barbara.
It was here, in his second year, that Frater Keith was stricken by illness, culminating in the loss of his sight. After a year, he regained his health but only a small degree of vision. To resume his studies meant the facing and overcoming of great obstacles. It was doubtful that the Church had ever ordained a blind person into the priesthood. He had three more years of the most difficult studies to complete. There were endless pages and books in Latin to be read and absorbed, with many passages and liturgies to be memorized. His friends and the Franciscan Fathers themselves thought that this would be an impossible task for Keith.
But the young cleric refused to be halted. He asked for a chance to go on with his studies at Senior Seminary. With great understanding, the Franciscan Fathers decided they would take no official action to bar Frater Keith from the Order. They would let him continue his studies for one year to see what he would do and whether he could carry on his work with satisfactory progress.
In preparing for this new phase in his life, Frater Keith received instruction in braille from Wilbur Radcliff, a state home teacher from Los Angeles, The late Roger Boggs, a friend in Santa Barbara, also aided him in learning cane travel. Wilbur tells us that it took only a few lessons for the young cleric to acquire a useful knowledge of braille, After completing what proved to be a successful trial year, the Franciscan Fathers agreed that he would be able to carry on his work in the Senior Seminary and most of the duties of his calling. They petitioned the Church authorities for permission to let the young brother complete his studies for the priesthood. The petition was granted, and now Frater Keith has finished the final two years which are to be climaxed by ordination into the Order of Friars Minor, Santa Barbara Province.
Asked about the methods and tools he used in mastering his study material, Frater Keith said that in class he used the slate and stylus for note-taking, but that most of his learning and studying was accomplished with the aid of his tape recorder. His classmates read to him on tape -- and he now remarks laughingly that they learned the material at the same time he did. His room was almost a workshop for the group (and we might add that his own pleasant personality must have made it a pleasure to work with Keith).
During his years at Santa Barbara, Keith has been a member of a two-man crew engaged in doing carpentry, electrical and plumbing work about the establishment. He also serves as a tour guide when he has the spare time; he proved this ability most recently by efficiently conducting the tour of our large group.
Following his ordination, Keith reports that he will spend a pastoral year — a sort of Interneship — in Stockton, California. Then he will be ready for an assignment from his superiors. He has expressed the hope that he may be a teacher or otherwise work with young people in the field of education.
Let us wish Prater Keith Godspeed on his way, with admiration for his success as a trail-blazer in a new and high calling.
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The following item appeared recently in a feature column of THE BERKELEY REVIEW, a weekly newspaper published in Berkeley, California:
"In that monkey-see, monkey-do fashion popular with publishers in our culture, popular magazines are producing articles which purport to be exposes of 'welfare scandals' faster than rabbits produce little rabbits.
"Most of these articles are simply not true; sometimes a few facts are interwoven with the not-facts and opinions which are rampant, but on the whole they prove what they set out to prove.
"As far as we can see, dishonesty is a vice, whether it appears in an occasional misuse of funds set aside to care for those who need care, or in the writers of magazine articles, or the publishers of magazines willing to pervert truth for private gain. If anything, the sophistication and cynicism of editors and writers makes them a little more culpable than a client who doesn't know any better.
"With these sober thoughts in mind, we were delighted to hear — second-hand but on very good authority — that a certain well-known local writer refused to write an article on Aid to Dependent Children for a national magazine because he could not, in good conscience, slant the article the way the editors wished to have it slanted.
"He didn't, he said, need that kind of money."
Unfortunately, writers with such convictions as these (and courage to stick by them) are not as common as rabbits. Most such journalistic exposures, for that matter, are staff-researched and staff-written jobs with little room for discretion on the part of their employee-writers. Over recent months considerable published evidence has accumulated to support the inference that editors and publishers seeking a scandal to exploit are finding a vulnerable and favorite target in the sprawling field of public welfare.
A notable straw in this ill wind was the much-publicized "crackdown on chiselers" conducted earlier this year by officials of Newburgh, New York (see "Newburgh: A Counter-revolution in Welfare?" THE BLIND AMERICAN, September, 1961)
Although the Newburgh experiment in punitive welfare has plainly backfired and become a source of embarrassment to many of its original advocates, its loud explosion has touched off a chain reaction of similar sleuthingexpeditions and crackdowns across the country.
Many of these attacks are cited, and seconded, in a recent LOOK Magazine article (November 7, 1961) prominently displayed on the cover under the label "The Scandal of Welfare Chiseling." The degree of objectivity reached by LOOK'S report is immediately evident in its opening sentence: "An almost visible wave of resentment has begun to roll across the land against the rackets and abuses that plague the vast, ever-growing American welfare programs."
Whether in fact such a national "wave of resentment" does exist, one sure way of fomenting it would seem to be to beat the drums and sound the alarm in the near-hysterical tones of the above quotation. Ironically, the dangers of such passionate denunciation are recognized by LOOK itself, in the final sentence of the sane article: "If the people get mad, the pendulum could swing too far again, with disastrous results to the destitute and the disabled."
But it is hard to see, on the strength of LOOK'S own angry expose, how "the people" could do other than get mad--and how their madness might stop short of swinging the pendulum like an axe against the whole structure of modern public welfare--specifically, against the categorical aid programs of social security (including Aid to the Blind) which bear the brunt of the magazine's condemnation. For if the alleged facts set forth by LOOK are the whole truth or anything like it, the entire body of public welfare programming in America stands revealed as nothing less than a vast boondoggle, a system of human spoilage rather than salvage -- in short, a racket.
