Best of the Week
of June 18, 2000

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of June 18, 2000, 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.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at Y?'s guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.


Question:
Do Roman Catholics consider oral sex a sin? Is oral sex considered sex, as in loss of virginity?
POSTED 6/22/2000
J.B., Nappa, ID, United States, 20, 4 Years of College , Upper class, Mesg ID 6212000100718

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Question:
Many times when I pass a black male coming my way, for example when I'm leaving the office and run into a black maintenance worker in the hallway, just when we are about to exchange a greeting, he often simply says the phrase 'all right,' even if I haven't said anything yet. He might say this rather than say, for example, 'hey' or 'take care' or 'g'night' or 'see ya.' Why do they frequently just say 'all right'?
POSTED 6/20/2000
P., Jacksonville, FL, United States, Male, White/Caucasian. Mesg ID 6202000102837

Responses:
It depends on the way it's said. If it's said in a measured, neutral tone, it could just be an aknowledgment of your presence, that you know each other and that it's not necessary to go through the usual formalities if you don't want to. Not that such a greeting isn't welcome, but just that you can 'chill,' everything's copacetic, have a nice night, etc. If it's said in a boisterous, upbeat way, it might be another way of saying: 'My man! What's up? How are you?' Basically, pleasantries in shorthand. I would think that just saying 'hey' in response would be fine - not that you need to be told how to speak.
POSTED 6/21/2000
Jennifer R., St. Paul, MN, United States, 29, Female, Catholic, Black/African American, Straight, Writer, Student, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 621200012054

In the West Indies, in Jamaica, the phrase 'all right' could also mean 'all is good,' 'all is well' or 'things are good.' The man may simply be wishing you well by saying this to you when you have an encounter. It's out of politeness and just another way of saying something like 'what's up?'
POSTED 6/21/2000
S.E., Bronx, NY, United States, 23, Female, Straight, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 621200024422
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Question:
If two males are lovers and one has a complete sex change, does the one who is still male stay with 'her' and live as a straight man, or does he still feel he is with a man and remains homosexual? I hope I asked this properly. I am not trying to offend anyone ... I'm just curious. I have someone close to me who has made the change, but I'm not sure what is proper to ask.
POSTED 6/20/2000
M.E., Porterville, CA, United States, 37, Female, Hispanic/Latino, office assistant, 2 Years of College , Lower class, Mesg ID 620200013732

Responses:
I am a gay male and have friends who chose to change their gender. It is not so much about the fact of being male or female. There are usually two sides in this situation: One partner plays more of a male role, and one plays more of a female role, and the one who usually plays more of the female role is the one to undergo the sex change. But this is not always true. I would have to say most of the men I have known to undergo this operation have chosen to stay with their partner and consider themselfs still gay. Some men just feel as though they were supposed to be women, and vice versa. It is a really hard subject and is based a lot on the individual.
POSTED 6/21/2000
Travie2talk, Springville, CA, United States, 20, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Gay, sudent, 2 Years of College , Upper class, Mesg ID 621200015631
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Question:
Why do Christians believe a loving God requires human sacrifice in order to forgive people? He's God. He makes the rules. Presumably, He could choose to save people merely because they do their best to be good people. Christians love to talk about how loving Jesus was for dying for our sins. But why did anyone have to die? Christianity insists that without Jesus dying a horrific, tortured death on the cross, we're all doomed. What kind of loving God makes rules like that? And please don't recite Leviticus on sacrifice. I've read it. With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Judaism teaches that God forgives the repentant. No dead animals. No dead people.
POSTED 6/20/2000
Susan, New York, NY, United States, 39, Female, Jewish, White/Caucasian, attorney, Over 4 Years of College , Upper, middle class, Mesg ID 620200045304

Responses:
Hebrews 9:22 states, 'And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.' Jesus said in Matthew 26:28, 'For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.' I'm not sure what human sacrifices you're referring to, but ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, God required the shedding of blood for the atonement of sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, which caused them to realize they were naked, God clothed them with the skins of an animal. That animal had nothing to do with Adam and Eve's sin (it was innocent), but it had to die. That was God's plan. The animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were forerunners of the ultimate Sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who shed His innocent blood to pay the sin debt of mankind. These are God's laws, or rules, as you call them, not something Christians made up themselves. Because you are Jewish and do not believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah, perhaps you should fervently pray and ask God for the answers to your questions.
POSTED 6/22/2000
Redeemed1, Newport News, VA, United States, 52, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 621200020852
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Question:
I don't understand why women size each other up in terms of their looks - whether it's about their physical attributes or dress style. Why do women do this?
POSTED 2/19/1999
George O., San Diego, CA, United States, Male, Mesg ID 2199914108

