Best of the Week
of March 7, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of March 7, 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:
C13: To people who are homeless, have been homeless or are experts on the topic: What types of class and power structures do homeless communities institute and follow among themselves? This culture must fend for itself, so I imagine its members follow some unwritten codes for survival. What are they?
POSTED MARCH 11, 1999
Ed V., 37, white, middle-class professional student <
EdVirden@aol.com>, San Clemente , CA
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THE QUESTION:
SO129: I think my 30-year-old brother may be gay but am afraid to ask him about it. He has never had a girlfriend, and most of his friends are older, single men. I don't want to make him feel uncomfortable, but I want to let him know it is OK with me. Our parents are very homophobic. Should I ask him?
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Carlin J., white male, 25 <
carlin11@yahoo.com>, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
SO127: I've done some grass-roots work for gay and lesbian civil rights. During these events, I have heard many speakers compare the cause of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender acceptance to the struggle for racial equality. This is usually followed by a strong counter from the opposition that many blacks and Latinos would find that comparison extremely offensive. Are most folks in the black and Latino civil rights movements offended by the gay rights movement? Do they see their struggle as morally and ethically unrelated to ours? Do they object to our community "piggybacking" on their issues and history?
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Matthew T., gay male, Charlotte, NC
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THE QUESTION:
R621: To people who of mixed-race or multiple heritage: How do you feel about being classified as one race or another? Do you identify with one race more than the other? Does that depend on which parent's race you more closely resemble? Are you ever angry with your parents for not "sticking to their own"?
POSTED MARCH 1, 1999
Roger T., male, 40-plus , Asian/Caucasian <
roger.thomas@home.com>, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
My father was Indonesian and my mother is Caucasian, born in the United States but raised in France and Southeast Asia. My skin is light olive, and most people assume I am Caucasian. But I grew up in an all-white town (Middletown, NJ), and was subjected to beatings and constant verbal abuse because of my race. I assumed it was because of my appearance but now know it was because of my Asian surname. My bitter childhood and adolescence has left me with major anger issues. It enrages me when people say "Well, you look white to me." Even though I am a Caucasian American culturally (the clothes I wear, the way I speak, the music I listen to) I wish to be called Asian because I want to distance myself from my childhood tormentors.
POSTED MARCH 9, 1999
Al, 33, Asian/Caucasian male <
crabrangoon@mindless.com>, Boston, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
When someone asks me what nation I am, I most often respond that i'm Ojibway, Potowatomi and Scottish. Not because I want to give equal notice to all of my heritage, but that's who I am. I connect with my mother's race more than my father's, but that's partly from my own beliefs, since women are respected in my culture and come first before me. And I don't blame my parents for being of mixed heritage, because I believe we choose our parents.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Myiingan, Ojibway, Potowatomi, Scottish <
doublej_J@hotmail.com>, Ontario, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
RE105: I am a Sikh but do not know the answer to this question: Why must Sikhs keep their hair in modern times? What is the point?
POSTED OCT. 15, 1998
Karan K., Sikh <
karanman@hotmail.com>, Bangkok, Thailand

ANSWER 1:
Baptized Sikhs keep unshorn hair and beards as a sign of their religious committment. I know many who have cut their hair, including my father. I think many keep their hair long and in turbans, aside from religious observances, because of the growing multicultural communities around the world, where differences are accepted and one may not feel the need to conform to the the "norm."
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
A Sikh on the other side of the world
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THE QUESTION:
GE125: When a man sees a woman who has many features that are obviously fake, like Pamela Anderson Lee, what is the attraction? To me, this looks really bizarre. I would rather be seen with a guy who is obese and pockmarked than with one who has obviously fake body parts and hair color.
POSTED MARCH 9, 1999
Cherie, white "babe," 27, CA

ANSWER 1:
When people alter their bodies to look "perfect," often they just come out looking fake, and I would rather have a real woman than a manufactured mannequin. Some people I know have commented that the singer Jewel needs braces to straighten her teeth, and then she would be perfect. Perhaps, but that slight imperfection makes her real and infinitely more beautiful in my eyes than Pamela Anderson ever could be.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Stephen S., 31 <
SAScheidt@aol.com please do not post>
San Antonio , TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Many men can get turned on by a two-dimensional, air-brushed photograph on a sheet of paper (fortunes have been made on that fact), so it's no surprise that many can be attracted to three-dimensional women who are 90 percent original parts. Says something about men, huh?
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
B. Hale, umm, not like all those other guys <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford , CT

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I do not find Ms. Anderson particularly attractive, and I know many other men who feel the same way. It's not always easy to understand why you're not attracted to someone. Certainly in her case there is a certain "unnaturaleness" (I know that's not a real word) to her top-heavy, silicone-enriched appearance. Many men are attracted to this unnaturally skinny, large-breasted blonde ideal probably for the same reason so many women go to such lengths to achieve it. Popular culture (movies, TV, magazines) has conditioned them to accept or at least recognize it as the concept of feminine beauty.

Somewhere along the line, most men (at least I assume it's most men) grow up a little and come to understand that the Pamela Andersons of this world are a dime a dozen. True beauty requires a certain physical honesty and individuality. To me, the Meg Ryans and Gillian Andersons and Sandra Bullocks are far more physically attractive because they don't look like they are trying to look like Cindy Crawford or some other model. Of course it doesn't hurt that most of the characters they have played have been strong, intelligent, compassionate thoroughly lovable women, whereas Ms. Anderson's one movie role appeared to be just a tramp with a gun.