Here are a few of the more sweeping charges contained in LOOK'S article (authored by Fletcher Knebel of the magazine's Washington Burreau); "And almost everywhere the eye of the investigator probes, the same theme emerges: the house of welfare is in disorder. In some places, it is downright disorderly, . . . The original conception of the great welfare programs, many of which started during depression days, has been warped and twisted out of all reason. Instead of giving temporary aid to those in need through no fault of their own, welfare rolls now harbor hundreds of thousands of the shiftless, cheats and criminals. ... The rules and regulations of the Social Security Administration have become a morass of complexity. When the rules are complex, the evaders, the frauds and the rationalizers take over. . . . Almost everywhere that the investigative eye probes in the vast welfare field, it finds fraud and a mocking of the basic standards of need."
Interspersed between these declarations of virtually unqualified condemnation and recrimination are a collection of isolated instances and episodes of individual abuse or misuse of welfare funds (mostly the receipt of checks by persons apparently ineligible). Such journalistic tactics as these fall squarely within the tradition of tabloid sensationalism. It goes without saying that in a welfare system which embraces a clientele numbering millions of citizens, and whose rules and regulations are constantly undergoing change to meet the needs of an exploding population, anyone who wishes may have a field day running down anecdotes and turning up lurid cases to prove the existence of instability and error. But it is, of course, no less possible for an observer genuinely interested in the truth to put aside the magnifying-glass of the sleuth and attempt to view the national scene in perspective.
Nowhere in LOOK'S elaborate report is any recognition given to the positive and constructive achievements of our welfare laws and programs — for example, to the dedicated service year in and year out of the host of underpaid workers in the field, or to the vast contributions which have been made through social security over a generation not only to the economic security but to the dignity, opportunity, equality and human hopes of many millions of disabled and disadvantaged Americans.
Something of this neglected side of welfare is suggested in a reminiscence of the well-known author R. L. Duffus: "His insecurity," he wrote of a friend, "was not necessary, either, nor would he have been quite so insecure had he been born a generation later, I think of him when I hear it said that social security kills initiative. I know this: that the lack of it killed men."
No doubt the social security system has changed in many ways since the days of the great depression. It is no longer solely geared to the emergency relief of temporary distress — although it is still committed to that too. It has come increasingly to recognize and accommodate the means of rehabilitation and restoration, and more exactly of self-support and self-care, for significant groups of citizens such as the blind whose disability is far from transient and whose overriding need is for social re-integration rather than for special shelter. Significantly, despite the shrill tones and sweeping charges of its article, LOOK itself appears to espouse this constructive goal of the welfare system. Among its concluding recommendation is the following: "Place rehabilitation on a par with relief, even if this costs more at the start." All citizens who are genuinely concerned with the improvement rather than the abandonment of our modern welfare programs might take heart from this isolated expression of approval--in the hope that it may eventually furnish the basis for a "sober second LOOK".
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A significant public debate over Arizona's controversial welfare (or anti-welfare) plan — pitting its official advocates against representatives of the organized blind and of organized labor -- was staged there in October over statewide television facilities.
Moderated by TV personality Stan Calhoun, the half-
hour debate featured Fen Hildreth, Arizona State Commission-
er of Welfare; Mrs. Christine Small, director of the state's bureau of public assistance; John F. Nagle, head of the Washington Office of the National Federation of the Blind, and Keene Browm, Security-Treasurer of the Arizona State AFL-CIO.
The argument centered around the recent proposal by Commissioner Hildreth that Arizona reject the new and more liberal Federal amendments to social seciirity Aid to the Blind raising the exemption of earned income for recipients from $50 to $85 monthly plus half of any additional earnings, (See articles in THE BLIND AMERICAN, August and September, 1961.)
Under questioning from Nagle, the Arizona welfare chief admitted that the state stands to lose "somewhere close to $400,000" in Federal funds for blind assistance should its legislature elect to go along with Hildreth' s proposal and thus be held out of conformity with social security requirements. He stated further that Arizona could not afford to give up the "close to $19 million" of Federal money presently contributed to its public assistance programs, but continued:
However, individual programs, like people, can be individualized. Now Arizona never took advantage of Federal funds for its crippled children, for example, and I think that this was not too bad, because I feel that we were able to run a sound crippled children's program without Federal aid, bringing it down to the line program,
I think it would be unfortunate if we lost Federal aid to the blind," Hildreth said. But he added that, "because it happens to be the smallest of our aid programs, I think it would be possible, financially, to do without Federal aid as far as the technicality of whether we could finance it or not is concerned."
Mrs, Small, supporting the case for the exclusive Arizona plan, maintained that only a minute fraction of the state's estimated 2,367 blind residents would be affected in any case by the exempt-earnings provision on the basis of employability. Declaring that the great majority of blind-aid recipients are over 65, and hence to be regarded as unemployable, she went on significantly to include within this category another and different group of individuals who might well be surprised to learn of their classification as unemployables: "Also in this group there is a large number of non-English-speaking individuals and others who are eliminated because they have never had educational opportunities. This reduces the number again."
Brown, the labor spokesman in the panel discussion, joined with the NFB's John Nagle in stressing the rehabiltative purpose of the liberalized exemption provision — its encouragement to the blind recipient to become self-supporting. He contrasted the average $105 weekly earnings of an Arizona industrial worker covered by the minimum wage law with the average grant to blind aid recipients of $72.42 per month .. "in other words, about 45 cents an hour on the average or about $18 per week; that is what they have to live on, and that is not right."
The AFL-CIO representative also expressed himself as "amused at those who are always opposed to Federal assistance, Arizona is receiving many millions of dollars today in Federal assistance. If we want to be consistent in this philosophy, then why not eliminate all Federal assistance and see what sort of situation Arizona's economy would be in?"
Nagle pointed out that by rejecting Federal funds for its blind aid program Arizona would be compelled to cut its working staff and expenditures to a minimum, thereby depriving recipients of adequate rehabilitative and other services geared to helping them off public assistance rolls and on the way to self-support. "We are not going to solve this problem by trying to do it through a state appropriation, because the revenue isn't here in Arizona, I think we just have to be honest about this," Nagle stated.
