Best of the Week
of May 16, 1999
Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or
advanced during the week of May 16, 1999, as selected by Y?
These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from
previous weeks, also can be found by accessing our new database using
our search form, or, in the case of
answers posted before April 24, 1999, in our
Original Archives (all questions
from the Original Archives have been entered into the new database as
well). In the Original Archives and the new database, 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
I have noticed that many critics of the new Star Wars movie
have complained that a member of one of the computer-generated races
(the Gungans) speaks with a "Jamaican accent" and worships idols and
is therefore offensive (presumably to African-Americans). I wonder if
others were offended by these characters and/or the reviewers, and
why or why not?
Randy H., Silver Spring, MD, United States, <email@example.com> ,
24, Male, Agnostic, Black/African American, Straight, Research
analyst, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 52099102314
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I have always wondered if people who are blind since birth can
actually understand what sight is. How can they possibly grasp what
it means to see when they have never seen? I can't imagine how I
would go about explaining it, either.
C.P., Montreal, Quebec, NA, Canada, 21, Female, Mesg ID
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As a black homeowner in a racially mixed subdivision, I've noticed
that my Caucasian neighbors spend much more time on lawn care. Do
Caucasians see lawn care as basic home maintenance, or is it more of
Carolyn L., Indianapolis, IN, United States, 36, Female, Baptist,
Black/African American, Straight, Manager, 4 Years of College, Middle
class, Mesg ID 52099112237
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I know of a teacher who is deliberately providing historically
inaccurate information about the role of minority groups in building
this nation. How does one handle this within the school systems?
Sarah, Athens, AL, United States, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
, Female, Mesg ID 5209980025
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As a father of several teenagers in high school, I would like to know
what kids in school are changing in light of the Colorado massacre
and the planned attack in Michigan. Specifically: What are the
students who identify themselves as preps and jocks doing differently
to change the perceived negative stereotypes set upon them by others?
Also, are you concerned for your safety in light of the attacks?
Bill L., Essex Junction, VT, United States, <email@example.com>
, 40, Male, Believer of all religions, practitioner of none,
White/Caucasian, Straight, Accountant/Analyst, Over 4 Years of
College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5179982244
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I was asked at work if I would be bringing tripe or beef tongue to a
company breakfast. Being Hispanic and also biracial, I took this as
an attempt to demean me and to racially stereotype me. I have
recieved an apology in writing from the person who said it, but they
also stated it was only a question about culture and foods, and not
meant to demean. Several other people have also told me I should not
have gotten so upset over this. What do you think?
Rita C., Aurora, CO, United States, 42, Female, Christian,
Hispanic/German/Indian/ Dutch, Straight, Administrative Assistant, 2
Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 51699102833
I believe you were being too sensitive and shouldn't be too
bothered by what people say. Society today dwells on such
insignificant problems such as this and never focuses on what the big
picture is. My family members are of German descent and are asked
quite a bit to bring German food to events. Should I overreact and
tell them they are being racist? You should be honored that someone
thinks you are involved in your culture so much as to eat the
stereotypical foods and act as your ancesters did.
Rob, Warren, MI, United States, <firstname.lastname@example.org> , 28,
Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Architect, Over 4 Years of
College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5179911425
If it had been a sincere attempt to learn about another heritage
or culture, I think the question would have been more open-ended,
rather than focusing on the possibility that you would bring
something to eat that many people find weird or repulsive.
Andrew, Huntington, NY, United States, <email@example.com> ,
35, Male, White/Caucasian, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID
In my experience, people are 1,000 times more likely to be stupid
than mean. In fact, pretty much everyone says stupid things at times.
I wasn't there, so obviously I couldn't see his expression, hear his
tone of voice, consider his history, etc. But I have to think that
just as a general principle, I don't see how we're ever going to get
past all the racial issues in this country if we cannot create an
environment where people are free to make mistakes and learn from
them and where people are capable of giving others the benefit of the
doubt where possible and of providing a measured, educational
response where appropriate. I've been corrected for stupid, ignorant
things I've said where that correction led to a much broader
understanding on my part. I'm very grateful that the person I
offended took the time to explain it to me and didn't hold my
ignorance against me.
