More Than Blindness: My Algebraic Equation

Orientation and mobility instructors at Saavi Services for the Blind posing for a picture outside during an NFB National Convention; from left to right: Colin Wong, Joseph Nguyen, Scott-Michael Tokunaga, Joanne Gabias, Tarik Williams, and Melanie Kondziolka.

More Than Blindness: My Algebraic Equation

Stepping aside from all the dysfunction happening in this world today, it is apparent how a lot of general thinking in the world works. We live in a world where it is believed that there must be some scientific explanation or algebraic equation to solve a problem. Somewhere along the way to that fact it is missed that people are individuals.

I am not sure if there is any equation to define any one person. Unfortunately, words like racism, discrimination, and microaggression are a part of my equation. I encourage people to truly understand the definitions of these words. On the flip side, phrases like teacher and master’s degree are also a part of my equation. One common word that connects with each of those words in my life is the word resilience.

I reflect on a time when I was in the fifth grade. I was called the N word by one of my classmates. It took resilience to breakthrough that negativity and that feeling of being less than. Sometimes I would try to ignore the negativity the color of my skin endowed on me, but when I became blind at sixteen, I really did not know which way to turn. I met a lot of different people who tried to encourage me, but everything really changed when I found the truth about blindness through the National Federation of the Blind.

Tarik Williams crouches down in front of a group of his students during an outing at the NFB National Convention in Las Vegas.Being a part of the National Federation of the Blind taught me to be proud of who I was. It taught me to be proud of my blindness, but I am much more than just my blindness. I may have lost my vision at sixteen, but I did not lose myself. The person I was had not changed and my abilities were still the same. I was able to keep my spot on the high school basketball team because my abilities and resilience shined through. So, let’s all be proud of who we are. It is important to embrace who we are as well as embrace the differences of the people around us.

On the surface, I might be a tall, athletic build, black man with a full beard and a long white cane. But if you get to know me, you will know that I am also a proud Trinidadian African American who enjoys watching sports, lifting weights, and creative writing. Most importantly, I love empowering all people to be the best version of themselves.

Everyone says that we should never judge a book by its cover, but do we really mean that? It is one thing to say that you embrace others’ differences but what are your actions saying? So, I challenge myself and those reading this to make it simple and spread more love. In short, if you are looking for an algebraic equation to help you solve some of the thoughts or problems you notice around you, here it is. Me equals we. Or you might know this equation better as NFB equals TGR.

—Tarik Williams