Best of the Week
of March 14, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of March 14, 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:
A42: To retired people: What do you do all day?
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
C.P., 21, Montreal, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
GE128: Why do many women, even when strongly complimented on an attribute, soon change that attribute, if they can? For example, if you tell a woman you like her hairstyle, she will no doubt have her hair different within the next few weeks. You would think a compliment would have the effect of a woman trying to maintain that certain look. But I do not observe this to be true, especially in younger women.
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
W.G., 35, male, Cincinnati, OH
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THE QUESTION:
R632: Why do some Asian people wear face masks when out in public? I am referring to the surgical or dust type mask that covers the mouth and nose. I assume it has something to do with germs or such, but I only see Asians doing this, wearing them on the bus, in the mall, etc.

POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
White male, 26, Santa Clara, CA
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THE QUESTION:
A24: Why do people feel it is all right to stereotype all teenagers and younger people based on one bad apple? Example: In my hometown, teenagers who came into the local mall in groups of four or more were told they either had to split up or leave. Why don't they do the same to 40-year-olds?
POSTED AUG. 3, 1998
Craig, 15 <
Bonowitz@aol.com>, Des Moines, IA

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
It's not your imagination; a lot of older people really do exhibit bad attitude and prejudice against young people. When I was in high school, I worked in my town's public library, and it hurt me so much to see the way the library staff treated some of the middle school and high school students who would come by to do research, study and, yes, hang out. Often the library floor monitors would swoop down on unattended backpacks the moment their owners got up to use a reference computer. The owners would then have to go through a fight with the desk staff to get the backpacks back. Other staff would break up any conversation between young people after about 30 seconds or not allow young people to sit more than four to a table, even if the table was large. Most of the library staff acted as if all young people were criminals, while in reality they weren't doing anything bad at all. I always thought it was disgusting because they treated me with respect and I was the same age as these "criminals." So it's not your imagination, even though some adults may deny your charges.
POSTED MARCH 19, 1999
Wendy, female, 24 <
wiebke@juno.com>, Atlanta , GA
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THE QUESTION:
RE147: To Christian scholars and clergy: I identify myself as a Christian, but believe that all religions are essentially worshiping the same higher power, whether He is called "Christ," "Allah," "Buddha" or the various other deities of other religions. I also look at the Bible as an important piece of literature and as a guide, but considering the number of times it has been edited and translated over the centuries, I believe it would be impossible to attempt to understand and comply with the original intent, so while I follow the Bible's general philosophy, I don't look at individual passages for guidance. Is this blasphemous?
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Shawn, 23, gay male, Episcopalian <
pharaun@aol.com>, Fort Worth , TX

ANSWER 1:
As long as you identify affirmatively with your higher power, you are not blasphemous. I share your belief that we all worship the same higher power that some call God. I feel that Jesus, Buddha and Allah, etc. are all Christs who came to be examples for us to follow. We can all live as they did - as a Christ. The Bible is an extremely important text ,but there are many more. I'm sure your priest could recommend some. I am fond of Paramahansa Yogananda's The Divine Romance Try reading these spiritual books by allowing the book to open where it may and see if you find your daily answer there. It has never failed to amaze me.
POSTED MARCH 17, 1999
BPMass, 46, female, Jacksonville, FL
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THE QUESTION:
G73: I'm reading Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. Are white Southerners really still hung up on the Civil War? Do some Southerners still perceive the South as being occupied by the federal government?
POSTED MARCH 3, 1999
B. Hale, Yankee <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT

ANSWER 1:
From my experience growing up in the Deep South, only a small percentage of people were intensely interested in the Civil War - some out of historic curiosity, others out of more sinister, racist motives. But I have also observed people with this interest while living/working in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast.

As for the feelings of the majority of Southerners, the Civil War is probably no more a topic of daily interest than for most Northerners. There is, however, probably some dichotomy of opinion or perception on the subject. Certainly, or at least hopefully, almost everyone would agree that any actions necessary to bring about an end to slavery were necessary and justified. But I think many Southerners feel a certain bitterness or melancholy about that period in history due to the capricious destruction visited upon the South during the war, the impoverishing federal tax and trade policies after the war and the wholly inadequate protection of the lives and liberties of freed slaves before, during and after the war. For this variety of reasons, I think most Southerners do not view the Civil War quite the same way that many Northerners do - as a clear-cut struggle between good guys and bad guys and winners and losers, with a beginning and an end.