Pointing to California's successful experience under the new Federal formula, the NFB spokesman demonstrated that "if California's experience is valid for Arizona as well, and we believe that it is, then the total additional expenditure in the state under the new Federal amendment would be $1,800 per month, or a total of $21,600 annually"--in contrast to the projected $60,000 to $70,000 increase in state costs predicted earlier by Commissioner Hildreth.
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The controversy over the white cane, recently re-stimulated by attacks and counter attacks printed in THE NEW OUTLOOK FOR THE BLIND, currently shows signs of raging on unabated both in and out of THE NEW OUTLOOK'S pages. (For background on these developments, see "American Foundation Attacks White Cane," THE BLIND AMERICAN, June,1961; "The White Cane Defended," THE BLIND AMERICAN, September, 1961.)
Triple-barreled testimony to the continued liveliness of the white cane debate is offered in the current (November) issue of THE NEW OUTLOOK, which is, of course, the periodical voice of the American Foundation for the Blind. In addition to full-page discussion in the regular column, "Editorially Speaking," the journal has also given over its correspondence column to two views on the white cane and -- finally and most prominently of all — has published a full-scale article defending the use of the cane from a legal standpoint.
Of immediate interest to many readers is the fact that the article, "Practical and Legal Operation and Effects of White Cane Laws," is authored by William Taylor, Jr., a Pennsylvania attorney long active in organizations of the blind at the state and national levels, as well as in White Cane Week campaigns. Another well-known federationist, William Klontz of Iowa, is the contributor of a lengthy and closely reasoned letter also defending the white cane both as a symbol and as an aid to mobility for the blind.
In his incisive discussion of legal and practical aspects of the white cane, Mr, Taylor seeks expressly to show that "(a) white cane laws and public safety campaigns supplement and strengthen travel and orientation training programs, and therefore they cannot conflict; (b) those inclined to attack these laws may be persuaded to desist, and instead to do all within their power to teach blind people how best to make use of them and of the cane in order to procure the greatest practical degree of safety for themselves and other users of the highway."
After a succinct survey of duties and obligations imposed by law upon drivers and blind pedestrians — and a convincing demonstration that white cane laws are in fact "substantially uniform" in the fifty states despite superficial differences — Mr. Taylor concludes: "Let the blind pedestrian be taught both the limitations of the white cane laws and of the white cane, and above all how best to display it 'conspicuously' enough to put the careful driver on notice," His article closes with a plea "that we unite in doing all we can to get for the blind the best travel and orientation training, combined with safety instruction as to the use of the cane. Moreover, let us join in doing all we can to educate the public not only that the white cane is a tool to increase safety and mobility but it is a symbol of a blind man's determination and ability not only to travel but to lead a productive and worthwhile life."
Mr. Klontz, in his letter to THE NEW OUTLOOK, takes issue directly with the attitude of earlier articles that the white cane is "a stereotype of blindness, and that we must get away from anything that identifies us as blind people," His letter also refutes the criticism that state white cane laws are not identical and that the cane is worthless because it is not an infallible guarantee against accident. Recalling the historical significance the white cane has held for the blind of America, Mr. Klontz points out that state laws whatever their differences "are all aiming at the same purpose, safety for blind pedestrians .,, Instead of opposing the white cane because of these differences, the American Federation for the Blind should be carrying on research for some means of improving them, not destroying them."
While the white cane cannot provide complete protection for the blind pedestrian, "it can make the motorist and other pedestrians conscious of his presence and hence enhance his chance of safety," Mr, Klontz declares, "I maintain that holding on to the arm of a secretary or to the harness of a dog is just as much a stereotype of blindness as a white cane, and that the new techniques of cane travel would be more useful if the uniform white-colored cane were always used. The public must be given a chance. We cannot change our mode of travel as often as we change our code in braille and expect motorists to use caution. Actually thousands of blind people have gained confidence to step out alone with a white cane. Would you destroy this confidence because of an occasional accident? How many people would drive cars today if they were frightened from the highways because there are so many weekend accidents?"
As these terse communications to THE NEW OUTLOOK strongly indicate, the editors of that widely circulated and professionally influential journal succeeded in provoking considerable controversy through publication of their earlier article and editorial (May, 1961) calling into question the usefulness of white canes and white cane laws. According to Managing Editor Howard M. Liechty, writing in the present issue, much of the response has displayed "an emotionally charged interest" opposed to that expressed in the anti-cane articles. Observing that the views of its contributing authors are not necessarily those of the publisher, he states that nontheless THE NEW OUTLOOK will continue to press "objective" investigations of the white cane movement:
"No record comes to mind of any very thorough and objective analysis of the pros and cons of the white cane since its inception in 1930. ... If it will stand scrutiny the white cane movement has nothing to fear; if it won't pass muster let's be informed about it. With readers' help we endeavor to think constructively in the current discussion and we hope sometime to reach an unbiased evaluation of this movement in all its ramifications," the editorial concludes.
Members of organizations of the blind having long and close ties with the white cane movement, as well as individuals convinced of the efficacy of the cane in traffic, may well salute THE NEW OUTLOOK FOR THE BLIND for its fair-minded treatment of the cane in the present issue. They may, however, also venture to hope that the promised "objective" and "unbiased" investigations in future will not be so detached from the human and social values involved as to dismiss all firm commitments as "bias" and all vigorous expressions of them as merely "emotionally charged."
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by Professor Jacobus tenBroek
[Editor's note: The following address by the President of the American Brotherhood for the Blind was delivered earlier this year before the congregation of the University Christian Church of Des Moines, Iowa.]
All of us know the Ten Commandments -- the Decalogue of Divine law recorded in the Book of Exodus. But how many of us remember the numerous other commandments, no less sacred and no less binding, set forth elsewhere in the Holy Bible? How many recall, for example, thecommandment contained in Leviticus: "Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling-block before the blind."
