Best of the Week
of May 30, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of May 30, 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 answering questions.


Question:
Recently I heard about the "Model Minority Myth," in which people see the Asian assimilation into society as a remarkable success story that should be emulated in this diverse society. They are seen as the "model minority." This makes me feel a bit uneasy as an Asian American. What do others think about this myth?
POSTED 6/1/99
Joe A., Livonia, MI, United States, <jopong@aol.com> , 27, Male, Asian, Mesg ID 619914600

Responses:
That model minority myth was actually begun in the 1960s, not to compliment Asians, but to attack blacks and Latinos for not assimilating. In other words, "Asians are successful by working hard and being passive, why don't you do the same instead of protesting for your rights?" Obviously the myth has some ugly false assertions: 1) Asians are passive. 2) All Asians are successful. (Go to any immigrant community and you'll see differently.) 3) Working hard is the only thing worthwhile for non-whites to do, not fighting against injustice. 4) Assimilation is presumed to not harm people. 5) White society will let non-whites assimilate. 6) Black and Latino poverty is due to "laziness" or a "culture of poverty." These assertions are all racist scapegoating made by, interestingly, one of the most famous U.S. liberals, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. These assertions are also widely rejected now in the social sciences.
POSTED 6/3/99
A.C.C., San Antonio, TX, United States, Mexican and American Indian, Grad student in history, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 6299105108
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Question:
I recently left Christianity and have found an increased biased against anyone who isn't Christian in the United States. I suppose that isn't too surprising if you read history, but still, I was wondering about public opinion: Do you think a President will ever be elected who is not Christian?
POSTED 6/2/99
Zac, Pensacola, FL, United States, Male, Pagan, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 5309920501

Responses:
As a Pagan, I regretfully have to say "No, not in this lifetime." Where I live (San Francisco Bay Area), Pagans are very common. In most of the rest of the country, Christianity is the dominant religion (about 80 percent of the population) and many are very conservative. Sadly, it seems remote that a Jew could be elected President (and Judaism is a mainstream religion). There is still too much narrow-mindedness for that. I think this country could use a Pagan president.
POSTED 6/3/99
Crystal, Oakland, CA, United States, 30s, Female, Pagan, Straight, 2 Years of College, Mesg ID 629971440

As an American Jew, I've known all my life what you are now discovering; that in the United States anyone who is not a Christian is a barely tolerated heathen. I'm not bitter about it; it's just the facts of life about living in a country where 90 percent of the population is of a faith whose principle tenet is that all persons of any other faith are heretics who will burn in eternal hellfire. But to answer the question: I have no doubt that the United States will never, ever, elect a non-Christian president. After all, JFK was Catholic, and he faced an awful lot of criticism as a heathen.
POSTED 6/3/99
Jesse N., Herzliya, NA, Israel, 40, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 639933256
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Question:
I was always taught that you should only burn your bright auto headlights when you need the extra visibility and there is neither oncoming traffic nor anyone in front of you. I suppose some people were never taught this, and it is a major reason I do not drive at night unless I have to. It is much more prevalent in rural areas of the South, for some reason. Do they not teach this in drivers' education anymore, or is this just rude people who don't care who they're blinding?
POSTED 6/2/99
Augustine, Columbia, SC, United States, 38, Male, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 619980833

Responses:
I'm in the South, too, and find that rural areas are a problem, for two reasons: 1) More trucks on the road with "higher" low beams, either because they ride so high off the ground that they appear brighter, or because they actually are stronger, and 2) If you're unaccustomed to passing lots of other cars, you can quickly forget to dim them, just from a lack of practice. Often I've flipped my high beams on while driving the backroads and more often than not gotten blinded for the effort - what I thought were high beams were actually just powerful low beams. I think this is still taught in Driver's Ed, but I doubt it's a question of rudeness.
POSTED 6/2/99
Kat, Birmingham, AL, United States, 28, Female, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Consultant, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 6299101633
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Question:
Why is it that people are so against smoking, yet support drinking? I was smoking a cigarette once and had a guy tell me that "Smoking will kill ya" ... and he was holding a beer! I've seen so many people ruin and end their lives (and other people's lives) because of alcohol. I admit that both are harmful, but why doesn't anyone else notice the alcohol problems like I do? Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person left in this country who isn't getting drunk all the time.
POSTED 6/2/99
Christine, Hibbing, MN, United States, 22, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Reservations Sales Agent, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5309974728

