Best of the Week
of June 10, 2001

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of June 10, 2001, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing Y?'s new 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 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. 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:

I used to work in a bookstore that specialized in religious books. By far the most shoplifted items were Islamic books and books on Islam. We estimated that we caught about 50 percent of the shoplifters. Of the ones we caught, about 80 percent were trying to steal Islamic materials. Of that 80 percent, all were black. Why so many black Muslim shoplifters?

POSTED 6/13/2001

Rick, Springfield, OH, United States, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 612200121417

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Question:

Why do so many rational and reasonable people rightly assume people who believe in ghosts are superstitious lunatics, but then go to church and worship 'the holy ghost' so that their 'eternal souls' may be spared from going to hell in the 'afterlife'?

POSTED 6/7/2001

Justin, Chicago, IL, United States, 27, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 672001123415


Responses:
We believe that when people die, their spirits go to Heaven to be with God if they are born again (believe that Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins and rose from the dead), or they go to Hell (Hades) if they rejected the free gift of salvation. Their spirits do not roam around on the earth. So, if someone sees Great Aunt Jane walking around, we know it ain't her! It could be an evil spirit impersonating her, as we do believe in a spirit world of angels and demons.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Lisa L., Bringhurst, IN, United States, <lupers@geetel.net>, 22, Female, Pentecostal, White/Caucasian, Straight, Homemaker, High School Diploma, Lower class, Mesg ID 6112001113051


I have no idea whether ghosts exist, but I find it offensive that you have unilaterally decided and announced that those who believe in them are lunatics. What happens to a person's soul/spirit/essential self after the body dies is something that has been pondered for millennia and will go on being pondered. Science tells us that matter and energy don't cease to exist but change form. I'm not so arrogant that I pretend to know how the energy that makes up a person's essential self changes at the death of the body. The possibility that this energy can remain in some form is not something I rule out. If someone has a different opinion from you, that doesn't make them a lunatic, it just means they have a different opinion.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Jenny, Wellington, NA, New Zealand, 36, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Librarian, Technical School, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 610200121748


When the Christians were initially spreading their religion throughout Europe, the people of that region already had religions of their own - generally referred to as Pagan religions. One of the strategies used to convince people to convert to Christianity was to discount the existing religious practices by calling them evil, silly or crazy. Many of the Pagan religions believed in ghosts and that the spirits of their ancestors occasionally come back to our world. Near Halloween is the Pagan new year, when it is believed the division between our world and the spirit world is lifted and spirits can come back to visit us. It is interesting to note that the pre-European people in Mexico believed the same thing - even though there is no proof of contact between them and pre-Christian Europeans.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Lucy, San Jose, CA, United States, 26, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Engineer, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 67200115345


I am a Catholic Christian and most emphatically believe in ghosts. I believe they are souls in purgatory, waiting to get into heaven but hindered because they had some kind of attachment here on earth that keeps them 'stuck in between' for a time. For me, the 'spirit world' is very real, and in that I would include angels, Christ's presence at the Mass, and even daily prayer. I have never seen a ghost (i.e. spirit) but have 'experienced' them, you might say, and do not feel in the least threatened by this. I feel kind of sorry for people who do not have this mystical element in their lives.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Augustine, Columbia, SC, United States, 40, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 67200144518


For people who are religious (something not in my nature), maybe they need to latch onto something to believe. It is easier, I suppose, to believe in a formal religion with lots of social support. Maybe it is like imprinting a duckling, and has to happen at the right time in development. By the way, I don't think most people are as extreme in their opinion of ghost-believers as you imply.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Kate, Denver, CO, United States, 45, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 68200115234

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Question:

Do gay, lesbian or transgender people feel discomfort or pay particular attention when people mention gender or sexuality issues? Does this have an affect on you in class, the workplace or in social situations?

