The Lost Art of “I Don’t Know”

Our failure to acknowledge what we don’t know slows racial healing

Jeffrey Kass


Image: Shutterstock/Peshcova

I think it likely coincided with the invention of social media and our new-ish world of instant reaction and gratification, but at some point in the last 20 years, far too many people have forgotten how to say the three magic words we all want to hear from time to time.


It rears its ugly head in the most unnecessary places.

“Do you know if the chicken dish on the menu has any gluten in it?” one restaurant-goer asks the waiter.

“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.”

Pretty sure, as we know, is code word for you have no damn idea.

I even once asked a young adult working at a smoothie bar in Bexley, Ohio if the peanut butter they use had sugar in it.

“I don’t think so,” which is another synonym for no clue.

“Can you please check,” I followed up.

And I kid you not, the young woman went to the back room for 12 seconds and returned with a prompt “No sugar!”

I could tell the way her eyes shifted that she didn’t even look at the jar’s ingredients list to see if it had any sugar. As a trial lawyer of 26 years, I have nearly perfected reading the bullshit meter.

So I continued with a fib of my own to press the issue since I don’t like to consume a lot of added sugar.

“I’m very allergic to sugar. Could you please check the jar?”

She was shocked I knew she had lied, but she nodded with a guilty look and returned 45 seconds later.

“Yes, sugar is the second ingredient after peanuts.”

Even the same day I wrote this essay, I asked a store clerk at a Denver area grocery store, Natural Grocers, “Do you know where the lox is?”

Lox is thinly sliced salmon, cured and smoked. From the look on the clerk’s face, my guess was that he had never heard the word lox, but I waited for his response anyway.

“Well, I think it’s near the crackers or cereal.”

I then explained what lox was and he admitted he had no idea, but acknowledged it…



Jeffrey Kass

A Medium Top Writer on Racism, Diversity, Education, History and Parenting | Speaker | Award-Winning Author | Latest Book: Black Batwoman V. White Jesus | Dad