Responses:
Maybe it is because alcohol in moderation is not harmful; in fact, a glass of wine with your dinner can even be good for your heart. The problems with alcohol are related to excessive drinking, whereas smoking is unhealthy, period. There are no health benefits related to smoking.
POSTED 6/3/99
C.P., Montreal, Quebec, NA, Canada, 21, Female, Mesg ID 629911221

You can do serious damage by drinking too much, but smoking is much more harmful. They put deadly chemicals in cigarettes such as benzine and arscenic that cause many more types of cancer than drinking. Like smoking, drinking is addictive, but smoking is much more addictive. I once attended an AA meeting (for support of a family member), and it was ironic how all the alcholics in the room were able to give up drinking for extended periods of time, but not one was able to give up smoking. To put it another way, let's say the harmful effects of drinking can be represented by a sewing needle, and smoking represents a butcher's knife. Which would you rather be impaled with? Also, smoking will harm others from second-hand smoke. When I was a kid, both my parents smoked, heavily. During that time, I was in and out of the Children's Hospital with breathing and allergy problems. Eventually, both my parents quit, and I never again had an asthma attack. If you're not going to quit smoking for yourself, do it for others, such as children, the elderly and unborn babies (you stupid women who smoke during pregnancy should be shot!).
POSTED 6/3/99
Murray C., Halifax, MA, Canada, 31, Male, Unitarian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Draftsman, Technical School , Middle class, Mesg ID 6299112543

Smoking is more intrusive than alcohol. I agree that people do cause harm to others as a result of being intoxicated, but I find cigarette smoke more intrusive. If I go to a bar, there's more of a chance that I'll breathe in smoke, and smell like smoke, than someone spilling beer all over me or punching me in the face. I don't believe in preaching, so I would never tell someone what they should or shouldn't be doing, but I would expect some courtesy in return. My main problem with smoke over alcohol is that (until recently here in California) the exposure to alcohol was fairly limited, except when going into a bar - an establishment specializing in alcohol. However, I could be standing in line waiting to go to a movie and there could be someone smoking right behind me.
POSTED 6/3/99
Me, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States, 25, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Middle class , Mesg ID 629954537

A person who drinks alcohol responsibly is not a danger to himself or anyone else. In fact, some studies have shown that drinking a small amount of alcohol is slightly beneficial to your health. Smoking, in contrast, has no benefits, and the hazards of second-hand smoke are well-known. So while alcohol is dangerous only in the hands of an irresponsible person, cigarettes are always hazardous.
POSTED 6/3/99
Shawn, Fort Worth, TX, United States, <pharaun@aol.com> , 24, Male, Episcopalian, White/Caucasian, Gay, Flight dispatcher, Technical School , Middle class, Mesg ID 629983507
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Question:
Why are there services for men to search for wives in foreign countries, but none for women to search for husbands?
POSTED 5/27/99
Char L., Eugene, OR, United States, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Disability Evaluator, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 5269990434

Responses:
I believe it is for three reasons: 1) Most American women would be ashamed to have to resort to a mail order service to find a husband - most would think it pathetic. 2) Most men do not want to be in the "one down" position that being a mail order husband would entail. 3) Of the pool of "excess" men (read poor, Third World men) that would comprise the majority of mail order husbands, most neither have the skills needed to find a job here nor the values and attitudes toward women that would make them good husbands for the majority of women here.
POSTED 6/1/99
Crystal, Oakland, CA, United States, 30's, Female, Pagan, White/Caucasian, Straight, 2 Years of College, Mesg ID 5319963411

