[There was a video here]
Last night, actor/comedian Adam Pearson hosted a one-hour BBC Three special called The Ugly Face of Disability Hate Crime. Pearson, whom you may recognize from his brief role in the 2014 Scarlett Johansson alien movie Under the Skin, shared his own experiences with ableist bigotry resulting from having neurofibromatosis type 1, which causes noncancerous tumors to grow on the nerve endings of his face. Through interviews with other people with disabilities, Pearson explored how socially acceptable ableism is and how differently hate crimes against people with disabilities are legislated in the U.K., compared to those committed against other marginalized groups (typically, hate crimes against people with disabilities carry lesser sentences, the doc claimed).
“Why do people hate me when they don’t know me?” wondered Pearson aloud at one point.
The most incredible part of the enlightening special was the segment above, in which 10 randomly chosen people were shown pictures of disfigured faces while their “subconscious prejudice levels” were measured in a study headed by Oxford University’s Miles Hewstone. It was, according to Pearson, “an established test which works out their subconscious bias against disfigured faces. The test measures people’s automatic uncontrollable responses to images of disfigured and non-disfigured faces so they are unable to give answers they may consciously want to give.”
The subjects were then introduced to Pearson, and he talked to them for about an hour (alongside a giant Jenga set) about his experiences. The group was then retested and the reported results were staggering: Nine out of the ten people’s subconscious prejudice levels were “considerably reduced,” according to Hewstone. One guy went from 71 percent to 50 percent. A woman dropped from 100 percent to 42 percent. Another man they interviewed dropped from 100 to 12.
Upon hearing the results, Pearson said he was “ridiculously encouraged.” For real. It’s amazing how easy it was to literally change minds.