Responses:
There's a joke that says, 'When a man enters a bar, he checks out the women; when a woman enters a bar, she checks out the women,' and it's true. Despite all the leaps and bounds women have made in the last 50 years, a woman's appearance is still paramount to her social and romantic success (and to some degree, professional success). Hence, these sort of meat-market singles venues are conducive to a competitive atmosphere regarding appearance. Call it culture, social Darwinism or just bad habits; I think it's a waste of time and energy. But I still do it.
POSTED 6/20/2000
Lisa, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 25, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 6190052811
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Question:
Recently I was on a bus and a man started talking on his cell phone. There were a lot of people on the bus and he wasn't talking any louder than anyone else on the bus. There were some kids in the back of the bus who were even louder and infinitely more obnoxious. An elderly woman turned around to shush the man on the cell phone several times and then finally someone else on the bus told him to please stop his conversation. I have witnessed similar situations more than a few times, and I was wondering if someone can shed some light on why people get offended by cell phone users in a public space. I can understand if it's in a movie theater, a concert or something like that. Are people jealous, or just plain grouchy?
POSTED 6/18/2000
Fiona F., New York, NY, United States, 25, Female, Asian, 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 12281999121425

Responses:
There's something about hearing only one half of a cell phone conversation on a bus, in a restaurant, etc., that both irritates someone and compels one's attention. Even a loud conversation among teenagers can be heard, identified and then 'tuned out.' But we're conditioned to hear both speakers, and a cell phone conversation in a public place feels like a fresh distraction with every overheard 'Yeah...Uh huh...Right...' (much less an extended anecdote or, worst of all, a domestic argument) as we automatically prepare to hear the response and don't hear it. Maybe as some standard cell phone etiquette takes hold concerning volume and where/when to take calls, and as we get accustomed to this new type of urban distraction, it will cease to be such an issue.
POSTED 6/22/2000
Daniel, Ann Arbor, MI, United States, 36, Male, Student, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 6212000111623
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Question:
Why do a significant number of black people speak with a sort of affected lisp - not a speech defect, but a purposeful lisp?
POSTED 6/20/2000
Bill B., Greensboro, NC, United States, 45, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, teacher, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 620200072705

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Question:
To those of non-Western cultures: How does it make you feel to see icons of your culture or religion brought into popular Western society? Specifically, I am thinking of Asian characters being used as popular tattoos or on clothing items, or depictions of the Buddha or geisha girls, or, for Indian people, the use of bindis or mehndi. I would think it would make you proud to see others interested in your culture, as long as they understand the significance. Is this so?
POSTED 6/15/2000
Jessica, Framingham, MA, United States, 21, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 6132000115911

Responses:
Western society has integrated Asian icons into its culture, which shows some effort to understand the culture and religion. However, I feel that this is a trend, a chapter of American popular culture that is nearing its end. Celebrities show their homes decorated in their newly found lifestyle according to Chi or Zen (a recent hit) on television, fashion designers use Asian motifs for the runways, and then Americans follow them. Not long ago, I asked a Caucasian girl wearing a shirt with the Chinese character for water on it if she knew what it meant. She did not. So I asked her why, then, she is wearing clothes with symbols she does not know. Her response was that it looked 'cool.' Another time, I met a Caucasian male who had tattooed his name 'in Chinese.' He liked the idea of having several characters that represented something individually for his name. That is equivalent to an American adopting Gundorf as his German name and tattooing it on his arm. When people fashion things that represent my culture and religion, of course it upsets me because it completely undermines their significance. For most people, Asian icons are exotic accessories that are popular at the moment. I wish people would start understanding what they actually mean and stop wearing shirts with 'water' on them.
POSTED 6/20/2000
Crystal, Irvine, CA, United States, <ckim@gwu.edu>, 19, Female, Christian, Korean, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 620200065723
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Question:
Many gay men are immediately identifiable by the 'gay drawl,' a distinctive, quasi-nasal, adolescent voiceprint. But I've never met a lesbian of any class or race who had a distinctive, corresponding lesbian 'accent.' Does anyone have any thoughts on why this is?
POSTED 6/19/2000
Jeff G., Austin, TX, United States, <byrongato@aol.com>, 32, Male, Pagan, White/Caucasian, Gay, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 6190051708

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Question:
To Indian women: which side of the nose is traditionally pierced? Is there a specific location deemed most beneficiary?
POSTED 6/19/2000
Sarah N., Fairfield, IA, United States, Female, Mesg ID 6190094953

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Question:
Why do so many black college students choose to major in business? Why not engineering or physics, or math or chemistry?
POSTED 6/19/2000
Nicole, Portsmouth, VA, United States, 22, Female, Christian, Black and white, Straight, Data Analyst, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 925199922128