Women will wait for a man. Importing a mate from overseas would mean the woman would have to seek out her mate. Additionally, men are more likely to have the financial resources for such endeavor.
POSTED 6/3/99
Christopher D., Arlington, TX, United States, <ngc1977@hotmail.com> , 23, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, High School Diploma , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 52999122353
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Question:
Should high school teachers have the right to punish students for merely demonstrating their right of free speech, including using "bad language"?
POSTED 5/27/99
Jack R., Sutter Creek, CA, United States, <dantone@cdepot.net> , 17, Male, High school student, Mesg ID 5279962454

Responses:
First, the right of free speech is not absolute for anyone. Slander, inciting to riot and child pornography are examples of unprotected speech. Second, minors' rights are further circumscribed for their protection and instruction. This may seem unfair. You are 17, only one year from being legally an adult. But the line has to be drawn somewhere, and right now, for many things, that age is 18. Finally, the atmosphere of a school is a special case. Teachers have the obligation to ensure that all students have the opportunity to learn. If one student is being disruptive, for example by using foul or hateful language, others are being robbed of the chance to learn in a non-threatening atmosphere. (Now if teachers are shutting students up because they don't want to hear an opposing viewpoint, that's another issue, one that probably should be addressed by parents.)

Look on these restrictions as a challenge. It is really an opportunity to grow. In the adult world you will not always be able to say what you want, when you want, to anyone you want. People will challenge your views, and you will have to defend them with a logical, reasoned argument. You will frequently have to use tact, diplomacy and a sense of decorum (being able to discern the proper time and place to make your point). High school is a good place to learn.
POSTED 5/27/99
Stacee, Houston, TX, United States, 30, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, TV production, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5279992259

You bring up an important point about free speech. Does a person have the right to "offend" someone? Loud rap music blaring from a car with several hundred amps of stereo power has been outlawed in some communities (and I daresay rightly so). A teacher should have the right and obligation to keep his students in control. I had to eat soap when I was a child when I said a bad word on the playground. The ultra-liberal NEA has made a doormat out of freedom of speech, and look what it has brought us.
POSTED 6/1/99
Roy R., Reno, NV, United States, <royrudy@powernet.net> , 37, Male, Mesg ID 53199114006
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Question:
I'm an Asian girl living in Sweden. My parents emigrated from Vietnam but are Chinese. There is sort of an Asian community here in my city, but it's a bit ghetto-like. My family is better off financially, so we live in an all-Swede/white suburb. For that reason, and the fact that my father persisted in making sure his children learn Swedish properly, my Chinese is very poor. I understand it, but I can't speak Chinese. My self-confidence is greatly affected; I am very ashamed that I can't speak my mother tongue, and my parents' friends also say I should be. I was wondering if there is greater acceptance of this problem in the United States, or if Asians all over the world demand that their children be fluent in Chinese? Also, does anyone my age have the same problem? If so, please write to me.
POSTED 5/26/99
Mandy, N/A, NA, Sweden, <mandis_@hotmail.com> , 18, Female, Asian, Student, Mesg ID 5149921506

Responses:
My parents, like yours, wanted to ensure that I mastered the local language, English. My parents felt that I would be better prepared for English-speaking society if I concentrated on English, rather than split my attention between English and Chinese. It was a practical decision: I grew up in the Midwestern United States, in a city that had a very small Chinese community and no Chinese schools.

I sometimes regret my lack of Chinese language skills. My parents speak English, but Chinese is their 'true' language, one that I don't share. I would like to better communicate with my family members who still live in Taiwan and/or do not speak English well, if at all. And I still feel a little embarrassed when other Chinese (especially older ones) cluck at me for not speaking the mother tongue.

However, my parents' approach worked: I can speak and write English well (at least, I hope so!). Because I spend more time in English-speaking society than in Chinese-speaking society, my Chinese language skills do not hurt my ability to chase my dreams in this country.

In addition, language is but a part of one's Chinese identity. It is more important to have Chinese 'values.' You don't need to speak the tongue in order to appreciate the importance of your family. Finally, if you still think that your failure to learn to speak Chinese was a mistake, remember that the 'mistake' was not yours, but your parents' - you are not responsible for the manner of your own upbringing. If speaking Chinese is important to you, it is never too late to learn. Most colleges offer Chinese courses (at least in the United States), and you can learn Chinese from your parents and/or friends. (I assume from your age that you are in or will soon enter college.) There are always opportunities around you.