POSTED 6/11/2001

R.H., Syracuse, NY, United States, 27, Male, Agnostic, Black/African American, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 65200150316

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Question:

I love black men, I really do, but so many trends that younger men embrace are unattractive to me. What's the reason for them? I miss the days of neat haircuts. I am tired of seeing grown men in corn rows. I am tired of sagging jeans/shorts. Please stop chewing on straws, and remove the wave cap before coming out in public. It is OK to be casual, but sloppy is another thing. Sure, some of you may retort 'expression' or 'individuality,' but if four out of 10 are doing the same thing, so much for being unique. Take off the sneakers and tuck in that shirt! Shine like the diamonds you are.

POSTED 6/4/2001

Shionedy, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 26, Female, Black/African American, Straight, freelance writer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5312001100820


Responses:
You hit this one on the head! I agree, but one thing I must say in conjunction with your thoughts is how these sloppy appearances also lead to their eventual social demise. Your appearance is the first door to one's impression of you. By dressing sloppy, others will look down upon you. When black men do this, the socially-able white and black society looks down on them - as do whites and blacks to the white-trash individuals we find covering the slums of America.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Grant M., Los Angeles, CA, United States, <lawmangm@yahoo.com>, 23, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 6102001113949


I think the sloppy trends you refer to are hip-hop (rap music influenced) style. I don't see anything wrong with expressing yourself and identifying with a group you feel good about. So the hip-hop style is unattractive to you ... so what? Many people have different styles, and I prefer a world where there are many types of people interested in many different things to a world where we all have the same lame haircut, tight slacks and dress-shirts. The comments that others have made about hip-hop style being indicative of social degradation are assinine. Particularly today, when hip-hop culture is such a money machine, there are many people who rock the 'sloppy style' that make more money than you or I could imagine (Russell Simmons, Sean Combs and the designers of FUBU wear, to name a few). If the style is unattractive to you, don't wear it yourself; otherwise let, people live.

POSTED 6/11/2001

R.H., Syracuse, NY, United States, 27, Male, Agnostic, Black/African American, Straight, Law Student, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 6112001125819


I agree. Come on, brothas. Get yourselves together. This is one reason I find black males totally unattractive.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Sheila, Somewhere, CO, United States, Female, Mesg ID 642001113102


I agree with you wholeheartedly. I thought I felt this way because of my age, but it's good to hear that a young and intelligent black woman feels the same.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Redeemed One, Newport News, VA, United States, 52, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 652001105500


I agree with you, my Sistah. I, too, dislike the wave caps and all the things you mentioned. For some strange reason, this has become acceptable among our men, and get this: Some women like it! I guess I'm from the old school, when men dressed in suits, and if they did dress down, they kept their pants up (no sagging). Shionedy, you said it best: 'Shine like the diamonds you are.'

POSTED 6/11/2001

Lisa, Detroit, MI, United States, 39, Female, Black/African American, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 652001114654


I agree with you. It's funny that men and women are constantly searching for the answers to what each other wants, and we're so willing to tell them exactly what we want and they still don't hear us. Once and for all, hear our cry: No more baggy jeans! No more sweatsuits out to dinner! No more sucking on straws! No more lop-sided afros! Bring on the clean-cut, educated and cultured black men.

POSTED 6/12/2001

Nicole, Virginia Beach, VA, United States, 24, Female, black and white, Mesg ID 6122001115615


This reminded me of an unfortunate (to some extent) social reality regarding being able to be successful. It is similar to the 'Ebonics' issue in Oakland schools a few years back. If one wants to be successful in any culture or subculture, one needs to learn how to speak, act, dress and work in that culture. Speaking 'Ebonics' is not done in our colleges and businesses, so although it may be a valid language/dialect, it may hold some young people back from accessing certain opportunities. Same with dress - I see no problem with any kind of dress - people should be able to dress however they want. However, some degree of assimilation or conformity to the groups one wants to participate in is necessary. The same would hold true for me or anyone else who moves to Japan or some other country/culture to live and work.

