Hi David, I’m curious.
Shannon Holman

I think all actions and words can be misunderstood on the part of the receiver. I think, in order to have true understanding and learning, it is important for both side of the conversation to make sure that what is said and/or asked is understood, and if in some way is offensive then that is a prime opportunity to start the learning process. Let me give an example.

A very good friend of mine at work is black (my apologies if using that descriptor offends, it is not intended to), and I asked him about why a question I asked in a social media thread was racist. (Note: the person who indicated to me that the question was racist was white.) In a nutshell, I asked why Black Lives Matter wasn’t helping after the Louisiana floods, not understanding their activism target; in other words, in a broader sense, I was thus asking what their mandate is. My friend explained that the question and intention is not racist, but how I asked might have been; for him, it isn’t, because he understands that I was asking to learn. He answered both questions, and now I have a better understanding of both. In the future, I will endeavor to make my questions as plain as possible, so as to hit the heart of the question rather than shuffle around it. But, the respondent online also needs to understand that the knee-jerk defense accomplishes nothing either, in fact it put me on the defensive as well, further breaking down communication.

To answer your sometimes/always question directly, my example demonstrates a sometimes response. Whites are not always met with accusations of racism when asking a question to learn and understand cultural differences. The problem, however, now is that I will not only think twice about asking a question to learn more, but when I do it will be worded as carefully as possible to not offend. The problem with that becomes a two-edged sword: will the meaning and subject I wish to understand be truly conveyed? In the end, then, I, and many others, may think twice about asking at all. Conversation is a two way street, and it is the responsibility of both sides of that conversation to take responsibility for listening, understanding, and the words they speak in reply.