How different would have been the social progress of the blind, and how improved their present status, if that Divine directive had been taken to heart by all who have professed their faith in the Good Book!
The ancient term "stumbling-block" -- whose original reference was literally and specifically addressed to the blind -- has since come into our common language chiefly in the figurative sense in which a modern dictionary defines it: namely, "an obstacle or hindrance to progress or belief." This is as it should be. Ever since the days of Moses, it has been the figurative stumbling-blocks -- the intangible obstacles or hindrances to progress and belief -- which have lain most perilously athwart the path of the blind. The meaning of the commandment, for us today, is as specific as it ever was; its message is not only literal but symbolic as well. It says to us: "Thou shalt not put a stumbling-block before the blind whether of wood or stone, whether in law or in vocation, whether of substance or of spirit, whether of discrimination or prejudice neither shalt thou suffer any to remain in their path."
But it is not the blind alone before whom are placed stumbling-blocks. I should like to speak this morning about a sinister stumbling- block in the path of our democracy -- which takes the form of a social caste system. More exactly, what I want to talk about is a system of"out-castes."
You all know the meaning of "caste, " as social scientists use the term. A caste is a social class which has become rigid and immobilized which neither moves itself nor permits movement out of it. In such countries as India, where caste is hereditary, one's very life and livelihood may be permanently fixed by the caste one belongs to. The status of high caste is displayed like a badge; that of low caste is worn like a brand. The lowest castes of all -- the pariahs or Untouchables -- are less a part of their community than apart from it.
Every society, primitive or modern, may be said to have its own Untouchables--or reasonable facsimile thereof. They are the out-castes, dwelling on the margins of society: among them are the disadvantaged and disfranchised, the deviant and deprived, the "beat" and the offbeat.
Nor is America an exception to the rule, for all its vaunted classlessness and social mobility. There are more such groups among us than I have time or competence to describe. Three conspicuous out-castes of American society are the blind, the Negroes, and former convicts.
Few social groups, on the face of it, appear more radically different from one another than these three. And indeed each of them is unique in its origins and its distinctive needs. Among the three only the blind present a problem which has its source, if not its main expression, in physical disability. The special dilemma of racial minorities, and in particular of the Negro, arises from an accidental variation in skin pigmentation which has taken on as well a kind of "cultural coloration. " Finally, the peculiar problem of the ex-convict springs orginally from his own individual action--in contrast to the others, whose "guilt," if it may be called that, is by association.
There are other differences, scarcely less definitive, among these social out-castes. The histories of each are widely divergent. The heritage from which the blind still seek to be liberated is one of custodialism and charity; for the former felon it is a tradition of lifelong condemnation and social exile; for the Negro it is the inextinguishable memory of slavery.
As the three groups differ in their backgrounds, so do they differ in many of their needs. The blind alone require such services as physical retraining, adjustment, and vocational rehabilitation. Only the Negro finds himself barred on sight from the ordinary restaurants, churches, schools and residences of the community. In his turn, the former convict faces problems no less distinct: branded by a requirement of public registration, his privacy invaded, his right of anonymity destroyed, his credit nullified and his freedom of contract impaired, his citizen's rights to vote, to hold office, to sit on juries, to enter public service, all cast in jeopardy.
The differences among these groups are numerous and profound. Yet I wish to speak here not of differences but of similarities -- for the likenesses among these three out-castes are no less striking and scarcely less profound. In fact, they are so compelling that for certain practical purposes of life and livelihood the three groups may almost be treated as one.
Most important of all is the fact of their common stigma as social out-castes. All three groups labor under a social handicap -- a stereotype fixed upon them by the community which sets them apart from its main body and keeps them out of its main stream. In short, they are all victims of public prejudice and of the active discriminations it engenders -- however much that prejudice may differ among them in both its roots and its fruits.
What these out-groups share most in common, in other words, is not some physical trait or innate characteristic, but a social and psychological image. It is not something in themselves, but something outside and around them, which provides the parallel. That parallel, of course, is closest and most obvious with respect to the blind and the Negro. Thus, for example, one recent study of the blind has called attention to what its authors term "the minority parallel. " In both instances, they maintain, "the phenomenon is one of a group of people whom the majority insists on endowing with special characteristics, for whom a stereotype has been evolved which each member of the minority is supposed to exempify, and the essence of which is the imputation of inferiority." We may wish to qualify this diagnosis with respect to some minorities; but I think we woyld all agree that in the cases of the blind man and the black man society does indeed clothe its venerable practices of exclusion and discrimination with a sweeping assumption of inferiority--if not also of abnormality and incompetence.
This is the crux of the matter. Both of these out-castes -- the blind and the Negro -- aim above all at integration and away from the segregation which has been their lot. The official motto of the National Federation of the Blind is "Security, Equality, Opportunity. " That motto might equally stand, without change, as the slogan of the NAACP. Each of these objectives, nnoreover, depends upon the others: there can be no genuine security without access to opportunity; there can be no effective opportunity without an acceptance of equality. The attack upon that American dilemma which we know as the "Negro problem" -- as upon the less publicized but no less profound dilemma which confronts the blind--is therefore a three-pronged attack. It is an attack on the economic front, for the expansion of job opportunity; it is an attack on the political front, for the enactment and enforcement of fair employment practices and an end to segregation; and it is an attack on the educational front, for the diffusion of knowledge and understanding and the consequent erosion of the stereotypes of inferiority and incompetence.