POSTED 6/13/2001

Mark P., Lincoln, NE, United Kingdom, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, sociology instructor, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 612200112959

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Question:

Two summers ago my family bought a small swimming pool and installed it along with a deck. Immediately after it was put up, the two black boys who lived next door, both a couple of years younger than I, asked if they could go swimming. I didn't have a problem with this, but told them to ask their mother for permission to be on the safe side. Their mother told them they couldn't go swimming, which mystified me. Our pool is only three feet deep, and the only way they could have drowned in it was if I physically held their heads under water! Of course I would've been out there with them, and their mother could've watched to be sure nothing happened if she wanted to. When I asked my mother about this, she said the black people she knew were scared of water. I was skeptical about this, but then a friend got me a subscription to a nearby sports club where we go to play racquetball. Though there are lots of black people inside on the workout machines and exercise classes, almost none use the big, beautiful Olympic-sized swimming pool. Is my mother right? Are some black people scared of water? I don't see why they should be, if they learn to swim well.

POSTED 6/11/2001

Jessica B., Jackson, MS, United States, 16, Female, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Less than High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 652001105010


Responses:
Black people as a whole are not afraid of water. If you can't swim, then yes, stay away from it. If the children were girls, maybe the reason would be that many black women don't have wash-and-go hair (water can ruin processes done to straighten the hair). Maybe logic is different down South - hence my reason for never wanting to visit.

POSTED 6/12/2001

Shionedy, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 25, Female, Black/African American, writer, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 611200141339


My mother and I were just joking about this the other day. I was saying that I see cultural differences between black and white Americans with regard to camping and swimming. I never really hear of many black people (including myself) going camping for the weekend or going to the beach. The last time I entered a swimming pool was nearly three years ago. For me, it's not so much that I'm scared of water, but I just hate the feeling afterward - dry, itchy and cold. And I have had a few bad experiences while swimming. When I was younger my parents had enrolled me in a swim class, and on the first day I ran out of the pool bawling. Years later I almost drowned while visiting my dad, and again in my eighth-grade swim class, so you can say swimming is my least favorite hobby. I still would like to learn because it really is a necessity. But I'm only speaking for myself. My nephews absolutely love to swim. You'd think they were fish. And many of my younger cousins do also, so I'm not sure of what to say on this one. Maybe the boat ride over (Africa to America) has something to do with it (just kidding).

POSTED 6/12/2001

Lisa, Gaithersburg, MD, United States, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Mesg ID 611200185655


I dont think African Americans are 'afraid.' I, for one, coming for a city, was not raised where you could get swimming lessons or swim in a safe place unless you had money - and we certainly did not have money to spend on swimming. My cousins, on the other hand, were raised in the South, again without financial means to pay for swimming. But they had a creek and learned on their own. They are fantastic swimmers. I think learning to swim is not as much of a priority if it's not easily accessible.

POSTED 6/12/2001

Gena, Albany, NY, United States, 40, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 612200160253


There are a lot of black people who don't know how to swim in urban areas. In the past, blacks were barred from public swimming pools, so they didn't have the opportunity to learn to swim. People who don't know how to swim are usually afraid of the water because it is unknown to them, and people often pass their fears onto their children. In rural areas, the situation is a lot different. There are usually many places to swim besides a municipal pool such as creeks, lakes and canals. These places were beyond the reach of the Jim Crow laws. As a result, blacks in rural areas have always had opportunities to swim and therefore are not afraid of the water. On a side note, I have known many black women who don't swim because they do a lot to their hair to make it straight and smooth. The water will make it kink up, and then they will have to redo it. So they just avoid swimming.

POSTED 6/12/2001

Lucy, San Jose, CA, United States, 26, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Engineer, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 6122001104420

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Question:

My husband and I have a disagreement. He tells me that African Americans have a slightly different muscle structure than Caucasions. I told him I have never heard of such a thing in any science or biology class. There aren't two different diagrams in the science books in our schools. Can someone put this to rest for us?

POSTED 6/11/2001

Rob M., Warren, MI, United States, 30, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Mother, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 68200174118


Responses:
I have a friend who said the same thing, and he happened to be a medical student. If you have access to cable, check out one of those programs on forensic medicine; they, too mention a different in bone structure between black and white men.

POSTED 6/14/2001

Marco, Chicago, IL, United States, Male, Mesg ID

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Question:

Are women as offended of lesbians as men are of gay males?

