Ask a Nepali (or insert group here)
April 24, 2006 6:15 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by this post, I want to either create or find a repository of links to sites facilitating asking possibly insensitive questions of a member(s) of a group. Thus, I'm looking for links to such sites.

I wrote a post about it on my blog (obvious self-link, there's no material gain from me receiving more visitors, but I'll quote it here in full to make that clear) and I hope that clarifies what I'm talking about.
posted by Gnatcho to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

A library in Holland had something like this. It was in the news last year. Here's an English link.
posted by easternblot at 7:20 AM on April 24, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, I remember reading about that. I know I would feel uncomfortable in that situation and probably avoid asking the really weird, possibly offensive questions that curiosity would tempt me with. Though I could imagine humorous situations in which the person being lent out could blatantly try to fish for the most prejudiced question from the borrower. Not going to flesh out those scenarios...
posted by Gnatcho at 7:44 AM on April 24, 2006

The Straight Dope message boards often have threads on this topic, though it's not their focus, exactly. I specifically remember at least on 'Ask a Mormon' thread, to namecheck one of your examples.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:39 AM on April 24, 2006

They do this at Something Awful. They have an "ask/tell" board (which may or may not be public at any given time). The "ask" part is like AskMe, but the "tell" is for just the kind of questions you're talking about. It's not strictly race oriented, but given that it's SA, they certainly aren't sensitive questions.

Recent ones:

Ask me about being an Evangelical Southern Baptist
Ask me about being gay!
Ask me about being a pastor...part 2!
Ask me about being synaesthetic
Ask me about Freemasonry, Masons, Shriners, and such.
Ask me about being in an Asian gang as a youth

The only real problem I've seen with it is when the questioner wants a debate rather than information.
posted by smackfu at 8:44 AM on April 24, 2006

I'm almost positive there was this really great board put out.. A year ago? Something like that, by the US Government, IIRC. It had TONS AND TONS of frames. It was ugly, but content good. I don't remember what it was called or where it is.
posted by eurasian at 9:17 AM on April 24, 2006

Response by poster: I've enjoyed reading all the forums and sites mentioned so far ( has something like this too), but I suppose my hope would be that this would be less of a debate forum. I kind of hope that if the links repository I'm thinking of making got high enough in the Google rankings the concepts embodied in something like "¬°Ask a Mexican!", with a few modifications, might influence or inspire people to make a site or page or blog in which they follow a similar style and concept. I think the main difference in what I'm trying to do from the sites that have been mentioned, is, first, make an organized and comprehensive list to sites of this style around the web, and, second, hoping to encourage a less debate-oriented but more continuous and systematic format. Not the same thing, but sort of like this.

To list the differences from most current blogs and forums:

- The immediate predecessor is the format of the advice column, though it's usually not advice that is being sought, rather information.
- The blog (since the format of a blog would be the most logical undergirding of this stylistic format) would focus on posts structured by questions chosen by the person answering.
- Though some might be nice enough to ask polite, educated questions, the person answering would probably need a thick skin and the willingness to answer any and all questions, especially the offensive, insensitive and ignorant ones. Of course, though at times they might feel like taking a particularly aggressive question so they can set it up to be demolished, it's probably best if the person seeks out questions that might be insensitive or offensive and full of stereotypes, but underneath it all are actually curious (for example, and these aren't real questions based on any facts or rumours, just examples of what people might write, "I've heard that Indian girls, well, the traditional ones, are encouraged by their families to be entirely passive during sex. I made out with an Indian girl once and I had to do all the work! So do they act dead while humping?" or "I heard that among some Muslims it's considered proper to only engage in anal sex in marriage unless a child is wished for! True?"). Yeah, for the culture and religion (and disability) ones the sex questions are going to be flowing like, uh, a waterfall. But these are the sort of things people hear about groups, and since they're either rightfully polite enough not to ask members of said group that they know, or don't know any members of that group, they just keep on wondering about or believing what they heard.
- This is not about debate. Though I believe a comments section is a plus, the purpose would be for those interested to learn what others had to say. Of course there are going to be debates and flame wars and all sorts of idiocy in these comments, with occasional intelligence, but the person answering the questions does not need to feel like they need to debate with these people or necessarily get involved in that. It would also be a great source of future questions. And people could directly label their comments as "future questions", along with e-mailing it to the answer provider. But that is not where the focus is, the focus is on the one answer provided by the person running the site. The blogger, since that's what they would still be, I suppose, would choose whatever questions he or she wants for the next post.
- But the onus of this not being about debate would not only be on those commenting. The blogger in this format shouldn't look for questions to set up as strawmen to demolish. This is also the case when there are no questions, since I'm sure quite a few sites will find they have no one sending anything in. In that case, if they're still interested in the idea, they should look for assumptions or questions or rumours about their group wherever they can find them and try their hardest to write the opening question as something seeking information, not as strawmen. They should also be open about when they're formulating the question, or, something that should be encouraged, taking the question from another site operated by someone of the same group or a similar group.

Well, past that manifesto, I hope I'll at least get some interesting links out of this question! :-D
posted by Gnatcho at 10:01 AM on April 24, 2006

(i wish i could contribute some genuinely useful suggestions for you, but i'd also really like to read this... have you considered asking your local alt-weekly or even pitching the idea to them as a new column??)
posted by whatzit at 10:56 AM on April 24, 2006

Are you thinking of
posted by lemuria at 11:12 AM on April 24, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah, that's the forum I was alluding to in my blog post but couldn't remember the name of. I like the idea, and that people are encouraged to list things such as their race, age, class, sexuality and other social details. It would definitely get a link of some sort. But it's very scattered, feels institutional, and I really want to get away from the forum model (it does have columns on it). All of the sites mentioned above would be linked (probably under something like "similar idea, different implementation"), but the main idea would be hearing one person or at most a small group at each site answer questions. "Officially", at least, since there is still the comment box. I think that way you get to know more about the person over time, which also humanizes the person.

I'm not thinking of this as a centralized site, since it would essentially be a categorized link to blogs, so that would be how the multiplicity of voices would be found (those writing different blogs under the same or similar labels). It lets the person's views and jokes and whatever else settle in, like Gustavo Arellano's jokes about Guatemalans. Also, I would hope people would feel themselves to be in a less judgemental situation and a less competitive one, that is, not as much enthusiasm to win an argument. Someone asks their question, the writer of the blog answers, both have said their part, because it's about asking someone from a different background or beliefs something you've heard or wonder about part of their background or beliefs. You just want to hear it from one of the horses' mouth, and whatever you feel about the reply, at least you got that. There is no other purpose promised.
posted by Gnatcho at 11:46 AM on April 24, 2006

Gnatcho, I'm glad my post inspired more interest than I had thought based on the paucity of comments. I think your idea is an interesting exercise, and would love to see it if you get it off the ground (Projects?). Email me if it does, address (not in profile) is my username plus "sf," at ya to the hoo dotty com.
posted by donpedro at 12:29 PM on April 24, 2006

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