As for the second question, I have never heard anyone speak in terms of the federal government as an occupying force, but many Southerners believe more strongly in the concept of States Rights as enumerated in the Constitution. This causes us to chafe at massive unfunded federal mandates, federal intrusion into public education, federal mandatory sentencing laws for state crimes and things like that. One of the unfortunate lingering after-effects of the war is the national inability to seriously debate these issues.
POSTED MARCH 16, 1999
Mark, 32, white male, Alexandria, VA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Almost without exception, the Southerners I know will tell you with some vehemence that the War Between the States was not fought on racial grounds. Sadly, some morons feel the need to align these two things and have, as a result, besmirched the Confederate Flag as well as Southern history. Sane and otherwise rational Southerners frequently do feel very strongly about the Civil War, viewing it as the tragedy it was. The South was galvanized by its defeat, and that affects Southern culture to this day. The South, for many decades after the War, was captured land. I remain a part of the Union only grudgingly. Southern history is my history, and the people whose homes were destroyed and lives reduced are my people. This land, language, food, culture - all of it is who I am, and it is too frequently misunderstood by Yankees who persist in the notion that they are the Great Moral Hope of the world, and that they can do things bigger, better, faster and more. Like any Southerner, I resist this change with all my being. Part of resisting it is maintaining my identity as Southern. As a little P.S. I'll add that I am also left wing, feminist and queer.
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
Kathryn, Southern Dyke <
barefoot-rivergirl@usa.net>, Roanoke, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
From my experience in the Army, where most white soldiers are Southerners, there is still an enormous anger left over from the Civil War, which must have been passed down for generations. Some were all right by themselves, but in groups had on open hatred of all "Yanks," were found of saying "It (the war) ain't over yet!" and believed the South was in the right about their causes, both states rights and slavery. You could not even mention slavery, civil rights, Dr. King, the Klan, lynching or the Confederate flag without it becoming a shouting match or near-fight. Yet the evidence shows the South suffered less than it would have you believe. They lost on the battlefield but won control in politics. How many other defeated rebel groups were able to elect a President, an ex-Confederate general at that, only 11 years after their supposed defeat? How many rebel groups were able to dominate one of two major political parties for more than 100 years?
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
A.C.C., Mexican and American Indian, San Antonio , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
As a Southerner, I rarely encounter people who think about the Civil War on any kind of regular basis. My grandparents' generation tends to have more of an interest in that era. When children in the South study the Civil War today, they are likely to be studying it in a very similar way to children in Northern schools. With modern technology and culture, some of the historical divides between Northerners and Southerners are closing. Sure, there are still a few people down South fixated on "The War of Northern Aggression." There are people who are terrible racists and would love to return to those days. And that crosses socioeconomic lines, too. But you're much more likely to discuss the Gulf War or even Vietnam with a typical middle-class Southerner these days - probably because these people can see the direct impact these more recent wars have had on their own lives.
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
Jennifer, Memphis, TN
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THE QUESTION:
R628: I have a friend who is half of an interracial married couple. They have two children. I could never ask her, but I've wondered how she felt when her children were born and didn't look like her. She is blond and blue-eyed, and her husband is African American. Her children are beautiful, but wouldn't it be strange at first?

POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Lynn Marie W. <
tenquid1@prodigy.net>, female, Minnetonka, MN

ANSWER 1:
I am blond and green-eyed, my husband is Asian and we have two children. When they were born, they had black hair and very dark eyes - but they were the most beautiful children I had ever seen, and I had no doubt they were a part of me. They didn't need blond hair for me to feel that. It's hard to explain, but it wasn't strange for me. Maybe because they looked a lot like my husband and so they were familiar. As they grew, though, they changed a lot. Their hair lightened to a warm brown, and their Asian features softened - they look like a perfect combination of my husband and myself. Also, as parents, we see ourselves in our children in countless other ways than just their hair or eye color - their personalities, preferences, tendencies, etc.
POSTED MARCH 16, 1999
Victoria, 30, white female, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am a mother of two biracial children. It may seem strange, but I am unaware of the differences in my appearance vs.my children's appearance until it is mentioned, mostly by children, who are so uninhibited. I enjoy a child's interest and lack of negative perceptions. I must mention that many parents have children who look very different from them due to the mysteries of genetics. Do you think a blond mother feels strange toward her brown-haired child? Please be open with your friend about issues you can share and grow from.
POSTED MARCH 16, 1999
Blonde Mom, white female, TN