That said, even though I can honestly say I'm not really attracted to Ms. Anderson, I can understand why many men might find her image visually stimulating (as a learned response from adolescence) and others might find it interesting from an almost freakshow type of view. I differentiate these responses from attraction, however, because they could just as easily be generated by a cartoon character.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Mark, 32, white male, Alexandria, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Since you signed your post "white babe," I have to assume you are naturally attractive. What if you weren't? What if you never were? So many things that you may take for granted would not be so. That passing look from that really cute guy you want to meet. And additionally, many unpleasant remarks you never heard aimed at you, suddenly would be. If someone wants to enhance their looks with surgery, what is the problem? The fact is that looks are not just superficial. Women who look better and men who are taller are more likely to get better jobs. Appearance is important. Almost every U.S. president was taller than his opposition. As for natural, Western humans are not "natural" creatures. We have altered so much of the environment and our role in nature that we do not fit in it. Western human life is artificial, so what is the difference if the breasts are as well?
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
R. Delorimier <
r_delorimier@yahoo.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
For guys, it's easy to overlook the "fake or real" question if what you see looks good - whether it's fake or real. Guys don't always think with their heads. Now, if what's fake looks bad because it's fake, (like poorly done surgery, etc.) then that's a turnoff. Otherwise, if women have had a face lift, tummy tuck, lipo thighs, etc., we can overlook the fake part if what we see is attractive.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Kevin, 36, male <
kmcmanis@mediaone.net>, Los Angeles, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R626: I'm an Asian and have been in Utah four years. When I travel to other states, people treat me nicer than here. I have lots of friends, and some of them who speak English as their first language tell me I speak English well enough for people to understand me. But I sometimes see people who seem to pretend they're not understanding what I say. One old lady never talked to me even though I asked for the price of some stuff. Why do people in Utah act this way?
POSTED MARCH 8, 1999
Asian male, 23, Salt Lake City , UT

ANSWER 1:
I think Utah is about 80-90 percent white. They're not used to people of other races, and may harbor some prejudices. I've lived in L.A. more than 10 years now, and I don't think there's a more multi-cultural city in the United States. When I go to Utah, I'm amazed by how many white people there are - and how many minorities I don't see. It must have something to do with that Mormon thing... Good luck with it; I hope it's not too bad. And by the way, if you want to go somewhere with lots of Asians to feel more comfortable, come to L.A.. There must be a million or more Asian Americans here.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Kevin, thirties, white male, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
This is not an enlightened response, but ... the Mormons in Utah have a reputation throughout the country of being clannish. They do not accept others into their closed society, whether they be Catholic, African American or Asian. I hope this helps you take the snub less personally.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Lynda, 29, white female, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Over the past several years, while living in Texas, I had several occasions to travel to Ogden, Utah (near Salt Lake City) on business. My impression is that Utah has the most amazingly homogenous population of any area I've ever seen, much more so than even a small town in the Southeast. There is no diversity at all! I suspect it's not a matter of language fluency; it's possible that you were the very first non-WASM (White Anglo-Saxon Mormon) they had ever seen in the flesh; they reacted to you as you might to a green, three-eyed Martian. It reminds me of another long, long business trip to Korea. This was not Seoul, but to a small city that might fairly be described as the Arkansas of Korea. This may be hard to believe, but I saw children see me and run away screaming, terrified. I was the first round-eye they had ever seen. I imagine your experience was similar to this, but it is hard to imagine it took place in the United States.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Jesse N., male, Herzliya, Israel

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I know that Utah is a very Mormon state. I have spoken with many Mormons after living in Las Vegas. Here is what they have told me: Mormons are above others. They have told me the whiter you are, the closer to God you are. My close friend lived in Utah for a while when she was younger and was told by the teachers in her school that she was worthless and could not participate in any activities because she was not good enough. They even prejudice their own by income levels. I knew another Mormon man in Vegas who had asked to be married in the beautiful temple that only those who gave the most money to could attend (made of ivory and gold). They told him no, he did not give enough and so he was not worthy to be inside. He believed them.

Mormons can be good or bad, like anyone else. Even if we do not agree on spiritual beliefs and the way others should be treated, I have had them as friends. I think what I described, though, could be part of the problem you are having.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Cindy, 28, white female <
Cindy@mail.voyager.com>, Los Angeles , CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Since I am not from Utah, I cannot speak for that area and their possible prejudices. However, I work in New York City and come into contact with a number of people of varying ethnicity every day. One man here at work has a very thick Hispanic accent, which I find very difficult to understand. However, most of the other people here understand him perfectly. On the other hand, bring in someone with a thick Irish or British accent, and I can understand them clearly, while others cannot catch even a word. From college, I have come to understand Asian accents better, but even Asians who speak English very well can sometimes confuse me. Some people can deal with different accents better than others. People with hearing problems often have more difficulty than others, for example. Perhaps that is the kind of situation you are running into.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
John K., 25, white male <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ
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THE QUESTION:
R623: To African Americans: What is a "stepshow?"
POSTED MARCH 3, 1999
Jarrett B., white male, 38 <
jburch@mindspring.com>, Augusta , GA

ANSWER 1:
A stepshow is a fraternity/sorority social event. Usually several frats and sororities gather to perform/compete in a step (which is a performance routine that includes dance/ "step" routines, singing, etc.)
POSTED MARCH 8, 1999
Gregory, 21, black male, MD

FURTHER NOTICE:
Although I have never been in one myself (I am too shy), I have seen quite a number of them, and they can be quite multiracial, sometimes. They are about rhythm and timing. People will stand in rows, or move forming different shapes and everyone stomps their feet, claps and smacks their thighs, or spins around, doing dance moves, creating a harmony of sound with their own bodies. It's pretty cool to watch, too.
POSTED MARCH 10, 1999
Jennifer, black female,18, NJ
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