Best of the Week
of Jan. 24, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Jan. 24, 1999, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at our guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

Question Code Key:

A=Age

GD=General Diversity

RE=Religion

C=Class

G=Geography

SE=Sensitive Matters

D=Disabilities

O=Occupation

SO=Sexual Orientation

GE=Gender

R=Race/Ethnicity

THE QUESTION:
RE69: It's my feeling that some Christians, particularly fundamentalists or born-again Christians, feel a need to tell others how to live their lives. On the other hand, while messages from society and the media may not necessarily be "Christian," I don't see non-Christians telling Christians to change their beliefs. Wouldn't it be more "Christian" to live and let live, or turn the other cheek? Is their some religious reason behind this?
POSTED JUNE 17, 1998
Allison S., 33, white female, <
alnshawn@aol.com>, Mission Viejo, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
It partly depends on your definition of Christianity. If you believe Christian practices should be imitations of the actions of Jesus of Nazareth, then the modern practice of trying to convert "non-believers" is an inconsistency. Jesus was a Jew. He helped and healed many people, unconditionally. The emphasis on converting is actually a Paulian practice. Attempts to convert others goes beyond the desire to share joy. I experience a deep and abiding satisfaction stemming from my spiritual practices, and I share that by simply being an example of happiness and satisfaction. Christians who approach me to witness never ask me if I am happy or satisfied with my spiritual path. They ask me if I am willing to accept Jesus as my "personal savior," indicating their belief that there is only one right way. Some have gone so far as to tell me that my perception of joy is actually an illusion created by Satan. In summary, the practice of conversion is based on a need to be right, not a desire for others to experience joy.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
Gypsy (Eclectic Neopagan) <
gypc@accessus.net>
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THE QUESTION:
O11: Why are most employers these days more interested in the bottom line, even to the point of treating employees poorly? Don't they want life-long employees? (Director's note: Y? would prefer that an employer, or someone at a high level of management, as opposed to an employee, answer this question.)
POSTED JUNE 17, 1998
N.M., Hagerstown, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I am a director of a medium-sized business. We practice something called "Open Book Management." In the past, the directors worked on the business, and the employees worked in the business. We wanted our employees to work on the business with us, as they directly impact the success of our projects. This system has focused everyone on the success of the business and our strategy - not just the directors. Everyone can see where we are going and when we are off track. Combined with a small shareholding, this has transformed how we work together. I can't recommend it enough. There is a book about it by John Case available in most bookstores.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
Rachel, female <
rachel.riley@which.net>, London, UK
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THE QUESTION:
GD60: Does racism exist in the United States to the level shown by the film and news industries, or do they exaggerate it?
POSTED JAN. 28, 1999
Sally P., 39, female <
j.ibsgaard@get2net.dk>, Vejen, Denmark

ANSWER 1:
That's kind of hard to answer without knowing what's being shown on the news in your country. Can you give some examples?
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
D.M.M., white, female <
donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston, SC
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THE QUESTION:
R589: Although I am a descendant of slaves, I would find it inconceivable for the U.S. government to attempt to give descendants of slaves the "40 acres and a mule" the federal government promised but never delivered to the freed slaves.What do Jewish people think about the movements to return art taken from Holocaust victims to their heirs, and to repay those forced to work for no pay in German factories during World War II?

POSTED JAN. 28, 1999
Tony W., gay black male <
tonyway@yahoo.com>, San Francisco, CA