Do not feel that you are alone, and do not feel ashamed of yourself. I, and many of my Chinese-American friends, grew up speaking English only. It's a natural outcome of the efforts of Chinese-heritage immigrants to adapt to and establish roots in new cultures. Never believe - not even for a minute - that something is wrong with you, that your worth or the strength of your character depends on what language you speak. Feel free to write me back.
POSTED 6/2/99
Bert T., N/A, NA, United States, <BTzeng@KelleyDrye.com> , Male, Chinese, Mesg ID 629970402

Anyone who tries to take away your dignity is not your friend. Don't invest any value you have of yourself in anyone who tries to take away your dignity. Of my family, I was the only one born and completely educated in the United States. I haven't picked up Chinese because to do so would require a system of learning Chinese that has never been made available to me. There are some people who were raised in American education, and have picked up their parents' native languages, because they can handle a flood of information. That is a strength. But just because you and I can't handle that flood of information doesn't mean we don't have our own strengths. Find your strength first, and nurture that, then worry about fitting in. As for the acceptsance of not knowing Chinese in the United States, that has varied depending on where I have lived. In homogenous communities, either all white or all Chinese, there has been less acceptance. People from these communities are less likely to imagine living outside of a prescribed lifestyle. Heterogenous communities, with mixed ethnicities, do not attract people who subscribe to prescribed lifestyles. In other words, do some research and find someplace where you will be valued for who you are. I promise that the people who tell you you should be ashamed will not follow you.
POSTED 6/2/99
Mike L., Walnut Creek, CA, United States, <leungm@ix.netcom.com> , 29, Male, Asian, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 5309943901
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Question:
Why is it that a well-dressed person walking in a department store or mall gets asked to try things out, like perfume or makeovers? I cannot afford the luxury of always looking like I'm on my way to a wedding, but I do like to be asked once in a while. Yet I get overlooked most of the time. Why?
POSTED 5/24/99
Rebecca W., Evansville, IN, United States, <bekej@webtv.net> , 27, Female, Baptist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Housewife, High School Diploma , Mesg ID 52199100419

Responses:
I think it's because they earn commission and don't want to "waste time" on someone who looks like they don't have enough money to spend on perfume or makeup. I've noticed the same thing, and it drives me crazy. If I dress up to go to the mall, the workers won't leave me alone; if I dress as I normally do, they often ignore me. However, I'm not shy about asking for the free perfume sample, and they usually smile kindly and give it to me.
POSTED 5/26/99
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 21, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Student, Mesg ID 5249931729

When the merchants see someone who looks well-to-do, they assume they have a lot of money to spend. So they cater more to them in the hopes they'll part with some of that cash. If they think a person doesn't have $500 to spend on a two-ounce bottle of perfume, they won't "waste their time." That's a stupid assumption. Sam Walton used to drive around in a dirty pick-up truck with overalls and work boots, and if he walked into a store, I doubt if he would be asked if he wanted to sample cologne. They would have no idea, however, that as the owner of Wal-Mart he was worth billions. Their loss.
POSTED 5/26/99
Kenny G., Chicago, IL, United States, <KennyG9@yahoo.com> , 34, Male, Catholic, Black/African American, Straight, Marketing, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 5249915613

I have the same problem, compounded by the fact that I look like a 20-year-old college kid. Salespeople often try to use clothing (and age, and unfortunately often race) to judge a potential customer's income and buying power. Some are on commission and see casually dressed customers as a waste of time. Others have just not been trained to give proper service to all customers. Still others are just plain lazy. When I was in college, I worked at a fine women's shoe store. I learned very quickly that a customer's dress indicated NOTHING about income level and certainly did not indicate readiness to buy. In fact, my largest sale ever was to a woman in jeans, t-shirt, and worn sneakers. She was the wife of an oompah band leader, and she bought 800 dollars worth of shoes and bags for Oktoberfest season!
POSTED 5/26/99
Stacee, Houston, TX, United States, 30, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, TV production, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5249944024
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