Published in 2014, Professor Osagie Obasogie’s book, Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind has been awarded the Law and Society Association’s 2015 Herbert Jacob Book Prize. The award was established in 1996 and recognizes exceptional approaches to law and social scholarship.
After Professor Obasogie watched the biopic Ray, about the famed singer Ray Charles who was blind from early childhood, he was inspired to investigate how the blind perceive race.
His subsequent study, which was first documented in his sociology Ph.D. dissertation at UC Berkeley, examined the racial perceptions of 110 individuals who were blind since birth. His conversations with them dismantled the idea that blind people are unaware of race as visual construct. He found that even though the blind can't see racial cues, they still plan and organize their lives, and decide who to socialize with, by navigating boundaries marked by visual descriptions of race.
Published by Stanford University Press, Blinded by Sight draws attention to a common symbol in law—the blindfolded justice statue—and argues that a common aspiration to live in a "colorblind" society in a “post-racial” world limits our understanding of how race is socially constructed. The myth of color blindness in law, public policy, and culture “will not lead us to any imagined racial utopia,” Obasogie said.
Professor Levine has championed Professor Obasogie’s work and is thrilled about the LSA prize. "This wonderful award confirms Professor Obasogie's growing reputation as an important and original scholar in the field of law and society. His work helps all of us reconsider social, personal and legal understandings of race," he said.
The Law and Society Association called Obasogie’s book “a true tour de force, beautifully written, lucid and persuasive … [offering] an important socio-legal critique of race both as a nonexistent construction and as an ontological entity, and by extension, as a limited legal category whose existence should be problematized, rather than assumed or negated.”
Professor Obasogie will be presented with the award at a reception in Seattle in late May.