POSTED 6/11/2001

Grant M., Los Angeles, CA, United States, <lawmangm@yahoo.com>, 23, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 6102001112704


Responses:
I don't feel threatened or offended by a woman being lesbian. I view her as a woman first, and her sexuality poses no threat to me. Only her personality could do such, and that has nothing to do with her being gay. Generally speaking, I don't feel women are as threatened by lesbians as men are by gays. I think it has a lot to do with women being discriminated against and being considered second-class, so we have never experienced feeling like the 'superior majority' ( as men do). I also think the double standards in our society between lesbians and gays have an incredible impact on who feels threatened/offended. We live in a society in which men are supposed to be and viewed as strong, smart and emotionally solid, and the awful stereotype is that gay men are the complete opposite of the 'ideal man.' Women are supposed to be feminine, attractive, soft-spoken and distinctly emotional, and a lesbian woman can be viewed as such as long as she's not the 'butchy,' unattractive stereotype of a lesbian woman. I think women may be more threatened by the latter stereotype than they would the pretty blonde next door. There's also the stereotype that lesbians are sexually confused or sexual deviants, so perhaps some women feel more at ease because they figure, 'She's finding herself' or 'She's confused.' No matter the reason, it's all about a person's self-confidence, and I am completely confident with the person I am as a whole. Who cares who you sleep with and love or what sex they are? Now, how many people you're sleeping with might pose a problem...

POSTED 6/12/2001

Lisa, Gaithersburg, MD, United States, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Mesg ID 611200194636


No, not really. A lesbian tried to pick me up one time, and I was actually a little flattered. She was a pretty girl, and had I been a lesbian, too, we might have made a nice couple. As it was, I demured. But I don't particularily find gays or lesbians threatening.

POSTED 6/12/2001

Jessica B., Jackson, MS, United States, 16, Female, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Less than High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 6122001104421

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Question:

Do Latino/Hispanic people who have just arrived in the United States feel they should be entitled to all the benefits, medical, housing, jobs, etc. without having to apply for citizenship?

POSTED 6/11/2001

Patty M., White Plains, NY, United States, 49, Female, Spiritualism, Multiethnic, Straight, Mesg ID 610200131706


Responses:
It's the same in the United Kingdom, where Bangaldeshi, Somailians and Eastern Europeans flood our cities because of our very generous benefit system and favorable treatment of so-called aslyum seekers - unlike many other European countries that expect such people to contribute to the host country before qualifying for handouts. Ironically, we have a high indigenous population of homeless people and those who could be classified as living in poverty.

POSTED 6/13/2001

Lea J., London, NA, United Kingdom, Mesg ID 612200113719


Why do you mention only Latinos? Why not all immigrants? Do you feel Russians and Germans should be allowed to reap the 'benefits' of being an American without proper citizenship? After all, they're immigrants, too. My intention is not to be flippant, but I'm not sure of what angle you're coming from.

POSTED 6/14/2001

Lisa, Gaithersburg, MD, United States, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Mesg ID 611200184355


Your typical undocumented immigrant is unable to recieve any governmental medical benefits. If they applied, they'd have to compromise their undocumented status, and most are too fearful to do so. They cannot apply for welfare or apply for HUD, either. They would risk exposing themselves. Typically, undocumented workers will band together and share rent for an apartment (it is not uncommon to see 4 or 5 families sharing an apartment in the low-rent part of town) as soon as they have income. Some of them work 90 to 100 hours a week on up just to keep themselves afloat, and they mostly work at the bottom-of-the-barrel jobs that your average blue-collar American wouldn't touch. It is also common for them to draw a 9 on their paychecks so they won't have to do any reporting to the IRS. As for medical, they would pretty much have to go to the County ER just to get flu medication. As a result, they generally have to rely on mom to heal the sick. Essentially, U.S. society derives an enormous amount of cheap labor from them, they consume products just like any lower-income Americans and, with the exception of those paid under the table, they contribute their fair share of taxes, and they are mostly decent people who came here out of desperation and the desire for work. Their work ethic puts that of the average American's to shame.

