From Reader ML. I'll try to keep this in mind when I'm talking.

You said, "I don't really want to talk to people who are convinced they know black people because, as I've said, they get BET in their cable package, or see black kids acting a fool on the train." Certainly there will be those who glance at, for example BET, and feel qualified to make sweeping generalizations. I can't speak for them. In fact, I’d venture that they’d have made those generalizations anyway. But there are others who have a genuine curiosity and reverence, for black culture, black opinions, and black history whose only window is through the media and/or random encounters in daily life. Sometimes people aren’t trying to Monday morning quarterback the black experience. Rather they, quite simply, care. They see the black experience in America not as “your” culture, but as among the many fabrics that make up “our” culture, and want to learn.

Not everybody knows how to say it right. Not everybody possesses the tact, the manners or the sensitivity to express this without sounding like an idiot. And maybe educating the clueless shouldn't be your cross to bear. But don’t admonish those who at least try.

As the product of a self-described “redneck” Appalachia-grown father, and a city-slicker, Tokyo born-and-bred Japanese mother, I’ve done my fair share of educating the clueless. My opinions on Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Korematsu, or sushi for that matter, are far from definitive. But who knows when the person I’m talking to will have another change to get real in-the-flesh personal opinion. So, I do what I can. Curiosity (however awkwardly expressed) today can become awareness tomorrow.


We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.