I said earlier that the blind person and the Negro may be distinguished from the former convict by the fact that their guilt in the eyes of society is strictly guilt by association. The American who is blind or colored finds himself judged not on his individual record or performance but by his involuntary membership in a socially defined (if very imperfectly defined) class: that of the "blind" or of the "colored." But there is an important sense in which this stereotype-casting is equally the fate of the ex-convict. For he also is a member of a defined if spurious class: the class of "criminals." It is a class from which he cannot easily graduate, however full his es of the last century in criminology and social science, popular attitudes remain largely in the horse and buggy era of Lombroso--as expressed in the dreary homilies that criminals are born and not made, that the purpose of prisons is retribution not rehabilitation, and that he who has walked a crooked path cannot ever go straight. The very term "ex-convict" carries its own irony; for that "ex," which should be a sign of ennancipation, symbolizes instead the mark of the jailhouse which can never be quite erased.
The case of the former convict is in many ways a special one; but with respect to the paramount problems of life and livelihood the minority parallel is scarcely less compelling here. Our democratic American faith enjoins discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, or "previous condition of servitude." Although this latter phrase was intended originally to apply to former slaves, it has a literal application to the former convict. His social condition is in fact very much like that of the Negro freedman after the Civil War; although officially released from penal servitude, he too is the victim of a prejudice which has not yet been liberated. Although in theory he has atoned for his crime and paid his price, he is not welcomed as an equal but shunned as a pariah. Not only is equality denied him; his opportunity is critically circumscribed. Often the only references he can offer to employers are those supplied by his former jailers; typically he is relegated to the menial and undesirable jobs which others turn down, at lower wages than those who work with him. If by dint of exceptional effort he struggles upward to a position of responsibility, his record will return to haunt him. And not only equality and opportunity are refused him but dignity itself. Just three years ago the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a Los Angeles city ordinance requiring all ex-felons to register with the authorities upon entering the community. By its action the court in effect under- wrote the doctrine that a prison record is so crucial a fact about a man that he may be compelled to subject himself to police harassment for the remainder of his life wherever he goes in the land. For numbers of our cities have enacted such ordinances in order to be able to round up all ex-cons when a crime is committed. The effect upon the individual is obvious. "This registration" as one expert has concluded, "is a vicious practice for it exposes the conscientious ex-prisoner to intimidation and perhaps even blackmail by insecure police officers or those who are badgered by their superiors to arrest someone." The Supreme Court, by the way, took note of the fact that such enactments were on the books of numerous communities across the country. But the justices were not prepared to face the question whether this discriminatory requirement rests upon the assumption "once a criminal, always a criminal -- the dictum that a wrongdoer's debt to society is never paid but rather goes on accumulating interest which can be met only by periodic drafts upon his dignity, privacy, and freedom of action.
The loss of civil rights by the former prisoner within our states is thoroughly shocking in its depth and extent. Here are only a few of the rights of which he may be deprived, in many or all of our states: the right to vote; the right to hold public office; the right to make a contract; the right to serve as a juror or testify as a witness; the right to employment in the Federal or State Civil Service; the right to marry at will; the right to enter numerous businesses, professions or occupations-- such as those pursued by doctors, lawyers, cab-drivers and pawnbrokers -- in which "good moral character" is a formal requirement. In these circumstances, what is remarkable is not that many former crinninals return to the scene (and environment) of their crime--but that any of them do not. "The world's thy jailer," wrote the poet John Donne; four centuries later, his words convey an awful truth for the man released from an American prison.
The peculiar "marginality" of the ex-felon stenns, in short, from the fact that he is poised precariously between two worlds: that of convential society and that of organized crime. To the extent that the world rejects him, the underworld is waiting to embrace him. The comnnunity, looking out from its glass houses of prejudice, righteously demands of the former convict that he change his ways. But the demand is hypocritical unless the community is also prepared to change its own ways -- by extending to this rejected minority, as well as to others, the genuine prospects of security, equality, and opportunity.
Let me now try to draw the minority parallel among these groups a little tighter. It has long been recognized by social scientists that the field of employment is at once the area of the worst discrimination against minorities and the one in which practical reforms have the best chance of success. It is surely the economics of prejudice which work the greatest hardship upon the blind, the Negro, and the ex-convict. Moreover, it is also in this field that the nainority parallel is closest, especially between the first two groups; for the blind are subjected to nnuch the same kinds of treatment as Negroes in the job market. Both minorities find themselves denied access to certain "higher "vocations and industries, on grounds of their supposed inability to handle the work; both find themselves segregated within special establishments (called "Jim Crow" houses in the one case, and sheltered workshops in the other). Both are typically confined to the most menial and rudimentary of occupations, as well as to those which are in any way unattractive to "normal" or "white" employees.
Most similar of all in their effects are the widespread suppositions of the inferiority and incompetence of Negroes and the blind. I have never seen this attitude better expressed, with reference to the blind, than in a brief communication I received a few years ago from a public administrator, in reply to my question whether blindness by itself was a factor in deciding on an applicant's fitness for employment. "Your letter," he wrote, "raises the old question of whether we, as civil service administrators, are to adhere to the principle for which we were brought into existence of securing the most highly competent employees obtainable for the public service, or whether we should take into account other considerations than competency. Helping the blind has its strong appeal to the sensibilities of everyone. On the other hand, we should avoid making the public service an eleemosynary institution."
I can't resist one more anecdote on similar lines -- this one told by an eminent figure in the rehabilitation field. Dr. Henry Kessler. It illustrates as well as any I know the stereotype of incompetence by which the employment of blind persons in opposition to all the facts, continues to be regarded as an essentially chari table if not rather foolhardy proposition:
"While I was out on the west coast during the war period, when it was difficult to secure labor and manpower, there was an employer who required some help in his office. He had filled his quota of employees from the War Manpower Commission. It was suggested to him by the WMC that he secure the services of a blind dictaphone operator, and he replied, 'Do you think she can do the work?' 'Why, of course,' was the answer. 'I will underwrite her.' Reluctantly, he accepted the proposal and he hired this blind dictaphone operator, and she almost revolutionized the work of his office. She did the work of five girls. He prospered and he needed more help. Again he applied to the WMC. They suggested to him, 'Why don't you get another blind dictaphone operator?' Whereupon he arose in all his dignity and said, 'I have done my bit.'"