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I was in an interracial marriage for 22 years. We had two beautiful children. My daughter doesn't particularly look like me, but many other (same race) parents don't look like their children, either. I never thought of it in terms of their being interracial. She is my child, and I was very glad to have her!
POPSTED MARCH 16, 1999
Chris R., 46, white female, Lincoln, NE
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THE QUESTION:
R406: Is there something about the German culture that may have allowed the Holocaust to happen there, and is this something that is talked about in Germany? What are other explanations? I realize this is not the only country in which something like this happened, so culture cannot be the only explanation.
POSTED AUG. 9, 1998
Marcie B. 28, Jewish female, Boston, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
For a chilling account of how Germans in particular were capable and willing participants in the Holocaust, read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shrirer, the definitive historical account. But be warned, as you read you may see parallels to the United States, and not just concerning anti-Semitism.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Jason, 29, Jewish male <
jessetr@jps.net>, Brooklyn, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
There was a study done years ago on this. I am not sure of the man's name who conducted it. His plan was to prove that Germans were more obedient than Americans. He started his experiment in America but was so shocked at the results that he never made it to Germany. He pretended to be a scientist doing an experiment about the mind. The people being tested thought they were helping in the research and that they were not the subjects. He had actors pretend to be the subjects. The real subjects were supposed to administer an electric shock if the actor pretending to be the subject got a question wrong. The actors sometimes screamed in pain, but the people kept shocking them. Even when one of the actors said he had heart trouble, the people still continued to shock him, as instructed. It shows how authority can control. What happened with the Holocaust could have happened anywhere.
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
19, Italian female, college student <
haylie79@hotmail.com>, NY
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THE QUESTION:
G66: Do people living in the South have more racist attitudes than people living in the North?
POSTED JAN. 14, 1999
Nicole, 21, white female <
ngebhart@hotmail.com>, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
My high school teacher (a Southern white male probably not offended to be called a redneck) said Northerners are more likely to accept black people (for example) as a group but not individually, i.e. "They're OK, but I wouldn't have them to dinner." Southerners, on the other hand, are likely to accept black people individually but not as a group, i.e. "Old Roscoe is a decent fellow, but the rest of them ..."
POSTED MARCH 16, 1999
Kevin, male <
jones@ecel.ufl.edu>, FL
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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

ANSWER 1:
I found your question interesting. Living in Montreal, Canada, we are also not oblivious to the plight of the homeless. There are about 30,000 in my city. I used to be homeless and am now finishing two degrees from university work with homeless people. Some comments: 1) The homeless befriend others who they trust; usually people the same as them; 2) They find centers or shelters to survive; and 3) They panhandle and hope for humanity from others. Take care.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Homeless people <
matt269@hotmail.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

RELATED QUESTION:
I teach high school psychology and was asked a question I need help on: My 18-year-old student feels her 21-year-old brother is gay, yet he hasn't come out. She wants to reassure him of unconditional love, yet doesn't know if she should ask if he's gay. He's been on gay chat lines, gone off for a weekend with a man... Should she say something or wait for him to tell her?

POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Sus, Psychology teacher <
obriens@vcss.k12.ca.us>, Simi Valley, CA

ANSWER 1:
I wish I had asked my brother if he was gay when I suspected it. We wasted a lot of time pretending. When he finally told me, we were able to build a real relationship based on truth. I wish I had more time together with the real man that I came to respect for who he really was. The AIDS virus took him 4 1/2 years ago, and I miss him.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
B.B., New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE:
You should ask him. He may really want to talk with someone. If he denies it, you must allow that to be his answer.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
48-year-old open lesbian <
pj1304@yahoo.com>, Philadelphia, Pa

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I would suggest you try to let him know via your conversations that you are not homophobic and are open to people and their differences. Mentioning gay friends or interest in the gay community, etc. may help convey this. My brother did this for me, and I was able to come out to him in my own time. However, I think if he would have asked me directly, it would have freaked me out and I would not have wanted to talk about it. I had to do it when I was ready. Knowing that he would be open to it was the nudge I needed.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Ramonajane, 29, lesbian

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I think you should confront him, especially if you are close. If you don't know how to approach the subject, casually ask if he is seeing anyone or has been on any dates lately.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Jen, female, <
j1c1r1@yahoo.com>, Annapolis, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Considering that he is your brother and not a stranger, friend or co-worker, you should ask him. As you mentioned, make him aware that his (possible) homosexualality will have no bearing on the relationship you two have. You should also attempt to speak with your parents about their attitude toward homosexuals and lesbians.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Janet, straight African-American female, Capitol Heights, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
You should most definitely talk to your brother, and the sooner the better. Your brother is in the same situation as many of us are. We choose to live two lives rather than face heartaches and rejection from our families. You should be clear about your acceptance of the situation at the beginning of the conversation with your brother. I bet it will make a big difference in the rest of your and your brother's lives. As for your parents, they don't have to know. That sould be up to your brother. At 38, I recently had this conversation with one of my sisters, and it was an absolute wonderful feeling to finally talk to someone in my family. This feeling lingered for days. The feeling that just one person in your brother's family knows, accepts and loves him as he is will really take him a long way. And it will be rewarding for you as well.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Aaron D., gay male, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I think that rather than coming out and asking him you should make it clear that you love and accept him no matter what. Perhaps if the subject of homosexuality comes up, on the news or in conversation, you could take a "what's the big deal" attitude (assuming that is your attitude. Then if he is gay, he'd be more likely to confide in you about it. I'm sure if he knew you'd be supportive, he'd much rather tell you than keep it a secret).
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
T.B., straight but gay-friendly female, 30, NY , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
If you love your brother and are genuinely worried about him, ask him. What do you have to lose? Maybe your brother is looking for someone he can confide in. Maybe your parents are not the people he looks to for comfort. Maybe he goes only to his friends. If you take the initative to talk to him, maybe he will realize he can go to you, and that he can tell you what's on his mind. Maybe he is gay, maybe he's not. It is your choice to bring up the question.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
J.B., Annapolis, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Bluntly put, it really isn't your business if he's gay or not. He will tell you when he is comfortable (or he may never tell you, in words). If it really doesn't matter to you, then don't stress on it and just be there for him when he needs you, and he will know you love him. I am gay and have never told any of my family (but that' not to say they don't know; they do). My straight brothers and sisters never had to go to mom and dad and say "I'm straight," and I never felt I had to, either. Just be a friend to your bro; if he wants to tell you, he will.
POSTED MARCH 16, 1999
Kyle, 30, gay black male <
kyllr2v231@aol.com>, San Francisco, CA