ANSWER 1:
While unkept promises by the U.S. government are reprehensible, they have nothing to do with redressing other wrongs - two wrongs don't make a right. But there are differences: The biggest is that the Holocaust is still within living memory, and compensation for slave laborers who were forced to work for the Germans goes to people who were actually slaves - not their heirs. As far as returning stolen property is concerned, I can't see any reason why it shouldn't be pursued. If someone killed me and stole my house, should my family just forget about it? I can't see the logic in this. I think it's great that those who profited immorally from murder, racism and theft should be made to pay for it. In fact, I believe compensation should be paid for the countless slave laborers who are not still alive to collect it - and that the money should go into a fund to help victims all over the world. Unfortunately, no matter what restitution is made, no amount will ever bring the millions murdered back to life.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
Gregg, 45, white Jewish male <
gregg1@alumni.ksg.harvard.edu>, Boston, MA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think it's totally appropriate to return stolen property to its rightful owners and to compensate people for wrongs done to them. And it shouldn't matter whether those victims are the still-living survivors of the Holocaust or the descendants of black slaves. For what it's worth, some people think Affirmative Action programs are a form of compensation for past wrongs. I don't necessarily agree with that - it's a simplistic position, and there are other logical public policy reasons for Affirmative Action - but some people do think that.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
Andrew, 35, Jewish male <
ziptron@start.com.au>, Huntington , NY
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THE QUESTION:
GE112: Why are women ambiguous about being in a relationship? I've met a lot who will make only oblique references to a "friend" - until I ask them out. Is this a Southern thing, or do women all over do this?
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
Craig, male, Knoxville , TN

ANSWER 1:
I completely understand what you are talking about because I have done it myself. There have been many reasons for me to do it. It may have been because I wanted to let someone down gently, or that I did not know the status of the ambiguous relationship I was in. The main reason I have done it is that I wanted to keep the second man's interest. If a woman has a boyfriend she is dedicated to, she will say she is taken without hesitation. If the relationship is not stable, or she has wandering eyes, she will usually be ambiguous to see if the other party is interested.
POSTED JAN. 28, 1999
Leah, 27, female, Erie, PA

FURTHER NOTICE:
They are either keeping their options open or don't want to appear too available.
POSTED JAN. 28, 1999
S.R., white female, 20, Austin , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
As a Texas boy who's been in similar situations myself, let me be the bearer of bad news: Most of them probably aren't interested in going out with you and are simply telling you the boyfriend thing to squirm out of a potentially difficult situation. I know for a fact that women have told me that to keep me at arm's length, and I'd guess that's what's happening to you, too. As far as I know it's not particularly Southern, but female. Just keep pluggin' away and you will meet someone who makes you her boyfriend. It happened for me, so it can happen for anyone.
POSTED JAN. 28, 1999
James W. <
jwilker@ptd.net>, male, Allentown , PA
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THE QUESTION:
R570: I am the only African American in a department of about 150 people. It's been this way for 18 months. I work in the data processing field as a computer programmer. My organization seems to have a problem with hiring minorities. Why don't they realize they have a problem? How do I reconcile my internal feelings when conversing with my co-workers, most of whom I like, with the ill-will I hold toward the group as a whole? It seems the group as a whole has made a conscious decision to avoid movement into the 2st Century by promoting equal opportunity. Why should I attend company functions, when I can't help but feel that to take my family to the company picnic or my wife to the Christmas party, I will be putting them on display to be judged on their behaviors and attitudes? And how do I know these questions don't pertain to my own hang-ups and not to those of my organization or the people I work with? Thank you for this site. Regardless of whether these questions are posted, Y? will receive a portion of my 1999 charitable contributions.
POSTED DEC. 28, 1998
Paul H., black male, 35 <
pthart@uswest.net>, Des Moines, IA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Through this site I can anonymously give people a look into closed-door corporate meetings, where issues are discussed that the public never hears about.

I am a corporate officer at a large high-tech firm in California, and I have to admit I am more hesitant to hire African Americans than other people. It is not that I think they are less intelligent, wouldn't fit in or are less capable than the people more often hired. It's because African Americans carry a much greater potential business liability than other groups.

It is very easy for an African American to file a discrimination charge with the EEOC and other organizations. When these charges are levied, rather than the accuser having to prove my guilt, it is my burden to prove my innocence. Regardless of how diverse and sensitive an environment I create, it is too easy for my corporation to get sued over an innocent remark or gesture that someone took the wrong way (for example, the cake in which the frosting looked like watermelon seeds, or the "black jellybean" remark in the Texaco class action suit).

No matter how fair and colorblind we are as a corporation, every time an African American is disciplined, and every time I make a merit-based promotion where an African American is not chosen, my company stands the potential for getting sued. The public never hears about the bulk of the racial discrimination suits because, regardless of the lack of merit or ridiculous nature of the suit, most of the time it is quietly settled out of court to avoid bad publicity. Because of this, there are legions of unscrupulous attorneys salivating at the opportunity for a discrimination suit, regardless of the claim's merit.

