If it seems like a stupid question, it’s probably not, so . . . ask away!

Linda S. Wallace, Special to The New Tri-State Defender | 5/19/2017, 10:31 a.m.
If it seems like a stupid question, it’s probably not, so . . . ask away!
Linda S. Wallace

Often in my daily travels, friends and colleagues seek me out to ask interesting questions. Many times they preface their remarks by saying, “This may sound silly to you.”

There are no ridiculous questions. Only after we begin to confront our fears and start discussing the very subjects that make us jumpy will we increase our skill level and cultural knowledge.

Those uncomfortable feelings that come with being outsiders push us to consider new viewpoints. As we learn to anticipate, and even predict, the ways strangers may react to our statement and actions, we minimize the dangers. So ask away.

Dear Cultural Coach: Do you feel that minority politicians better represent the populations of districts that are largely minority?

Answer: It is more productive to evaluate candidates by their level of cultural literacy than by their skin color. I would never vote for a person simply because they were a member of my own race.

The vast majority of Americans prefer candidates who share their cultural values, beliefs and attitudes. Minorities are no different. A Latino, African-American or Asian candidate may indeed have the inside track when it comes to understanding the culture of ethnic communities.

Knowledge is only an asset if it is invested wisely. Therefore, I would argue that minority districts are best represented by individuals who understand the cultures within and their unique issues. However, they must also be able to relate well to external groups as consensus is needed to pass bills. This is no different from white districts, by the way, which need legislators who can relate culturally to citizens and work effectively with groups that do not live there.

Dear Cultural Coach: Should you try to communicate with someone who does not like you because of your skin color or religion?

Answer: Many people feel it is best to gather with those who are like-minded and move forward. They don’t see any value in talking to the resisters. I disagree. From the resisters we can learn how to sharpen our messages and expand our circle of influence. As we speak with people with a different mindset we learn about their deep fears and their experiences and that makes us more effective communicators.

(Linda S. Wallace is