Best of the Week
of April 28, 2002

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of April 28, 2002, as selected by Y? Thesepostings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing Y?'s database using the search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in the Original Archives (all questions from the Original Archives have been entered into the database as well). In the Original Archives, as well as in the database, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. You are encouraged 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 Y?'s guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.


Question:

Why do Muslims think dogs are dirty? Do they believe dogs are demonic? How much do they dislike them?
POSTED 4/30/2002
Anonymous, n/a, NA, United States, 18, Mesg ID 4292002105822

Responses:
Muslims do not believe dogs are demonic; dogs are thought of as ritually unclean, and this is particularly true of canine saliva and mucous (which seem to come in abundance all the time). Dogs are not prohibited per se, but because they destroy ablution and ritual cleanliness, they should not be allowed in any area of the house where prayers take place. Generally speaking, Muslims avoid dogs because keeping them in a separate area can be a very hard job. Note that this does not apply to cats, which are actually advised as companions by Islamic tradition. Islamic texts also warn that if someone owns a dog, and that dog suffers from incarceration, hunger or thirst, then that person's road to hell is paved, so it is a great responsibility.
POSTED 5/3/2002
Karim O., Cairo, NA, Egypt, 21, Male, Muslim, Arab, Straight, student, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 52200252701

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Question:

Could someone please explain the 'nigger' or 'nigga'' culture I hear so much about here in New York? It seems to be limited to blacks and Hispanics, but this label reflects in clothing, attitude, music, etc. What does it represent to people who identify with it? Is it appropriate for whites to refer to people who identify with this subculture as niggers/niggas? I am old enough to remember a time when it wasn't a good term, yet I find that currently it seems to be quite in fashion. What's the story? Are there any positive aspects to being identified as a nigger/nigga, or is it all lower socio-ecomomic based ghetto types? Is it a fad, as was 'punk/skinhead'?
POSTED 4/30/2002
Matthew, New York City, NY, United States, 44, Male, White/Caucasian, Upper class, Mesg ID 429200253937


Responses:
To us who have a sense of respect for ourselves, neither of these words carries any meaning. It is sad that many of our youths consider this word slang or cool. These words are insulting, no matter what race.
POSTED 5/3/2002
Ken, Atlanta, GA, United States, Male, Mesg ID 51200270255

Please read Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy. You will probably find answers to your questions there.
POSTED 5/3/2002
E.D., Kansas City, MO, United States, 45, Female, Black/African American, Mesg ID 51200215852

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Question:

Why are there some gay and bisexual people who want to be Miss Universe, whereas some want to be Mr. Universe?
POSTED 4/29/2002
Anonymous, n/a, NA, USA, 20, Mesg ID 4292002113222

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Question:

To non-Christians: What is your reaction when well-intentioned strangers or acquaintances wish you a 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Easter'? Do you explain that you're Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, agnostic, etc., or do you just let it go?
POSTED 4/29/2002
Sue B., Detroit, MI, United States, 40s, Female, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, Writer, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 4292002113436

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Question:

Many Indians (natives of India) in my workplace have a musty or sweaty 'armpit' type of odor. Often the smell starts from the very beginning of the workday, so I cannot attribute it to normal perspiration from daily activity. Is it a cultural thing not to bathe daily or wear deodorant? Is it something considered acceptable or normal in the Indian culture? Or are there ritualistic/religious reasons for this? Is it a socioeconomic/class thing, perhaps? Or is it just an individual thing resulting from a lack of proper hygiene instruction? Do these people not realize they smell (I can't see how, because it is obvious to everyone else), or do they just not care? Should I tell them? By no means am I saying all Indians smell like this - there are very many Indian men who never smell foul and wear cologne, etc., but I have encountered this enough to provoke the question.

