Best of the Week
of June 30, 2002

Best of Week Archives

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

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

The book on Y? is here!
"Why Do White People Smell Like Wet Dogs
When They Come Out Of The Rain?"

Order it here!
Read the Associated Press story on "Wet Dogs"

Order the book on Y? today!


Question:

How can anyone not believe in God? Even if you don't believe in Him as our Lord and Savior, how can you not believe He is the creator? At least believe that. You can honestly look at yourself, knowing how complex you body is, and think you were just there from the beginning, or that some evolutionary phenomena happened? How can you look at the moon and the stars and the sun and think they just happened "just because"? How can you wake up every day and not know it was by the grace of God?

POSTED 7/2/2002

Erin, Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States, <MsECJ7@hotmail.com>, 20, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Student, Middle class, Mesg ID 72200215100

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Question:

Are any of the following true about white people�s hygiene:

- Do they really sit on public toilets?
- Why, when they are cooking, do they think it is OK to put the spoon they are cooking with in their mouth and then back into the pot?
- Do they really kiss each other in the morning without brushing their teeth, like in the movies?
- Do they really just wash their skin with a bar of soap and not a bar of soap and wash cloth to get rid of died skin?

Please don�t think I�m crazy, but in recent years I have noticed my white friends have very different hygiene practices than any other race I have come in contact with.

POSTED 7/1/2002

Mary, Jones, GA, United States, <ndotodream@yahoo.com>, 22, Female, Agnostic, Hispanic, Chinese, African, Straight, designer, 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 712002112339


Responses:
Hilarious! And no, I don't think you're crazy for asking. I'm white, and no, I don't sit on public toilets ... I 'hover.' If I'm making dinner for me and my hubby, I do occasionally taste off the spoon, then put it back in the pot to stir. But if I'm entertaining guests, I do no such thing. Gross! In the morning, I smooch my hubby, closed-mouthed of course, lightly on the lips, but that's it. No one wants a big wet smooch first thing in the morning. Ick. As far as the soap, I use soap and a sponge and loofah to wash, and hubby uses soap and a wash cloth.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Kimberly, Kalispell, MT, United States, <play4k@hotmail.com>, 31, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, emergency, Middle class, Mesg ID 71200234922


My white friends and I first look at the toilet seat to see if there are any urine splashes. Sometimes we wipe it with wet toilet paper. Then we sit down. Putting a spoon you have used back in the stew is frowned upon. My husband washed with only a bar of soap and his hand. I always use a washcloth. I believe we all wake up with 'morning mouth.' Some brush immediately, some ignore it and kiss.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Jean K., North Palm Beach, FL, United States, 68, Female, Unitarian, White/Caucasian, Straight, retired director March of Dimes, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 712002104904

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Question:

I am a white teenager and wear 'black' clothing, like Fubu, Sean John, Phat Farm, School of Hard Knocks, etc. Why do some African Americans dislike it when I wear these clothes? I might wear a leather jacket, or a pair of shoes with a special material that might be seen as 'ghetto,' and I am a little worried about being harrassed.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Jules, East Hampton, NY, United States, 15, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, Less than High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 712002113506

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Question:

Do all Jewish men have to wear those small hats that sit on the top back part of the head? If yes, what if the person didn't have a lot of hair? The hats attach to the head by hair clips, so how would you attach the hats to your head in that case? Or would you not be required to wear them then?
POSTED 6/13/2002
Robert S., Poole, NA, United Kingdom, <rms6859@yahoo.com>, 26, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 529200222057


Responses:
The hat you're referring to is called a 'kippah' or 'yarmulke.' Wearing one is a sign of humility in the presence of G-d. The decision to wear one is largely shaped by the level of adherence to the laws of Judaism one practices. I cannot imagine, for example, an Orthodox Jewish man not wearing one, but having grown up in a Reform (more liberal) Jewish congregation, I know of many men, including my father, who do not wear one or who wear one only when in Synagogue. They don't have to be kept on with clips, but certainly the clips help. I suppose a bald man who cannot clip it to his hair would probably use a form of double-stick, toupee-type tape.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Cari, Austin, TX, United States, 30-ish, Female, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, attorney, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 6172002101850


An Orthodox Jew will never leave his head uncovered; it's a sign of respect for God, in whose presence we are at all times. It is similar to the way Muslims keep their heads covered. A regular hat will do; the little beanies you see these days are something of a modern innovation, for indoor wear. They will stay on a bald head, although not very well. Observant Jewish married women cover their heads, too, but that's a matter of modesty.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Jerry S., New Britain, CT, United States, 54, Male, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 617200214705

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Question:

