[Foundation-l] Cultural awareness and sensitivity

Michael Snow wikipedia at verizon.net
Mon Jun 7 23:21:39 UTC 2010

To avoid further disrupting discussion of interlanguage links and 
usability, I'll address the cultural problems separately now. I must 
admit, though, that in a discussion where we seemed to have agreed 
(rightfully so) that a 1% click rate was significant enough to warrant 
serious consideration, I was disappointed that someone could then be so 
callous about the need for cultural sensitivity because it most directly 
impacts "only 0.55% of the world population" in this case. There is no 
meaningful difference in order of magnitude there.

We have significant distortions in the makeup of our community that 
affect our culture. There are quite a few groups that are seriously 
underrepresented, in part because our culture comes across as unfriendly 
to them at best. I talked about African-Americans because it's what was 
applicable in that particular situation and I happen to have some 
familiarity with the issues. It could just as well have been Australian 
Aborigines or another cultural group that has issues with our community. 
I'm not as prepared to explain those concerns, but I would welcome 
people who can educate us about such problems. It's legitimate to be 
wary of things that promote American cultural hegemony, which is another 
distortion, but that's not really warranted when the concern relates to 
a minority culture in the US.

Some people seem to have gotten hung up on the issue of intent. I didn't 
say there was any intent, by the community or individuals, to exclude 
certain groups or to create a hostile environment for them. I actually 
tried to be as careful as possible not to say that. The point is that 
even in the absence of intent, it's possible for our culture to appear 
hostile to such groups. We didn't have any intent to be hostile toward 
living people, either, yet we've had a long struggle to cope with the 
consequences of that impression created by our culture.

Consider the principle of not "biting" newcomers, which relates to a 
similar problem. It's not about the intent of the person doing the 
"biting", it's about the impact on those who encounter it. We need to be 
more welcoming to people, and striving for more cultural awareness is 
part of that.

--Michael Snow

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