POSTED 4/22/2002

Jen, Red Bank, NJ, United States, 31, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Consulting, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 4202002104756


Responses:
At the university on the United States side of the border near my town, there are some Indians (from India), and when they sit next to me, I notice a strange odor coming from them. At first I thought it was provoked by some ritual incense, but I realized the odor wasn't pleasant. I had sat along Anglos, blacks, Mexicans, Chinese and Europeans, and no one had a 'special' smell. I found that only male Indians smell like this, not the females. Does this have to do with some kind of ritual, clothes or what?
POSTED 4/26/2002
Mixcoatl, Nuevo Laredo, NA, Mexico, 20, Male, Hnahnu/Asturian/Toltec, Mesg ID 422200225633

The answer is simple. Your perspiration - and every other bodily excretion, actually - contains tiny molecules of the food you eat every day. Many herbs, spices and other food ingredients remain in the body for extended periods, and will accumulate if consumed in large amounts. Someone who eats a lot of masala, for example, which is a very strong-smelling Indian spice, will soon end up smelling like the stuff. This phenomenon is not exclusive to Indian food. There is a reason they make odorless garlic pills. It isn't for the flavor, but so the person who takes one pill a day as suggested doesn't end up smelling like a garlic bulb!
POSTED 4/26/2002
Tania S., Montreal, NA, Canada, 26, Female, Black/African American, Self-Employed, 2 Years of College, Upper class, Mesg ID 4232002103456

Eating spicy food on a regular basis can often cause a musty smell. I am white, and whenever I eat really spicy food (especially curry), my boyfriend can smell it - though I often cannot. It's nothing to do with being Indian or lacking proper hygiene. Try eating only spicy food for an entire week and see how your body smells!
POSTED 4/26/2002
Jay, New York, NY, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 425200273403

I am pretty sure it has to do with consumption. I think the foods and spices a person eats emit a particular odor from the skin. I think that it has less to do with what Americans consider 'body odor' and more to do with the contrast in diets.
POSTED 4/26/2002
Dana, Morristown, NJ, United States, 26, Female, White/Caucasian, sales, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 425200273514

I think it is probably an individual thing. I have noticed this sweaty smell from some Indians, but then again, I've smelled it from blacks, whites and Hispanics. Heck, I will smell it a little on myself if I'm sweating too much and didn't put on enough deodorant. I think it is inappropriate to tell them of the odor, unless you are really close friends with them and they would perceive what you're saying as constructive criticism. Usually, after a few minutes, when your nose gets used to a bad odor, you don't even notice the smell, anyway. It's better to tolerate it than to hurt people's feelings or possibly be perceived as racist. I know that I would be horribly offended if anyone other than my boyfriend, friends or family told me I smelled horrible, even if it were true!
POSTED 4/26/2002
Kristina, Washington, DC, United States, <kfount500@aol.com>, 21, Female, Christian, Black/African American, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 4262002101536

I had the same experience with two Indian gentlemen I worked with. Let me say first that they were the hardest-working and most competent people I had worked with that whole year, and the project would have certainly been a failure but for them. One of them was a 'city' Indian from Bombay and had no appreciable body odor. The other was from some 'hick' town north of Delhi and smelled awful every day - the smell even stuck to my clothes when I went home. Very odd. I never said anything about it, but once the Bombay Indian caught me wrinkling my nose up. Later he said something like 'those country Indians always smell that way,' etc. I also found it very odd that the 'smelly' guy always looked very clean and neat - not at all dirty. It appeared to me that he took a shower every day, but just didn't use deodorant. I suppose he did not realize how he smelled - or perhaps Americans are just more sensitive to it because we never leave the house without being almost completely deodorized.
POSTED 4/26/2002
Hugo, Tallahassee, FL, United States, 35, Male, Taoist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 4262002122443

The concept that diet is responsible for the smell is ridiculous. It has nothing to do with diet. The truth is that Indians who come from India generally do not use deodorant. I had the same bad habit when I came to Silicon Valley. Though we Hindus take a bath every day, without deodrant the smell lingers on.
POSTED 4/28/2002
Subroto B., Los Angeles, CA, United States, 24, Male, Hindu, South Asian (Multiracial), Straight, IT, Over 4 Years of College, Upper class, Mesg ID 428200232602

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Question:

Why is it that whenever a minority is hired for any job besides janitor, fast food worker, maid or traditional black-only jobs, reverse discrimination is hollered? Does this mean that whites feel the only jobs minorities deserve are low-paying, and that anything other than that is discrimination?

