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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Professor Osagie K. Obasogie Authors New Book, "Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind"

The book provides the first look into a previously unknown world – blind people's understanding of race – and discusses what law and society can learn from these experiences as a means to further racial justice.
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Professor Osagie K. Obasogie, author of Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind
Blinded by Sight

Blinded by Sight

UC Hastings will celebrate the publication of Professor Osagie K. Obasogie’s first book, Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind, at a launch party on Feb. 5.

Professor Devon Carbado of UCLA Law School, a nationally recognized scholar in the fields of Constitutional Law and Critical Race Theory, will speak about the book and offer thoughts about its themes and conclusions, and its place among the canon of work on race theory. Professor Obasogie will also speak briefly in response to Professor Carbado. The book discussion, followed by a reception, is free and open to the public.

Click here to pre-register for this event.

In the book, published by Stanford University Press, Obasogie argues that contrary to popular thought, race is not a self-evidently known or visually obvious trait. Rather, his research shows the extent to which we are socialized to see race. This is done through a series of interviews with blind individuals who, despite assumptions that race cannot be important to them, are shown to think about and experience race the same way that sighted people do, i.e. visually, even to a point where blind people, in a sense, “see” race.

“We live in a world where people think that everything is now colorblind and postracial,” Obasogie says. “With the election of Barack Obama, we assume that well, we have a black president, racism is over, the end. And I’m really trying to challenge that notion.... If blind people are seeing race and organizing their lives around race, you can be damn sure that race is still an important part of other people’s lives.”

Blinded by Sight has already garnered significant attention in both popular media and academic circles.

Boston Globe

Scientific American

Boston Review

From Stanford University Press

Colorblindness has become an integral part of the national conversation on race in America. Given the assumptions behind this influential metaphor—that being blind to race will lead to racial equality—it's curious that, until now, we have not considered if or how the blind "see" race. Most sighted people assume that the answer is obvious: they don't, and are therefore incapable of racial bias—an example that the sighted community should presumably follow. In Blinded by Sight, Osagie K. Obasogie shares a startling observation made during discussions with people from all walks of life who have been blind since birth: even the blind aren't colorblind—blind people understand race visually, just like everyone else. Ask a blind person what race is, and they will more than likely refer to visual cues such as skin color. Obasogie finds that, because blind people think about race visually, they orient their lives around these understandings in terms of who they are friends with, who they date, and much more.

In Blinded by Sight, Obasogie argues that rather than being visually obvious, both blind and sighted people are socialized to see race in particular ways, even to a point where blind people "see" race. So what does this mean for how we live and the laws that govern our society? Obasogie delves into these questions and uncovers how color blindness in law, public policy, and culture will not lead us to any imagined racial utopia.

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