Best of the Week
of June 1, 2002

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of June 1, 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.
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Question:

Why is it that when two male friends are on the train or subway, they sit apart and talk to each other across the train even when there are available seats that would allow them to sit together?
POSTED 6/5/2002
Jay, New York, NY, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 65200263523

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Question:

Do most black people find the idea of white people wearing dreadlocks offensive? I'm white and love the look and feel of dreadlocks, but I don't want to offend anybody by wearing them. I understand dreadlocks originated in a culture that I will never fully understand or really be a part of (Rastafarianism), but why couldn't I wear them if I like them? It's not a lifestyle, it's a hairstyle to me.

POSTED 5/21/2002
Nez, Philadelphia, PA, United States, <tzop@hotmail.com>, 20, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, student, 2 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 424200191616


Responses:
You can wear whatever hairstyle you want. I have never heard of a black person or 'rasta' being offended over the way you wear your hair. I have worn cornrows before, and I got tons of compliments from black and white people.
POSTED 5/22/2002
April, Kansas City, MO, United States, 24, Female, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 521200212622

Why would your choice of that type of hairstyle be offensive to blacks? Don't most people who post in this category desire diversity? Are you offended when black women weave tracks of European hair into their scalps, even though they probably don't understand your culture any more than you understand theirs? It's your hair, you grew it. It's no one's business to even have an opinion on what you do with it.
POSTED 5/22/2002
William, Columbia, SC, United States, 39, Male, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Straight, sales, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 521200234836

I can't speak for all people who happen to be black, but I will give my views. While there is nothing wrong for anybody to have any hairstyle they wish, one thing deeply puzzles me: As a whole, we black people are hated. Deny it if you will, but the sheer number and even existence of the types of unfunny and usually viscious jokes told about us, hate-motivated attacks we receive, hate radio stations dedicted to mindlessly hating us, etc. should be more than enough proof for any intelligent and/or honest person. For this reason, I have always wondered why many whites who like to imitate certain facets of our culture have absolutely no problem attaching negative stereotypes to us, telling those mean 'jokes' at our expense, and segregating us. I merely wish for the day that people become consistent with their attitudes and actions.
POSTED 5/22/2002
Blackwoman, n/a, NA, n/a, 25, Female, Black/African American, Mesg ID 521200243803

My husband has dreadlocks, and I don't find it offensive to see people of different nationalities wearing them. I do, however, think it should be given a different name. The white people I have seen with dreadlocks have really nasty hair, and it seems (and smells) like they never wash it. That is not what it is about. Most black people have the type of hair that is very curly (nappy) by nature. That is why they call it 'locking up,' because if you stop combing your hair and twist it, eventually it will get so nappy that it 'locks' together. Most white people's hair will not do that. If you can take them out later, they are not real dreadlocks, because the hair was not locked in the first place. If my husband wants his hair in a different style, he will have to cut all of it off and start again. Perhaps that is why some people are offended by the idea. P.S.: As far as the whole Rasta thing, I have no idea about that.
POSTED 5/29/2002
Christine, Houston, TX, United States, 19, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5272002125714

I have never run across this problem. My son, who is white, has dreads and has never had a problem with anyone except middle class, white, middle-aged males.
POSTED 5/29/2002
G.A. Cisneros, Spokane, WA, United States, Mesg ID 529200220916

I don't get why some plack people get so offended by white people doing their hair in dread, braids, etc. A friend of mine who is half white, half Puerto Rican put those tiny corkscrew braids in her hair and it looked good! I too, being about as white as they come, put these ramen noodle-looking extentions in my hair because I wanted a platinum blonde look with colorful highlights, and the beauty store was out of the blonde braids. All you need to do is imagine a big pot of ramen noodles being plopped on someone's head, and that's what I looked like. So I took them out. If they had had the little braids, I'd probably still have them in. But anyway, my friend got mixed responses: many people complimented her on her hair, but she also got lots of sneers from black girls. I can just imagine the reaction I would have gotten. With black people always complaining about being hated, why aren't they happy that people of other races are embracing their looks and culture?
POSTED 6/5/2002
Stephanie, Phoenix, AZ, United States, 21, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Technical School, Middle class, Mesg ID 523200213416

I'm a black woman and have had locks for about a year. I did it because I like my hair natural and think locks are beautiful. I realize the look originated with the Rastafaris, but I think it's become more of a fashion statement and less a political or spiritual one. I say go for it, and if folks are offended, they need to get over it.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Victoria, San Francisco, CA, United States, 45, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5302002101214

Many, but not all black people, find the idea of white people wearing locks offensive. Although times are changing, it is still considered unprofessional or militant in certain circles (both black and nonblack) for a person with nappy hair to let it do what it does naturally. No other ethnic group is viewed as militant when they choose to not alter the texture of their hair. Dreadlocks on white people are another example of white privilege: You can cut them off if you choose to one day and join corporate America, but my hair in its natural state may hinder me in a job search. For black people, hairstyles cannot be completely separate from lifestyle. Even if a black person tries to separate the two, others will continue to judge the person based on their hairstyle.
POSTED 6/5/2002
I., Los Angeles, CA, United States, Black/African American, Mesg ID 62200271528