I am a white woman and have never had a black friend. There is a black woman at work with whom I would like to become better acquainted, yet I know she has too much going on at home and at work right now to find time for me. I wrote her an e-mail in which I mentioned that I would contact her later on this summer to see if she'd like to get together. Besides trying to understand what my white privilege will bring into the dynamics of this relationship I'm hoping to form, is there anything else of which I should be aware?
POSTED 6/13/2002
Lori, Saco, ME, United States, <monami@loa.com>, 43, Female, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 69200292343


Responses:
I would strongly recommend that you read, Bridging The Gap Between Black Women & White Women: Divided Sisters by Midge Wilson and Kathy Russell. This book will not tell you everything there is to know about black women. However, I believe it will provide you a strong foundation that will lead to insight about black women and the relationship we as black women have had with the dominant group, specifically white women. I applaud your efforts and hope you are able to forge a relationship that extends itself to something beyond black and white.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Elle, Chicago, IL, United States, 30, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, stay-at-home mom/grad student, 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 613200232608


I think you should approach a friendship with the African-American woman as you would with any woman. Take the time to get to know her. If you have questions, ask. Try to be honest when she asks you questions that may be uncomfortable. I work with three white women and have formed a friendship with one because we think alike and share a lot in common. This woman may be black, but give her more credit for being a good person and someone you find interesting.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Michelle, Cleveland, OH, United States, 27, Female, Catholic, Black and Filipino, Straight, library clerk, 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 614200291905


As far as I know, friendship has never been based on color lines. It has always been just a matter of what type of person you are and what type of person you care to hang around. I am a black female, and the majority of my friends are also black. However, it is not because I chose to mostly have black friends; it was a matter of who I like and who likes me. I think it is good that you may want to go beyond your usual social circle, but don't go looking for a black person to befriend just to say you had/have a black friend, or as an experiment to find out what it is like to have a black friend. Another note on interracial friendships: there are to my knowledge no privileges or restrictions that being a certain race bring (well, not outside of certain things you can't say, like when associating with black people, 'nigger' is definitely not a word that should come out of your mouth). Anything that comes out of a friendship should be genuine.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Denise, Indianapolis, IN, United States, <A1DNB01@aol.com>, 20, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 615200253629


Whew! I don't know where to begin! I must assume you are sincere but your whole approach troubles me. Did you just decide that you wanted a black friend and chose this woman? Do you have any common interests? Do you have mutual friends? Have you picked up on any signals from her that she would be interested in getting to know you better? Friendship must be mutual, and your posting seems one-sided. Regardless of race, it seems to me that writing someone an e-mail saying that you will contact them later in the summer is a strange way to make friends. I have friends of many races, and I believe true friendships operate on a personal level rather than on a group-to-group level. What you would need to know is how to relate to that specific person. The way you find that out is by talking to her about mutual interests. For example, do you both garden? Read books? Go to movies? Because you both work at the same place, there should be some common ground.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Ramonna, Minneapolis, MN, United States, Female, Episcopalian, Black/African American, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 617200290318


Why are you even worrying about it? Obviously you have things in common, so why is race a factor for you? Your underlying concerns might even put strain on the friendship. There is no such thing as 'white privilege' anymore. If anything, it's 'black privilege.' You just have to look at 'affirmative action' and all the scholarships, awards and orginizations that blacks have to see that white privilege is no more.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Mari, Philadelphia, PA, United States, 28, Female, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 624200293709


What do you mean by 'white privilege'? She has privileges, too. She's an American woman. You two may share more than you think. Maybe she'd like a new friend as much as you would.

POSTED 7/2/2002

Kimberly, Kalispell, MT, United States, <play4k@hotmail.com>, 31, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, emergency, Middle class, Mesg ID 71200240943

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Question:

What are some things African Americans think white people could be doing to improve racial equality in the United States?
POSTED 6/12/2002
Bonnie F., South Florida, FL, United States, Female, Protestant, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 612200222225


Responses:
White people just need to generally have an open mind and see people for who they are. I have noticed that the more enlightened the white person is, the easier it is for them to acquaint themselves with people from other ethnic groups, because they are more emancipated, broad-minded and intellectual.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Chelsea, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 29, Female, Pentecostal, Black/African American, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 617200225145


Your question is so very much appreciated. It's one I seldom hear. The answer is very simple: Recognize that African-American people are just that - people, too. Just as we are seldom inclined to lump all Caucasians into one group - sharing all tastes, interests, strengths, weaknesses and personal attributes - we should try to be aware whenever we are doing just that when referring to African Americans. We all come into this world as individuals; though we might share a similar skin shade or similar history, each of us have different perspectives on life, different values, interests, social and financial statuses and ambitions. When you come into contact with an African American, try to make your mind a 'tabla rasa' - a blank slate. Forget whatever stereotypes you've learned and explore the individual standing in front of you. Find out what he or she likes and dislikes, and what his or her history and perspectives are. If they appear different from yours, find out why the person sees things differently from you. Only if we begin to learn authentically about one another can we begin to minimize the destructiveness we all experience in our society as a result of stereotypes.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Susan, Brightwaters, NY, United States, <silvercolor16@aol.com>, 33, Female, Unitarian, Multiracial, Straight, Personal/Business Coach, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 622200255712


