Questions about Slavery

7 Nov

Last week my partner and our daughter were at a Royal Ontario Museum program exploring the Mesopotamia exhibit.

 The guide was explaining the ins and outs of Mesopotamian civilization, which included the “Free Pass” for slaves that had been freed by their owner. This is when one of the moms in the group asked “Why would they want to do that?”. 



The guide answered the question, but not before a few of the moms looked at my partner (the only person of colour in the group), perhaps hoping she would say something, perhaps looking for her reaction, perhaps to share a silent “can you believe it?!” She chose to sit this one out.

Why would you want to free a slave is not a question I imagine I would hear from someone my age in 2013. It makes me sad. It’s about basic human rights – and slavery isn’t just a thing of the past.

People don’t always realized what they are saying, or the impact of their words. It may be possible she was thinking about the logistics of getting work done and not expressing ignorance about human rights. If the guide had asked “what do you mean by that?” we would have more information.

What do you mean by that can give you time to pick your chin up from the ground, think of how you want to respond, plan your exit strategy or take a deep breath and brace yourself for what may come next. It gives the person who spoke a chance to explain what they have said, which can clear up a misunderstanding and avoid a possibly unnecessary conversation. It can also lay the groundwork for a needed conversation, but one in which we have more information to work with.

What do you mean by that. Five words that can make a big difference. 

See more.

Copyright 2013 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity and Inclusion


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