Responses:
Alexis de Toqueville saw this country's lust for profits as far back as the 1830s. In the early 1900s, George Washington Carver instructed his students thus at Tuskegee Institute: Learn a trade, start a business and make money (he's been sadly misread over the years). The mediocre Calvin Coolidge said famously that 'the business of America is business.' That was in 1922. And remember the '80s? de Toqueville also saw that there was a rampant anti-intellectualism and mistrust of scientific smarts in America. Science is acceptable only if there is monetary profit to be made of it. That has always been the case here, or just about everyone would have stayed home. I'll bet if you took a representative sample of white people at any university, most of them would be majoring in business, too. Most of the white kids I knew at school did. Look at U.S. culture. It sprawls itself before the altar of money. Everyone wants their share. That's why many immigrants of all races in U.S. colleges take business. African Americans are like any other Americans. I know I'd love to see a few more of us as CEOs, even as I'd love to see more of us represented in the sciences. Why do so many people stick up for Bill Gates, even as he breaks the law? Because he's worth $60 billion. And what does money equal? Power. What's the rap by Public Enemy? - 'Cause I know the time, 'cause I'm gettin' mine.' For your fellow African-American classmates, that means a business degree and an MBA.
POSTED 6/21/2000
Miranda J., New York, NY, United States, 30, Female, Unitarian, African, Cherokee, Irish, English, Scottish, Welsh, Straight, Production Coordinator, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 6212000123247

The reason some blacks don't major in math, physics, biology, etc., is that blacks aren't encouraged to major in those subjects. Schools encourage blacks to go to a technical school and/or join the military upon graduation from high school. Blacks have the intelligence to major in the previously stated subjects; we're just not encouraged to. As far as majoring in business, blacks are encouraged by other blacks to major in business. If blacks open their own businesses, it is believed that we can obtain more power in a domineering society, one in which power is not given to blacks in the same manner that whites are given power. Also, not all blacks major in business. I'm a black woman, I have a degree, and I did not major in business. I am in the fine arts field. When I think about my college friends (I went to a historically black college) from Wilberforce University, none of us majored in business. However, business is one of the strongest and most successful programs at Wilberforce's campus.
POSTED 6/22/2000
Georgette W., Cincinnati, OH, United States, 25, Female, African Methodist Episcopal, Black/African American, Straight, Museum Industry, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 6222000102808

As a black who has an advanced degree in chemistry and who has taught at the university level for some time, my conclusion is: Students tend to gravitate toward those fields that have visibility in their community. Most African Americans do not know a black who is a chemist, physicist, etc. That is why African-American students interested in science are much more likely to be pre-med, pre-dentistry or pharmacy majors.
POSTED 6/22/2000
Paul, Houston, TX, United States, Male, Black/African American, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 621200032037
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Question:
Does anybody know what a congressman's job description is? I know they are supposed to make laws and stuff, but are they supposed to interject personal feelings into the laws they vote for, or is it supposed to be the thoughts and feelings of their constituents?
POSTED 6/19/2000
Paula, Texarkana, AR, United States, 31, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 927199954357

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Question:
What did "jumping the broom" mean in marriage ceremonies among African Americans? I believe slaves did it at a time when the law did not recognize legal marriage for them.
POSTED 6/18/2000
R. Buchanan, San Diego, CA, United States, <drmmrby @alo.com>, 42, R.N., 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 1228199923105

Responses:
'Jumping the Broom' signifies (I say signifies because the custom is still practiced in the wedding ceremonies of some African-American couples) literally jumping from your old life alone into a life joined with your partner.
POSTED 6/21/2000
Jennifer R., Saint Paul, MN, United States, 29, Female, Catholic, Black/African American, Straight, Writer, Student, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 6202000111651
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Question:
Why can't African Americans swim? Is there a physiological reason why some people seem to have a harder time swimming than others, or is it simply a matter of their surroundings?
POSTED 6/15/2000
Dan S., Chesterfield Township, MI, United States, 30, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Middle class,Mesg ID 615200081409

Responses:
For the same reason white men can't jump. I use this analogy because it's obviously not true. Most people's physical endeavors stem from what they have access to. Most poor inner-city folks (a great number who happen to be black) do not have access to pools - just as most of your affluent kids are apt not to play hoops. You can pretty much observe ethnic trends in every sport, from baseball to rock climbing. But what's nice is that we've seen that ethnicity has nothing to do with physical abilities.
POSTED 6/17/2000
D. Nicholson, Seattle, WA, United States, 36, Male, Agnostic, Black/African American, Gay, Project Manager, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 616200030428

From my experience, a lot of black people can swim. However, I do believe there is a higher proportion of non-swimming black people than whites. This does not have a physiological explanation; it's entirely cultural. White people are more likely to live in suburbs and neighborhoods that have community pools. They are also more likely to have the space and money to afford backyard swimming pools, and I think it's safe to say that they may also frequent lakes and beaches more.
POSTED 6/17/2000
Tish, Newark, NJ, United States, Black/African American, Mesg ID 616200060500

I am African-American and can swim. Almost all of my African-American friends can swim. Almost everyone in my African-American family can swim. The only person in my family who cannot swim is my father. Why? Because he almost drowned as a child and is afraid of the water. I don't think that has anything to do with his racial background.
POSTED 6/17/2000
Alicia, Seattle, WA, United States, 31, Female, Black/African American, Attorney, Middle class, Mesg ID 616200035521
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