 

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
I feel strongly that you should broach the subject with your brother. My sister is a lesbian, and even though everyone in the family has known for years, no one mentioned it, including her or her live-in partner, whom we have always treated as part of the family. A couple of years ago, I started to talk to my sister about something very personal to me, and she reciprocated by bringing up the subject of her lesbianism. After years of tiptoeing around various subjects, it has been a miracle to be able to talk to my sister honestly, and I know she feels the same. I also know how gratifying it would feel to her if other members of our family would tell her they accept her and her partner, instead of hoping she picks that up from unspoken clues. I hesitated for years to say anything about her sexuality because I didn't want her to think I thought it was an issue, but as it turns out I could have provided some important support. If you bring it up to your brother and he doesn't want to talk about it, fine. But he will know you are there for him if he needs it.
POSTED MARCH 18, 1999
Cyndi, female <
cjmoritz@SUMMON2.syr.edu>, Syracuse, NY
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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

ANSWER 1:
I am a black lesbian and am not offended by the gay rights movement. It is just as inhumane to discriminate according to color as it is according to sexual orientation
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Malika, black lesbian, Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Being both black and gay, I've experienced this from two areas. I do think that some of the resentment may stem from cultural homophobia. However, there is a major difference between the struggle based on ethnicity and that based on sexual orientation. That difference is appearance. In most cases, ethnicity is immediately visible, but sexual orientation is not. People can usually see your race, which then affects how they treat you. But how can you see one's sexual orientation? Until people can be identified by sexual orientation as they can by race, they are different.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
D.N., gay, black, 34, Seattle

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
At least one major black denomination (African Methodist Episcopal) condemns homosexuality because the church is very concerned about absent fathers, and homosexuality is seen as another thing that can lure men away from their traditional role as father/husband/family stabilizer. I think there is some tension between race, which is obviously beyond choice, and sexual orientation, which people argue over vehemently as to whether it is a choice or not. Black people who see being gay as a matter of choice may resent gays complaining when they supposedly can just stop being gay, while blackness is forever.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
B. Hale, straight white male <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
As a heterosexual Latina, I fully support the movement for gay/lesbian rights. I think the problem is when we start to assume that "gay/lesbian" and "Black/Latino" are mutually exclusive categories, and this may be what offends people. I am not denying that some people involved in civil rights may be homophobic, but in my experience many people are trying to incorporate gay and lesbian issues into their activism. It could also be that gays and lesbians are inadvertently glossing over racial issues, which is certainly problematic.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
A.E.H., 22, straight Latina female, Deer Park, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I think for homosexuals to compare their issues to racial issues is fraudulent and undermines the homosexual cause. It's not about comparing whose suffering is worse. Blacks and Jews do this same thing with the Holocaust and slavery. Homosexuals should try to plead their case rationally and logically, without comparing the suffering they experience with the suffering people face based on their race. The issues faced as a homosexual and as a black person are not the same and should not be addressed as the same or similar. The fact that there is discrimination is not just cause for homosexual activists to associate their discrimination with racial discrimination. Without doubt, we are born black. And while you may argue that homosexuals are born homosexuals, black is black.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
Taysh, African American, Washington, DC

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I think some blacks and Latinos find the gay rights movements and gays and bisexuals in general offensive because they were raised in conservative religious atmospheres - Catholic, Baptist, Muslim and so on. Many would also resent the comparison because usually blacks and Latinos don't have the choice of "staying in the closet" about their minority status. But there are also many like myself who think it's wrong to hate someone for the way they were born. We do have that in common. Many of us also recognize that we have mostly the same enemies in common. Those who are racists usually hate gays, too. By the way, most American Indians don't have prejudice against gays because some of the spiritual traditions allow homosexuality or tranvestite roles for medicine men.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1999
A.C.C., Mexican and American Indian, San Antonio, TX

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