I am fully aware there are legitimate claims of discrimination where punitive damages are merited, and reparations are due to the filing party. However, in my career I have seen very few African Americans walk out of a discrimination suit, settled out of court or after a full trial, without making a lot of money. Even in cases where the corporation has prevailed, the defense of the company was still very expensive. I don't feel like I am guilty of racism or discrimination. I have friends who are African American, and a fellow VP I greatly admire is African American. However, it is the people who use their race as a crutch, or have a racial chip on their shoulder the size of Baltimore, or people who use the "I'm offended" or "You're opressing me" syndrone as a winning lottery ticket, who put my back to the wall. Although I would like to now, I will change my hiring practices when there are more Ken Hamblins and less Al Sharptons.
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
Anonymous, California

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
To Anonymous: The attitude you exhibit is more likely to get your company sued than any of the hiring actions you have mentioned. So why not simply do the right thing and take your chances?
POSTED JAN. 28, 1999
Jerry, white male, Tampa, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
To Anonymous: Do you hesitate to hire women, the disabled and workers over 40, too? These days, those groups are more likely to bring an employment discrimination suit than African Americans. The best way to keep your company from being sued is to have in place a good workplace conduct policy and follow it. Failing to hire a person because of his or her race, gender, age, disability or, in some places, sexual orientation, just creates the opportunity for more lawsuits - and rightfully so.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
Alicia, 30, black female attorney, Seattle, WA
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THE QUESTION:
R370: I work for an older, wealthy, Jewish woman. She is very bright and enthusiastic. I am taken aback, however, when she walks into our office and begins by criticizing everything, often before knowing what she's looking at. I've been told this trait is typical of Jewish women. If there's any truth to this, what might be helpful for me to know in order to work better with her? Is this a culture issue? I assumed it was a personality trait. I'd really like some more positive interaction from the get-go, vs. having to work backwards toward it.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Thirty-Year-Old, Southern Protestant Liberal, St. Louis, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
I am familiar with a Jewish/European mentality that thinks/feels that the maximally friendly attitude is to be analytical and offer a positively critical review that improves a situation or person. This attitude views "uncritical approval" as indifference to the person or situation.
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
P.B., white, Jewish, male, senior, Davis, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Jewish mothers raise their daughters to perpetuate the notion that whatever they think or say or do is correct and is the best. While the little girl's heart may belong to daddy, the mind belongs to mommy. The Jewish momma dresses the best, cooks the best, observes all the rules the best and knows the answers to queries that the greatest minds have not even thought of. What wondrous creation of humanity for a role model.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
L.H, Jewish male <
lphfla@aol.com>, Ft. Lauderdale , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
There is a Yiddish word for what this woman is doing. It's "kvetching." Pronounced kveh-ching. She probably doesn't realize she is being "critical." She probably thinks she's sharing what she sees. I bet if you told her you feel criticized, she would make every effort in the world to change what she says.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
Bakum, Jewish guy, 28 <
bakum@bigfoot.com>, San Francisco , CA
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THE QUESTION:
GD1: Today in America, and for the last 10 years I have been living here, race in America seems to have become a white vs. black issue. Why and to what end are black and white people determined to keep racial issues (racism, discrimination, etc) a white and black issue? Do whites and blacks think they are more human (equal) than all other races in America? I think the media is determined to keep race in America a white vs. black issue, because it is easier to deal with the black issue than with all other races living in this country.
POSTED FEB. 26, 1998
Adolfo O., California

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I have come to the conclusion that there never will be unity among blacks and whites, no matter how hard we try.

I have raised my children to be nice and respectful, and without prejudice. It didn't last long after they started public school. At least once a month, my son, who is white, was targeted by a black boy and assaulted. My son is very quiet and shy, and when I asked school officials if they ever observed him provoking any of these incidents, they informed my that my son was too shy to speak much at all.

