This attitude toward truth is runoff from post-modernism (which says that my interpretation is correct regardless of the intent or opinion of the author). This is actually a pretty recent idea, and frankly, its ignorant (not that you’ve heard that word recently). It’s not the way that life is. A rock is not a rock because I feel it to be a rock. It either is a rock or it’s not based on factors entirely distinct from my feelings (even if that rock hurts me).
Ideas and concepts are the same way. However, they are non-physical entities. Thus we need the intent of the author to help us understand their words and meaning.
If my intent is innocent curiosity, is my question racist? How do we interpret this? By our initial reaction or by the intent of the author? Hopefully we can see that we must consider intent. For instance, I was performing at a school and a elementary aged black girl asked if she could touch my hair. I said she could and her and her friend began playing with my luxurious locks. I offered them my hair tie and I had a sloppy braid for the next hour or so. Why? Because I saw that her intent was curiosity and fascination. There’s nothing wrong with that.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what our initial reaction about someone’s statement is. It matters what they intended. If they truly meant no offense, then we have no reason to be offended. Innocent ignorance is not a fault. When someone has innocent, honest intentions, it says far more about us if we are offended than about them.
Listening and discussing contribute great things to dialogue and growth. Gut reactions rarely do anything. So how do we know someone’s intent? That, dear Reader, is the right question.
equos ad aquam ducere