Mark, Alexandria, VA, United States, 32, Male, Christian,
White/Caucasian, Straight, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Upper
middle class, Mesg ID 5179923806
I work for an international corporation in the United States with
men and women of different nationalities, ethnicities, races and
sexual orientation. I have learned to celebrate diversity. I believe
what you are seeing here is an effort by someone who is trying to
"celebrate" diversity. You should not be offended, but take this as
an opportunity to educate in a non-threatening way. You should take
the letter as an apology and let it go.
Bill L., Essex Junction, VT, United States, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
, 40, Male, Believer of all, practioner of none, White/Caucasian,
Straight, Accountant/Analyst, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class,
Mesg ID 5179981118
I would say that was an off-hand insult. First, the person was
pre-judging the type of person you are, and second they were choosing
types of food that many groups would find unappealing.
R. Delorimier, San Francisco, CA, United States, Mesg ID
Sounds like three questions: Was this an attempt to stereotype and
demean you? Was it really a question only about culture and foods and
not meant to demean? Should you have been upset?
First, it probably depends on the context of the request. If it
came from a person representing a group, for example, who clearly (by
their own admission) wanted to produce a multi-cultural meal, then it
could be chalked up to an honest, though stupid, mistake. If, on the
other hand, the request was really a smart-mouthed gibe, then it was
so far out-of-bounds as to be not worth responding to.
Which brings us to the second point. Only you know if the person
was being demeaning. And in your heart-of-hearts, you do know.
Third, one of the most difficult tasks is to remain calm in the
face of such remarks.I'm not saying I could. Perhaps you can give the
person the benefit of the doubt - not for being stupid and demeaning,
but for not realizing how stupid and demeaning he/she was being.
John B., Houston, TX, United States, 49, Male, Christian,
White/Caucasian, Straight, Executive Recruiter, 4 Years of College,
Middle class, Mesg ID 51899103132
I agree with the people who said you should not get overly upset
about being asked what you are bringing to the company breakfast.
Most likely it has nothing to do with your being Hispanic but was
meant as a friendly joke. I am a white female from Alabama and get
stereotyped all the time. Give the person making the statement the
benefit of the doubt. Perhaps her or she was just trying to be
DiBAngel, Winter Haven, FL, United States, <DiBAngel@aol.com> ,
45, Female, Baptist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Paralegal, High
School Diploma, Mesg ID 5179985244
I can't tell from your question how the person's question and your
response were phrased, but it sounds to me as if you chose to
publicly cure that person of ever again displaying any curiosity or
interest in another person's culture. Maybe you ought to return that
person's written apology with one of your own for lumping them in
with Klansmen when they showed interest in what they mistakenly
thought of as your cultural background. Do you think your punishment
of that person made the world, or your workplace, a better and
happier place? I don't doubt your anger is real, and maybe based on
past encounters with genuine racism, but it seems misdirected to me
in this case.
Erik, Detroit, MI, United States, 35, Male, White/Caucasian,
Straight, Law student, Over 4 Years of College , Lower middle class,
Mesg ID 5179990736
It could very well have been an innocent question. As we have seen
from the myriad questions posted to Y? Forum, people can be
clueless about how to ask questions about another culture in a
sensitive way. I usually try to give people the benefit of the doubt,
and just let them know privately that their manner of asking could be
offensive to some. However, it could also have been racist. Let's
face it, the classic defense of the racist/sexist is either 1) "I was
just joking. Can't you people take a joke?" or 2) "I didn't mean
anything by it."
I don't think I would have required a written apology, but then I
work at a company that "values diversity." I think I would have felt
comfortable educating them verbally, maybe by "joking" back something
about Wonder Bread and mayonnaise. I think people who aren't
minorities don't really know how wearing and tiring it can be to have
thick skin, not be so sensitive and be responsible for educating
everyone around you, all the time, for at least nine hours every day.