My son made one friend, and he was black. He came to our house often to play. Later, that kid was beat up for being a friend to my son. My son says the black boys always say something about slavery when they are harrassing him. My son did not make anybody a slave, but he is sure having to pay for it. We are sorry that white people stole black people from Africa, but it's not our fault today. Being part Native American, I am very angry about what was done to the Indians, but I'm not out harrassing every white person I run into.

We all have to try to get along. I know all blacks are not like this and do not feel this way, but there are too many that do. I feel that as long as this anger continues, I don't know how there will ever be unity among blacks and whites. What is so sad about all of this is that my son, who I tried to raise without prejudice, now constantly tells me how he hates blacks. Nobody made him this way except black people. It's really sad.
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
J. Watson, Raleigh, NC
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THE QUESTION:
R588: It has been my observation that white women often look older than their true age, whereas black women often look younger. I would like to know if anyone else has noticed this and could explain why. (I have noticed this in people of all complexions, so I don't think it is due to tanning).

POSTED JAN. 26, 1999
Gregory, 21, black male <
december@brigadoon.com>, Olney, MD

ANSWER 1:
I'm an African-American woman of 34 and constantly receiving looks of shock and surprise when I tell folks my age (most think I'm at least 10 years younger). I believe that it has something to do with the melanin and elasticity in black skin. I had this same conversation with a 24-year-old white co-worker who noticed the same thing.
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
Samm, 34, African American, female, Boston, MA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I'm afraid it does have something to do with tanning, but basically the fact is that white people have less melanin (protection) in their skin, which causes more skin damage, i.e., wrinkles, etc. Since black people have more melanin, they are less likely to wrinkle as badly. Also, one's weight (not related to race) makes them more or less wrinkled. I rarely see a heavy person with wrinkles, but watch them lose the weight and then you see them!
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
White female, 43, Orange, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
African Americans in general age very well. Look at Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; they are in there late 70s and early 80s and look extremely good.
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
Janet, 31, female, African American, Capitol Heights, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I agree. I find black women to be very attractive, and one of the features I like is the the healthy look of their complexions. Tanning doesn't produce the same result - in fact, tanning generally causes white skin to age.
POSTED JAN. 28, 1999
Gregg, white male, 45 <
greggas@geocities.com>, Boston , MA
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THE QUESTION:
RE137: I am taking a post to teach computers and the Internet to a group of seniors at a Jewish apartment center. I am very concerned about customs or no-no's, as I don't want to offend anyone. This is my first teaching position and I am very excited to begin. Can anyone give me information on what I should or shouldn't say or do? You can also reply by e-mail.
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
Ann B., 45, female Catholic <
barbers4@email.msn.com or barber1@juno.com>
Berkley, MI
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THE QUESTION:
GD59: I am doing research for a class on cross-cultural birth control methods. I keep finding things on the net that are described as "ineffective" or "dangerous." I want to know about safe, effective methods that are outside what the medical mainstream wants us to know about (mostly dangerous methods in my opinion).
POSTED JAN. 26, 1999
Will G., male, Las Cruces, NM
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THE QUESTION:
GE103: My body seems asymmetrical: One of my breasts is larger than the other, and one of my hips is more pronounced than the other. I would like to know how men feel about this.
POSTED DEC. 30, 1998
T.L., white female, 21, San Antonio , TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Everyone's body is a bit asymmetrical. Nearly all women have one breast slightly larger than the other. With men this is also true. To put it gently, "one hangs lower than the other." Relax and don't worry. It probably seems more pronounced because you're concerned about it. I'll bet no one else thinks this about you.
POSTED JAN. 26, 1999
F.B., 34, straight white male <
lugh77@yahoo.com>, Dallas , TX
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THE QUESTION:
R561: Why do white women feel the need to ask a black woman, in public, "Is that your real hair?" I would not be so disrespectful as to ask a white woman, in public, if her breasts were real.
POSTED DEC. 18, 1998
Kenya, black female, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
As a white female, I have done this on several occasions. I thought it was OK. I definitely need to be educated. Are there any black women out there who have theories on this? Do you believe it's because the hair looks too straight or long that we ask if it's real? I'm just now finding out about how black women style their hair. I want to know more, but now I'm afraid to ask in person.
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
Linda S., white female, 35, Myrtle Beach, SC
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