POSTED 6/14/2001

Dan, L.os Angeles, CA, United States, 22, Male, Pentecostal, Hispanic/Latino, student, 2 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 6122001112937

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Question:

For a long time I have been guilty of practicing my own form of discrimination within my own race. It stems from being taunted as a child for having dark skin. Because of this, I grew up with a secret resentment for fair-skinned women. While I have family and friends who are fair, I have accepted and loved them, but find myself prejudging others I see in malls or in public who I don't know. I honestly felt that 'yellow' women had the "YWC" - Yellow Woman's Complex. The 'I can take your man,' 'I am better than you because I am light,' the 'watch me get over,' 'I am pretty because I am light' ... and the list goes on. I know those contentions aren't true, but truthfully, is there anyone out there who has or did feel this way? Is there a light-skinned woman who can share their mentality with me? Is it hard being fair-skinned, or do you find that it has its privileges?

POSTED 6/11/2001

Shionedy, Los Angeles, CA, United States, Female, Black/African American, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 63200184901


Responses:
I am a fair-skinned woman but do not have an 'I am better than you' attitude. However, I couldn't care less what other people think of me and am proud of my accomplishments as a young black woman. This contributes to a higher self-esteem. I walk with my head high not because I feel I am better than anyone, but because I love myself and take pride in myself. If you feel you are not attractive because of your complexion, those feelings will start to reflect on your personality. I also believe that other people's attitudes and actions toward a person can help contribute to the way a person may feel about themselves, which is what you said happened to you as a child. But it can go both ways. If all of your life men told you how beautiful you were, that would also contribute to the way you feel about yourself. And I'll admit, that type of thing makes me feel good about myself, and when you feel good about yourself, again, it shows on the outside. Also whhhhoo wee! Plenty of fair-skinned women are not attractive at all, so light skin definitely does not automatically make you attractive. All of us were taunted as a child about something. That's just the way children are. But you shouldn't allow the ignorance that went on around you in your life as a child affect the way you feel about the women of our race, because that is all it is: ignorance.

POSTED 6/13/2001

Jasmine, Jacksonville, FL, United States, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Mesg ID 612200141418


I can understand where you're coming from. It's clear to me that our society as a whole places more value on lighter/whiter skin. It seems like this myth of lighter being better is reinforced at all levels and in all aspects of our society. And trust me, that is one hell of a myth, one that's been dividing people for generations. So, I can't fault you for your feelings. As a lighter-skinned woman (and I speak only for myself), I think the thing I would want you to understand about me is that that myth hurts me just as much as you. It pits us against each other and builds resentments that we really don't need to have added onto our already complicated lives. Growing up wasn't easy for me, either. My family was one of the only families of color where I grew up. And while the racism I felt from the white people in my town hurt me in so many ways, the colorism I felt from my own people nearly tore me apart. It felt like I was too black to be accepted into white society, and too white to be completely accepted by all of black society. And as a child I wasn't sure where that left me. It took a while for me to reach a place where I learned to accept myself for who I am and love me for me. And I think now that I've grown, I can understand how resentments like those can build up. It's an understanding that goes a long way in giving me the fuel I need to continually work to break down the barriers we create among one another.

POSTED 6/13/2001

Valerie, Boston, MA, United States, Female, Black/African American, Straight, Fundraising/Development, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 6132001115759

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Question:

What are some things Americans do wrong when they go to Scotland? And what are some things we should look for (or look out for) while visiting there?

POSTED 6/11/2001

Nicholas C., Waldorf, MD, United States, 22, Male, Mormon, Scottish/American, Straight, 2 Years of College, Mesg ID 642001101157


Responses:
First, don�t confuse England, Scotland and Britain. The English and Scots are different peoples, but they are both British. Scotland has its own parliament but still sends MPs to a British parliament. An analogy would be California and New York are both part of the United States but separate states (except they don�t have 3,000 years of history, so the rivalry�s not there). I wouldn�t mention what a great environmental policy you think Bush has anywhere in Europe, as this is a very sensitive issue at the moment. Don�t order an expensive single malt whiskey and put ice or a mixer in it. That�s sacrilege. Do spend as much time as possible in Edinburgh, which is one of the world�s most beautiful cities.

POSTED 6/13/2001

Greg, London, NA, United Kingdom, Male, Mesg ID 6132001105617

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