Sometimes, it's just one "innocent question" too many on a particular
Janon, Lebanon, OR, United States, 39, Female, Agnostic, Multiethnic,
Straight, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg
To my way of thinking, the comment was intended to insult and the
person was expecting you to take it smiling, which would have just
invited future tasteless comments and behavior. The letter of apology
reflects more the fact of your not smiling than any serious
contrition. The more one has suffered insults, the more one is
equipped to recognize them as such. And conversely, the less one has
suffered insults, the more likely is one to call them almost anything
else, including just stupidity. One can be stupid, however, without
demeaning or insulting.
Floyd L., Memphis, TN, United States,
<email@example.com> , 59, Male, Black/African
American, Mesg ID 52099103623
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I'm 55, female and white. Most white men consider me overweight.
Several black men, especially those who see me in workout clothes,
consider me appealing. Is this a racial thing?
Susan P., Philadelphia, PA, United States, 55, Female,
White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 359980538
Since I was about 15, my figure has been appreciated much more by
black guys than white. I have a small upper body, little waist, and
what I always considered a fat butt and thighs. However, my black
boyfriend explained that neither he nor most young black men see it
as fat; it is just a nice, healthy "thickness." He also explained to
me four the basic levels of body mass - "skinny," which is
unattractively thin, "slim," which is just that: Slender but not
unnattractive, "thick," which is above slender but "with extra in the
right places," and "fat," which unfortunately is unnattractively
overweight. He says the extra flesh is a bonus if you carry it well.
I guess you do!
Jessica, Framingham, MA, United States, <HipHgrz@aol.com> , 20,
Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, 3rd year student, Upper
middle class, Mesg ID 51799124955
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To men who have ever felt this way: Why, when you are interested in a
woman, do you sometimes distance yourself from the situation as the
feelings for the woman grow? It seems that the common answer is that
you are afraid of the commitment, but if you were to look at it
logically, by walking away or distancing, you may lose the
opportunity to have the relationship, anyway. My female friends are
trying to figure this one out...
Carey, Cortez, CO, United States, Female, Mesg ID 5179954856
It's partly to do with how men feel physical as well as emotional
attraction - i.e. "Do I fancy her" vs. "Am I ready for long-term
commitment" - and partly the "I'd like to be on top of a mountain,
but don't know if I can face the climb."
I've been celibate since a seven-year relationship broke up five
or six years ago. I see women I'd love to be in relationship with,
but I start to have doubts about my motivation: Am I good enough?
Would people like me if they really knew me? I'm not sure if the
"logic" is strong enough to conquer the fear of rejection.
Steve H., Leeds, NA, United Kingdom,
<firstname.lastname@example.org> , 54, Male, Agnostic,
White/Caucasian, Straight, Book Publisher's Representative, Middle
class, Mesg ID 5189950455
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Why do some people feel that violence may be used to spread Christ's
ideas when he preached non-violence? If possible, could a person who
believes or used to believe in such ideas answer?
Alex J., Philadelphia, PA, United States, <email@example.com>
, Male, Jewish, Mesg ID 5179960920
It's human nature and conditioned response. Look at what Clinton
is doing now in Kosovo and tell me what we are doing is right. If we
don't get what we want, we lash out with the primal instincts.
Violence is the weak-minded person's way of acting out.
Junkyard Dog, Saint Clair Shores, MI, United States, Mesg ID
Within the Christian faith there is a lot of disagreement on many
issues. The ministry and life of Jesus seems to contradict many of
the modern church's teachings. Jesus did preach love and forgiveness.
The New Testament is full of commandments to love your enemies and
those who persecute you. We are never told to hate or become violent.
Those who attempt to spread Christianity through violence, or commit
any act of hate in His name, are going against everything he stood
for. I'm sorry for those who do, and I pray Christians learn
tolerance and love.
Summer, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, 18, Female, Christian,
White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, Middle class, Mesg ID
I do not believe Christianity is what Jesus wanted and preached.
Knowing and awareness of truth and reason were his intent. By
perverting lives and the teachings of great men and spreading this
instruction (belief) worldwide, the Roman Empire developed a system
of control that mirrored its techniques of manipulation, terror and
violence on a mental level.
Jerome, Albion, IL, United States, <firstname.lastname@example.org> , 56,
Male, Humanitarian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Maintenance, Technical
School , Middle class, Mesg ID 5209933244
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