Statement from Kirk Adams, PhD, President and CEO, American Foundation for the Blind
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 2, 2020)—As a blind person, I have of course experienced societal injustices and systemic oppression. I have also benefited from my privilege as a white man.
As part of a biracial family and parent to two African-American children, I have personally experienced the fear and anger, despair and feelings of helplessness experienced by African-Americans each and every day. Shortly before our beautiful son began seventh grade, I took him out in the back yard for the talk that countless parents have had with their African-American children.
“You will be walking to and from middle school starting next week, and we need to talk about what to do if you are stopped by a police officer. Drop whatever is in your hands. No matter what it is. If it is your cell phone, and it breaks, don’t worry about it. Keep your hands out in front of you and open. Don’t reach for your pocket or your backpack. Never turn your back. Never run."
Thinking back on this 21 years later, it still breaks my heart. As it has broken the hearts of parents of African-American children for hundreds of years.
I am proud to be the president of this disability rights organization. The American Foundation for the Blind champions access, equality, and inclusion. Our mission is to break down societal barriers and promote broad systemic change.
Blind and low vision people represent a broad cross-section of American society and represent all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, ages, immigration statuses, and political persuasions. Disability rights are human rights. We cannot and will not divide ourselves, and advocate for only one narrow set of civil rights.
As one of AFB's leading advocates, Helen Keller, wrote in a 1916 letter to the NAACP:
"Let all lovers of justice unite, let us stand together and fight every custom, every law, every institution that breeds, or masks violence and prejudice, and permits one class to prosper at the cost of the well-being and happiness of another class."
We grieve for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. We join with our colleagues in the civil rights community in calling on all levels of our government to commit to substantive and meaningful reform. And we commit to examining our own practices, and living our values, every day, to build a world of no limits for all.
[Editor's note: Minor updates were made to this statement on June 5, 2020.]
About the American Foundation for the Blind Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org