I'd say all things begin with education. I'd first begin with re-learning history to include viewpoints from multiple races and ethnicities. The way many Americans are educated now excludes different experiences and views. This blinds people from seeing the way racism along with other forms of discrimination has been deeply institutionalized in our society. Learning this will help you see and get a better understanding of racism. Second, I would say re-evaluate your current situation. Are things truly equal around you? Talk to people and try to understand how other people see things. Third, do the best you can to spread what you learn to others. Finally, for today, don't be afraid to talk about racism. It's not Fight Club, it's OK to talk about it.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Marc M., State College, PA, United States, 24, Male, Black/African American, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 625200265223


First, whites can start by treating us as if we're equals. Hear our concerns and see them as more than racial issues. Know that they are human issues. Try and understand that the things we want are the same things you want. Nothing extravagant - just to be treated with respect and dignity.

POSTED 7/1/2002

Kiea, Montgomery, AL, United States, 25, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, secretary, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 712002102039

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Question:

Does anyone know where the statement 'White people smell like bologna' originated? I know it is similar to the title of the book Why Do White People Smell Like Wet Dogs When They Come Out of The Rain, but why bologna? A recent beer commercial makes reference to it.
POSTED 6/13/2002
S. May, Toronto, Ontario, NA, Canada, 38, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 523200211134


Responses:
I don't know the name of it, but there was a movie in the late '90s that was a fairly big release. Marlon Wayans' character was getting interrogated by the police, and he broke out with that line. I laughed my ass off for days.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Bumpy, Chicago, IL, United States, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, 2 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 614200290854


Come to think of it, I've noticed that (being white myself). White people do have a 'lunchmeat' smell to their body odor when they haven't bathed or are sweating heavily. When I'm in the gym with black friends, the difference in smell is noticeable.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Brian, Peru, IN, United States, 26, Male, White/Caucasian, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 623200273140

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Question:

I have a friend whom I've known for more than three years. Recently, a mutual friend, who met her in drama and has known her for about six months, mentioned in a casual conversation that our friend is a lesbian. She has apparently had several girlfriends and is part of a gay-straight club at our school. I don't think I'm homophobic, but I am wondering why she would keep this from me and tell so many others (apparently everyone in drama)? And should I say anything to her?

POSTED 6/13/2002
Nicole, Northville, MI, United States, 15, Female, Straight, Mesg ID 523200243527


Responses:
Why would you want to say anything? Have you made the decision to 'come out' to her as 'straight'? What would you say to her? If she feels the need to share that part of her life with you, I'm sure she will. Perhaps she is afraid it will negatively affect your relationship. If you really want her to tell you, join the club she belongs to to illustrate your support of all sexualities. When she knows you are accepting of who she is, it will be easier for her to talk openly with you about it.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Jessica K., Huntsville, TX, United States, 22, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, epileptic, student, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 613200214131


The only way to know why you were not told is to ask her. Maybe it just never came up in conversation. Maybe she feels more comfortable among Drama Club people. I would also not jump to the conclusion that she told a lot of other people. It is quite possible she told only one person, and that person told one person, etc. When I was in high school, if you wanted the whole school to know something, all you had to do was tell one person and swear them to secrecy. Of course, there could also be the possibility that it is not true, or she may be unsure of herself. Another reason to talk to her.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Ramonna, Minneapolis, MN, United States, Female, Episcopalian, Black/African American, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 617200282354


Ever heard of stigma management? I used to wonder why lesbians as a group were so quiet, almost invisible, until I purposively sought them out because I faced up to my own sexual orientation (at this late phase in my life). I have always been heterosexual, been married, and had a child. It is so difficult to imagine what it is like to be discriminated against in a heterosexist society if you are heterosexual yourself. A male gay friend of mine has the 'Don't ask, don't tell! policy, and it works perfectly for him.

Instead of saying anything to your friend about this, show her that you are a person who is tolerant and accepting of differences. That may just do the trick.