I haven't heard of anyone being offended by a white person having dreads, but I have heard people laughing at whites, or anybody with straight hair who tries it. The previous descriptions of why and how people get dreads are correct. But if you have hair that doesn't naturally tend to 'lock up,' forcing your hair to tangle up into 'white people dreads' makes you seem like you're trying a little too hard. But to each his own.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Ed, New York, NY, United States, 29, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 65200284724

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Question:

Why do some people object to there being no main black characters in Friends or Seinfeld? I watch Martin, Living Single, etc. and don't care that there are no white people.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Jay, New York, NY, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 65200263118

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Question:

Should I tell my friends I'm a bisexual?
POSTED 5/20/2002
Ashleigh, Lincoln, NA, United Kingdom, 15, Female, no religion, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, Student, High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 518200261844


Responses:
If you are comfortable with your orientation, tell them. But be prepared to lose some friends. You may think they are liberal and open-minded, but sexual orientation can make people really uncomfortable. I see you are only 15; are you sure you are really bisexual? If so, the choice depends on how you feel about yourself.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Deb, Chicago, IL, United States, 48, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 5212002110220

At 15, it might be a little early to label yourself. I'd keep it to myself for now. Not because it's anything bad, but because others in your peer group might not have formed an opinion on the issue. You might risk losing friends or causing yourself problems - and you might not consider yourself bi in a few years.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Mark, Mt. Clemens, MI, United States, <acquaviva3@comcast.net>, 34, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Paramedic, Technical School, Middle class, Mesg ID 530200284603

If you're sure you are bisexual (i.e. experiencing physical and emotional attraction to males and females), and your friends ask you if you are bisexual, why lie to them? Suppose you start dating another young woman, and the two of you are frequently seen together at dances or other social events, and you are obviously a couple. What would there be for anyone to ask? I don't mean to sound facetious about this: 'Coming Out' is not meant to be taken lightly. But generally women are perceived to have a much more fluid sexuality than men, so bisexuality in women is really not that big of a deal anymore. If anything, your friends might find it rather hip.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Chuck A., Spring Hill, WV, United States, <PolishBear@aol.com>, 42, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Gay, AIDS educator/radio announcer, Mesg ID 632002120936

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Question:

Why does it seem that black people, particularly women, are afraid of dogs - even friendly ones?
POSTED 5/20/2002
Kit, Dongola, IL, United States, Mesg ID 5202002120043


Responses:
I don't think one can generalize about black people and dogs. In Africa there are many communities where dogs are a close part of their families. When you speak of fear, I have noticed that it does happen in places where a history of oppression has been part of the life of a black person. It is common to see in South Africa, where black people having an aversion to dogs because dogs were trained to attack blacks, especially the men. So it is possible that they see the dog as a 'tool of torture.' I hope this begins to clarify this for you.
POSTED 5/29/2002
June, KAren, NA, Kenya, 32, Female, Evangelical, Black/African American, Straight, Pastor, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 527200213836

I know from living where I live that you are right: many black people are afraid of dogs. The reason is that most of the dogs they keep are often Rottweilers, Pitt Bulls or stray dogs. They have been taught from day one that dogs can be dangerous, because the ones they are around often are. In black neighborhoods, there are more stray dogs walking around, and most of the time they are mean because they are strays. It is something taught.
POSTED 6/5/2002
April, Kansas City, MO, United States, 24, Female, Middle class, Mesg ID 520200223000

My grandma alway kept all the pets outside. We had dogs, but they were for guarding the house, not to be play with. I know a lot of people have them as pets, but I still think of dogs as wild things that will tear your face off.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Sallie, New York, NY, United States, 31, Female, Southern Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, 2 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 520200240219

I am terrified of dogs, no matter how friendly or small. Every time I see one my heart seizes up and I try to resist the urge to run. My fear stems from being chased by a dog when I was younger. To escape that dog, I had to jump a six-foot fence. Since then I have stayed awy from dogs all together.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Jas, Long Island, NY, United States, 24, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Reseach, Over 4 Years of College, Upper class, Mesg ID 521200250140

Some black people are afraid of dogs and some are not. Just like any other group, we are diverse and represent different tastes and viewpoints. There are affluent African-American dog owners who own huskies, labs, weims, etc., and lower-income brothers and sisters with pit-bulls and rottwheillers. My sister bought a beagle recently that had been abused, and she loves her dearly. That being said, there may be some older black people who associate German shepherds with police and the abuse we suffered during the civil rights movement. Overall, though, I haven't noticed any disproportionate fear of dogs among black people.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Tubbs, Silver Sring, MD, United States, 28, Male, Agnostic, Black/African American, Straight, policy analyst, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 523200274136

I am a black woman who grew up with dogs and currently own two dogs (Huskie/Shepherd mix and terrier mix). Being afraid of dogs is not a fear that I have, but it is a very common phobia. I don't speak for all blacks or women, but if you have ever examined footage from the Civil Rights Movement, you will see how dogs were used against black people, which justifies fears many may have concerning dogs. Although the Civil Rights Movement was 40 years ago, many people who experienced being savagely attacked and malled by dogs may have passed those fears on to their offspring. As I stated previously, I am not afraid of dogs. I believe they add to the human experience and can teach humans a thing or two.
POSTED 6/5/2002
Elle, Chicago, IL, United States, 30, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Stay-at-home mom/student, Over 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 642002110257

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