Until fairly recently, to be sure, there was some point to the reaction of this patriotic employer. For while the attitude of all who came into contact with the blind -- teachers, social workers, psychologists, employers and the community in general -- was one of pity and protection, it was hard indeed for the blind person not to share the common view of his low estate. Set off from the moment of affliction in a special caste, his vocational preparation was limited almost exclusively to the so-called "blind trades" -- i. e. , mop-making, chair-caning, basket-weaving, and perhaps (for the superlatively gifted) piano-tuning. When this was all that blind people were allowed to learn, it was easy to believe that it was all they were capable of doing.
The monotonous routine of the blind trades is still commonly the fate of those who become blind. But in recent years there has appeared a discernible crack in the stereotype, and a widening rift in the gloom. Today there are blind lawyers by the scores across the country--at least as many blind schoolteachers, and growing numbers of college professors like myself. I number among my own acquaintances a blind nuclear physicist, a blind chemist, a blind judge, a blind ex-congressman, and (perhaps most unexpected of all) a blind electrician. In fact, whenever I think that at last I have discovered a job or profession which the blind cannot perform, I soon discover some sightless man or woman making a flourishing career of it.
The wartime record of the blind in competitive industry, like that of the physically handicapped in general, was--or should have been--a revelation to employers. Not only were blind workers in the defense industries equally as efficient and productive as their sighted colleagues, they were considerably more stable and reliable in their employment. When, during a manpower shortage, the blind were given a fair chance at normal competitive jobs, together with adequate training and selective placement, they quickly surpassed the expectations of everyone -- including, no doubt, themselves. Unhappily, in this particular marketplace, truth was not quite strong enough to vanquish error in open combat. When the war ended, the exiled stereotype of the helpless blind man was speedily restored to its former prominence; those who were the last to be hired were the first to be fired. Society, as it seemed, had only been economically willing to take them on as extra hands; it was not yet psychologically prepared to take them in as equals.
Full membership in society is today withheld from America's blind population -- much as it is from her major minority groups -- through unreasoning and largely unacknowledged public attitudes, which interpret physical disability as total inability and tend to smother efforts at improvement beneath a blanket of shelter and protection. The integration of the blind and minority groups into society hangs largely upon their assimilation into the economy; for lacking economic security men cannot develop their capacities or contribute to the community, and lacking economic opportunity their citizenship is in a real sense "second-class."
Fortunately, it is in the field of employment that prejudice and discrimination are most susceptible of reform -- and where the significant steps are presently being taken. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the nation's blind stand today on the threshold of a new era of full and equal participation in their society. But for this prospect to become a reality, a sweeping new approach is needed in all areas of welfare and employment. This new approach is admirably exemplified by the work of your own Iowa Commission for the Blind in its new orientation and training center, in its vending stand program, in its vocational rehabilitation program, and in the philosophy and atmosphere which pervades all of its activities. The "charity" approach, the "custodial" approach, the "sheltered" approach, even the "humanitarian" approach -- all must give way to a new spirit of equalitarianism which centers uncompromisingly around the root concept of the normality of those who are blind. It must be recognized that the overriding problem of blindness is one not of physical disability but of social handicap. Eliminate the handicap and the disability will take care of itself -- or, more precisely, the disabled will take care of themselves.
In the New Testament the words appear: "We walk by faith, not by sight." The lesson is plain. For the blind to walk the thoroughfares of society, to enter its mainstream in fraternity and freedom, requires a double faith: a faith in themselves and their own abilities, and a faith in society and its ability to remove the stumbling-blocks of prejudice from their path.
It is much the same with the former convict. The way of the transgressor is no less beset by stumbling-blocks which society alone has the power to remove. Here too the age-old approaches to crime and punishment need to be thoroughly swept away. The primitive approach of vengeance and retaliation; the punitive approach of deliberate cruelty and deprivation; the fearful approach of the criminal stereotype -- all must be given up in favor of the rehabilitative and democratic approach centering around the concept of equality and the presumption of normality. The motto of a just society was coined long ago: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Finally, the massive stumbling-blocks in the path of the Negro must be clearly recognized, and the bulldozers set to work to root them out. The greatest block of all is the racial legacy of slavery itself, which first created the out-caste of color and carried with it a separate cultural pattern and style of life to match the transiency and degradation of existence as a human chattel. The stereotypes of Negro character which are still brutally purveyed in film and folklore -- those of shiftiness and shiftlessness, of promiscuity and vice, of irresponsibility and ignorance -- all are related to the background of bondage and the subsequent reluctance of white society to create opportunities for adjustment and integration on democratic terms. No social scientist worth his salt speaks any longer of racial differences in I.Q. or aptitude, ability or annbition; when the stubborn specter of Jim Crow has at last been given decent burial, we may be confident that the myth of Negro inferiority and incompetence will perish with it. All the traditional approaches which lend aid and comfort to these legends -- the approach of "white supremacy, " the approach of "separate but equal," the approach of Uncle Tom and Aunt Jemima (those models of servility imposed upon a race) -- all must be discarded in favor, once again, of the simple democratic precept of equality.
"There is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. ..." Thus spoke St. Paul two millennia ago.And so it must be with us today in this broad land. There is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor African, nor blind man, nor former convict -- but only the free man and citizen in the society of equals to which we aspire.
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The 1961 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, held last July in Kansas City, has at last achieved the status of official recognition by the American Foundation for the Blind, The convention is the subject of a detailed report in the November (1961) issue of THE NEW OUTLOOK FOR THE BLIND, under the by-line of Raymond Parsons.