POSTED 6/25/2002

KateCN, QC, NA, Philippines, <katecn55@hotmail.com>, 46, Female, Catholic, Asian, Lesbian, Teacher, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 624200295901

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Question:

Why are Muslims supposed to like bean pies? I'm a Muslim and have never even seen a one and don't know what it is. No one else I know has ever heard of them, but I've gotten teased about bean pies often in college and high school.
POSTED 6/13/2002
Vilas, Islamabad, NA, Pakistan, <muslim1400@hotmail.com>, 21, Female, Muslim, Pakistani/Irish, Straight, Writer, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 5292002103655


Responses:
I used to have a neighbor from India who moved to England to study when she was a kid. She eats beans, beans, beans. Everything she cooks has bloody beans inside, and it's thanks to her I think beans are one of the most disgusting things in the world. I mean, she cooks like a whiz, and she bakes the best pies, but they have beans inside - and they're all gross, disgusting, starchy lentil beans that taste like sawdust. So maybe it's because many people have the perception that blacks are mostly Muslims, and that some countries like India include lots of beans in their diet and are full of black people, and so they're supposedly 'Muslims' (the general ignorant perception of the masses) so they eat beans.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Yuffie, n/a, NA, n/a, 16, Female, Atheist, Asian, Straight, Student, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 615200241545


Years ago when I lived in Washington, D.C., members of the Nation of Islam (which is not to say all Muslims) used to sell bean pies on the sidewalks. I always assumed it was a fund-raising activity and had no religious (or political, for that matter) significance. At least none of the men selling the pies tried to convert me to Islam. That's probably where the idea came from that Muslims like bean pies. The pies were very good, although I had to be convinced to try one the first time. To me, they taste kind of like sweet potato pies, but with a different texture, kind of sweet but not overly sweet. Definitely something to try, if you have never tasted one. Lately, I have seen them in a Lebanese deli near my house, but I don't know whether the owners are Muslim.

POSTED 6/25/2002

Ramonna, Minneapolis, MN, United States, Female, Episcopalian, Black/African American, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 617200283925

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Question:

What does it mean when an American calls someone a 'French whore'? How is that different from an American whore?
POSTED 6/13/2002
Julie, Nashville, TN, United States, 22, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 613200230601


Responses:
I believe the reference is 'You smell like a French whore.' As I understand the phrase, it refers to an overindulgence in perfume; perhaps because France is the home of expensive fragrances, or because historically the French court used fragrance to hide their body odor caused by infrequent bathing. 'Whore' would also indicate a social class, perhaps someone of a lower or working class putting on airs - in this case literally by liberally applying perfume. The sexual aspect of whoring is ignored.

POSTED 6/26/2002

Doug, Phoenix, AZ, United States, 39, Male, New Age/Metaphysical, White/Caucasian, Gay, Administrator, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 613200213913


Europeans in general are more open about sex, and more accepting of prostitution as an industry, than Americans. Our 'highly advanced' country is still obsessed with Puritanism and other moralistic rules and regulations meant to keep women down. When these same people view West European culture, such as French culture, they judge the way France glorifies the female body as being immoral. They also don't want to admit that the American media glorifies the female body just as much (but America glorifies the plastic Barbie woman rather than the real thing) - the same way they don't want to think of prostitution as an issue in our culture. It's something that happens 'over there.'

POSTED 6/26/2002

Jessica K., Huntsville, TX, United States, 22, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, epileptic, student, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 613200214903


I had no idea Americans use the term 'French whores,' but I would say that after having seen a great variety of both (American and French whores), the answer might be simple: like the average French person, whores over there have more elegance and class than their American colleagues.

POSTED 6/26/2002

Hanna, Stockholm, VA, Sweden, 27, Female, Lutheran, White/Caucasian, Straight, Researcher, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 617200285324


I always took that to mean that a woman is heavily perfumed.

POSTED 6/26/2002

Jedd C., Akron, OH, United States, 35, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, escrow, 4 Years of College, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 624200273029

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Question:

I am a young, attractive multiracial woman, with a light complexion and ethnic features. I'm thicker than your average white girl (I have bigger breasts and behind) and get attention from black and Latin men, but not from white men. Why don't white men talk to non-white women? Is it that they are intimidated by ethnic women, or are they just not attracted to us?
POSTED 6/13/2002
Chrissy, Oakland, CA, United States, 23, Female, Catholic, Creole/Mexican, Straight, health care, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 69200250751


Responses:
It's easy to generalize about ALL white men. Some men don't date outside of their race, religion or ethnic background. Some men will have sex with women outside of their race/ethnic group, but won't date them or marry them. That tells you something about how they perceive women of color. But also, some men just aren't aggressive. Perhaps you can be sociable without seeming like you want a date. That might allow a man who you might be interested in to get to know you.

POSTED 6/28/2002

Gary, Chicago, IL, United States, <garylatman@yahoo.com>, Male, Jewish, Straight, Left-handed, Teacher, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 628200220228

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