POSTED 4/22/2002

S., Birmingham, AL, United States, 23, Female, Baptist, black/caucasion, Straight, Professional Student, Middle class, Mesg ID 42200230003


Responses:
I suspect that many whites still do not feel they should have to compete with blacks (this tends to primarily happen when the 'minority' is black) for jobs, or even worse, to 'lose' a job to blacks. They don't seem to care as much if the 'minority' is Asian - probably due to the stereotypes of Asians as smart and studious, and blacks as dumb and lazy. The really infuriating thing is that there is still plenty of discrimination, and many subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways of discriminating. Interestingly, I have seen instances at two companies at which I worked in the past where some unqualified blacks were hired. Not just over better-qualified whites - just better-qualified people. It was also obvious they were not well qualified, implying that they had been hired specifically because they were unqualified. For example: If all of the engineers that you hire have B.S. degrees in engineering from accredited schools, but most of your blacks are from a non-accredited school or do not have the same degree, there is obviously something going on. I once worked for a company that was doing this back when I first graduated with my B.S. in engineering. One thing I noticed: These particular blacks could never be assigned to 'high-profile' projects because they just didn't have the 'right background' to do that type of work.
POSTED 4/30/2002
Wayne C., Parsippany, NJ, United States, 41, Male, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Marketing, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 423200260009

I'd say whites holler 'reverse discrimination' because many believe (rightly or wrongly) that blacks have lower intelligence than whites. Because social policies deny the legitimacy of real differences, blacks are seen as getting artificial help that is unavailable to whites. Therefore the 'holler.' Most whites would say a person deserves the job he or she is qualified for. Incidentally, I have not observed that whites cry 'reverse discrimination' when Asians are hired for the better jobs.
POSTED 4/30/2002
S. Bowyer, Vancouver, British Columbia, WA, United States, 59, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 423200212717

It might be because of a perception that Affirmitive Action programs and political correctness give minorities advantages in the workplace that whites don't have, rather than a perception that no blacks are qualified for anything other than menial work.
POSTED 4/30/2002
Rick, Springfield, OH, United States, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 423200224325

It's because many times the job may be given to the black person because they are black. Many times the white person can prove that they were more qualified. That is discrimination, reverse or not. If we are denied something because of the color of our skin, we have every right to yell racism as long and as loudly as you would.
POSTED 4/30/2002
William, Columbia, SC, United States, 39, Male, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Sales, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 423200225631

As with most things, it depends on the situation. I think the calls of reverse discrimination are most common in areas where the white candidates far outnumber the minority ones. Say, for example, you work in an office where nine employees are white and one is black. If all of them do an apparently equal job and the black employee is promoted, the white ones may feel he got the job 'because he is black,' and the company either 'wants to be more diverse' or feels that it will be looked down upon if it doesn't have minorities in higher-level positions. The loss of jobs by white men is also hard to swallow for some. As an educated young white man, I would have been assured of a good career and a likely successful life 50 years ago. Today, with women and minorites competing for the same jobs, my chances of success are less than half of what they would have been then. Is that fair? Yes. But it's not always easy to enjoy when you're now the one on the short end of the stick.
POSTED 4/30/2002
Ben, Morgantown, WV, United States, 24, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, student / salesperson, Over 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 423200271607

Actually, while 40 percent of Caucasians believe that reverse discrimination happens in the workplace, only 7 percent claim to have been personally affected by reverse discrimination, and only 25 percent claim to have seen it happen to people they know. (Source: Orlando Patterson, The Ordeal of Integration)
POSTED 4/30/2002
Alex, Beloit, WI, United States, 18, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, student, High School Diploma, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 425200243458

It is usually because there was a better qualified 'white' person, but because of the need to be politically correct, it will go to someone not as deserving. Blacks and whites have different work ethics, educational backgrounds and different skills when dealing with cultures different from themselves.
POSTED 4/30/2002
Matthew, New York, NY, United States, 44, Male, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 429200251626

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