Also noteworthy is the apparent desire of THE NEW OUTLOOK and its correspondent to maintain a posture of neutrality and detachment concerning the Federation's internal difficulties, which were a prominent feature of the four-day convention (see "NFB Convention Roundup," THE BLIND AMERICAN, July, 1961).
Unfortunately, that posture is not consistently maintained. Thus, for example, the climactic event of the convention — the unanticipated resignation and dramatic farewell address of its founder and 20-year president. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek — is routinely reported among a series of ordinary events of the first day's session. So "casual" is the account of this unprecedented action, in fact, that the identity of the retiring president is nowhere revealed to the reader -- surely a curious lapse of journalistic accuracy. The relevant paragraph of the article reads as follows:
"The president gave a very accurate account of the Federation's activities during the past year, enumerating both successes and failures. He labeled the internal strife and chaos as the instrumental elements that have created the deplorable state in which the National Federation now finds itself. He concluded his report by tendering his resignation from the presidency, an office which he had held for twenty years. His resignation appeared to be accepted with mixed emotions."
Just how adequate an account this is of the convention's major event may be surmised by comparing it with the statement of the NFB's new president, John Taylor, in his own report on the convention: "I cannot fully describe my own feelings as the new president of the organization which this man brought into being and has nurtured through a score of years. We have lost in Dr. tenBroek the greatest leader the organized blind have ever had or will have. His announcement struck dismay into the hearts of hundreds in the audience; at its conclusion there were few among us with eyes entirely dry."
Among less substantial inaccuracies embodied in the NEW OUTLOCK article are misspellings of the names of three NFB board members: Anita O'Shea (identified as O'Nita O'Shey); Franklin Van Vliet, and Harold Reagan.
An error of more serious proportions occurs in the coverage of John Nagle's convention report on the newly enacted amendments in social security. The article states: "He also told of the increased matching funds that are available to the states to be used in their aid-to-the-blind grants, but failed to state that it is only temporary." The error in this is twofold: first, Mr. Nagle did so state; and second, the legislated increase is "temporary" only technically, in the sense that (like most such enactments) it will need to be renewed by Congress.
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Reviewed by Floyd W. Matson
Beauty for the Sighted and the Blind, by Allen H. Eaton, New York: St, Martin's Press, 1959. 181 pp.
Allen H. Eaton, already the author of several volumes on American folk arts and handicrafts, has now written a unique and valuable book relating his special knowledge and artistic understanding to the perceptual experience of the blind. The heart of the work is the author's description of his own unusual collection of "objects of beauty," both natural and man-made, which he has assembled through the past generation from all over the world — objects beautiful both to hold and behold, to see and to touch. The chief hope of his book is that the shared experience of beauty by those with sight and those without sight may encourage and deepen the avenues of communication between them.
There is also a more immediate purpose: "to encourage blind persons to explore objects -- especially through the sense of touch -- the oldest method of perception to the blind, and for ages the only one." More particularly, the sense of touch is shown to be "a new and most discriminating way of communication, (which) seeks especially to open doors to the enjoyment of beauty, thus bringing to all the aesthetic experience so prized in the highest, indeed in all human cultures,"
The opening chapter of the book deals with the "Sense of Beauty for All: Age Long — World Wide," A chapter on "Touch as a Way to Knowledge and a Way to Beauty" leads logically to the central chapter on "The Collection of Objects of Beauty for the Sighted and the Blind," setting forth the origin of the guiding idea, the uses made of the author's collection, and numerous anecdotes relating the experiences of blind persons with these tactile objects. Preceding that chapter is one on "Some Abilities and Achievements of Blind Persons," with brief sketches of the lives and careers of several remarkable individuals -- such as the obstetrician Dr. Albert Nast — whose work is not generally known to the public. "A reason for including this chapter," writes Dr. Eaton, "is that extraordinary achievements of blind persons in many walks of life are overwhelming evidence of their normality, hence their capacity to enjoy beauty. But there is an even more basic fact to which this work would attest, namely that blind persons are just like other persons -- except that they do not see with their eyes."
A special chapter on "Beauty for Those who Neither See Nor Hear: the Deaf-Blind" is included in the text "because they are the blind of whom we know the least, yet their need for beauty and their capacity to feel its inspiration have been proved, even though some of their perceptions are beyond our understanding." The volume also contains a section on "Writing and Thinking Toward Beauty for the Blind," in which some of the literature on esthetic and similar educative endeavors is ably discussed. Other chapters deal with suggestions of how museums, libraries, schools and rehabilitation centers may better serve the blind through making full use of pertinent "objects of beauty."
It is noteworthy that Dr. Eaton's own professional life has been largely devoted to encouraging the appreciation of beauty and the arts among our people in all walks of life. He has been Field Secretary of the American Federation of Arts, and the organizer of its memorable Arts and Crafts of the Homelands Exhibitions, celebrating the contributions of Immigrants to American culture; he designed the only national exhibition of rural arts which our country has seen; he is a past Director of the Department of Arts and Social Work of the Russell Sage Foundation, and an adviser to numerous national and regional organizations in the fields of handicrafts and folk art.
The underlying philosophy of this highly individual and imaginative book may perhaps be summarized in the author's observation that, "contrary to the opinions held by many laymen and by some workers for the blind, the truth is that beauty is a heritage in which both the blind and the seeing may share; the blind not in all the experiences which are available to those with sight, but in very many of them, in enough, and many times more than enough, to last the longest lifetime."
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TWO THOUSAND BABIES: A blind doctor in a small French town has delivered more than two thousand babies since losing his sight thirty years ago. Dr. Albert Andre Nast, of Chelles (near Paris), whose dramatic success story is recounted in Allen H. Eaton's Beauty for the Sighted and the Blind (reviewed elsewhere in this issue), was an established young lawyer when his wife died in childbirth in 1913. Resolving to devote the rest of his own life to helping mothers and their babies, he began at the age of thirty to study nights toward a medical career, served as an army surgeon during the first world war and eventually opened his own maternity clinic in his home town.
After ten years of practice. Dr. Nast lost the sight of both eyes. Instead of retreating or retiring he took stock of his remaining assets, recalled how much he had always depended upon the senses of touch and hearing in his medical work, and set about readjusting his techniques to compensate for lack of vision. He carried on his obstetrical practice with scarcely any slackening of pace, decline of ability or loss of clientele — keeping the fourteen beds of his small but famous rural clinic as well-occupied as ever.
Over the years this remarkable Frenchman has also found time to write novels, plays and poems, to author medical and legal articles, and to become an accomplished musician both as a pianist and vocalist. It may truly be said of Dr. Albert Nast that, although he lost sight, he never lost touch with life — or faith in it.
ARIZONA FEDERATION OF THE BLIND CONVENTION: At its state convention October 22, according to information received from James B. Fall of Phoenix, the Arizona Federation of the Blind elected the following new Officers: president, Mr. Fall; first vice-president, Eugene Motz, of Phoenix; second vice-president, Les Webb, Yuma; treasurer, Irene Houck, Phoenix; secretary, Mary Flynn, Prescott. President-elect Fall was chosen as the Federation's delegate to the 1962 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, with Art Kidd as alternate delegate. In other convention action, the Arizona group inaugurated a Henry Rush Memorial Scholarship Fund which will award $100 each year toward the college education of a deserving blind student.
ART EDUCATION FOR THE BLIND: Encouraging new developments in the field of esthetic expression and creative experience for the blind have been summarized in two recent articles appearing in the publication SCHOOL ARTS (May, 1961), Cornelia R. Jones, an Instructor at the Virginia State School for the Deaf and the Blind, describes the prominent role which art and creative development have played in the education of one group of blind and partially seeing students. A companion article by Howard Conant, "Experiencing Creativity After Blindness," also emphasizes that blindness need not be a bar to creative activity and in particular to artistic accomplishment. Both authors draw upon personal examples to demonstrate the contention that individuals without sight can become proficient artists in such fields as painting and drawing.
CALIFORNIA TEACHER HONORED:A deaf -blind home teacher. Miss Jackie Coker, was the subject of a recent pictorial article, "Light in a Dark World," appearing in THE AMERICAN WEEKLY (August 20, I96I) . Miss Coker, a Callfornian, was one of only three out of 25 applicants who successfully passed competitive Civil Service examinations for the position of home teacher of the adult blind.
CONNECTICUT WELFARE COSTS DOUBLED: A hundred per cent rise in state welfare costs over the past decade has been revealed in a report issued recently by the Connecticut Public Expenditure Council. The council, a privately financed governmental research agency, estimates total welfare costs for the 1962-63 fiscal year at a figure of $61.2 million, more than double the $28.5 million spent during fiscal 1952-53 Its report indicates that welfare spending in the state during the current fiscal year will reach an estimated $58.4 million.
FATHER CARROLL'S STUDY COMMENDED: Following is the final paragraph of a review of Father Thomas J. Carroll's Blindness: "What It Is, What It Does, and How to Live With It", which appeared in the November, 1951, issue of THE NEW OUTLOOK FOR THE BLIND. Author of the review is Dr. Joseph S. Himes, professor of sociology at North Carolina College, Durham. (For another review of Father Carroll's book, see THE BLIND AMERICAN, October, 1961)
"Whatever its faults. Blindness stands as an important work in the field and should be read by every profeasional and lay worker. Its comprehensive treatment of knowledge and action, its tough-minded realism, its wholesome philosophical perspective and its frank, sometimes blunt separation of good sense from nonsense recommend it to those who are seriously concerned with helping and living with the blind in our society. There are also many inadvertent dividends of insight into human nature and the organization of human social behavior. Above all, perhaps, the reader may be most rewarded by coming to know the vital, exciting human being who is Father Carroll."
THE GIFT OF INNER VISION: A graphic account of the founding by George Wally of the World Research Center for the Blind, located in Caguas, Puerto Rico, appeared recently in THE READER'S DIGEST (August, 1961), under the title "He Gives the Blind the Gift of Inner Vision." Authored by Prentice Combs, the article tells how Wally, a professional artist became interested in the creative talents of blind persons. Formerly a volunteer worker on the staff of the Braille Institute of America, Wally was stationed in Puerto Rico as a member of the Air Force during World War II, Himself a violinist, he discovered that blind persons could learn to paint through techniques of muscular control similar to those utilized by violinists, the article states. Today he teaches sightless students how to "visualize" three-dimensional pictures through his system of muscular control. Believing that "the greatest sin is to possess a potential and fail to strive to realize it," Wally reportedly has dedicated his center "to serve the world's blind that the blind may one day serve the world."
INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR THE BLIND: Following are excerpts from a release issued by the American Management Agency, P.O. Box 366, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Mr. Robert Soherr, head of the agency, will be remembered by National Federationists as a visitor to the NFB's 1961 convention, where he explained insurance opportunities made available through his organization. (Publication of this Information does not, of course, constitute an endorsement of the agency or its offerings by this journal.)
"Through his business, the American Management Agency, specialist in insurance, (Scherr) has opened to the blind insurance protection programs which most companies withheld before because of extra hazards faced by blind persons. Using his 12 years' experience in the field, he worked with dozens of large insurance firms for over three years, . . to offer blind persons today hospital-medical plans which are equivalent to, if not superior to, the plans enjoyed by most individuals in the United States today. . . . Blind people in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are members of these plans, and the plans are to be extended to every state. In addition, new plans will be offered in other lines of insurance, so that the blind can face the dread costs of sickness or accident with confidence. ... Bob's firm, the A.M.A, has chosen the Union Trust Life Insurance Company to underwrite their new medical program for the blind members of the federations and associations in the United States."
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