Best of the Week
of Aug. 20, 2000

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Aug. 20, 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.

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Question:
I live in Caracas, Venezuela. Today I saw the cover of Time and Newsweek when I went to get the paper. I noticed there is a big issue on Gore running mate Joseph Leiberman's religion. I know this is normal in American society because Leiberman's religion is 'minority,' but aren't other aspects of his personality or credentials more important? It's not like he's a terrorist, extravagant transvestite or heroin addict. It's a religion, not a mental handicap (or is it?). Why all the fuss because the guy is Jewish?
POSTED 8/24/2000
Nelson A., Caracas, NA, Venezuela, 31, Male, Catholic, race=White/Caucasian, ethnicity=Hispanic/Latino, lawyer/business, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 822200093230

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Question:
Why do some people use the phrase 'people of color'? I find it extremely offensive, and that's coming from someone who is very rarely offended by anything. The prase says to me, and probably to a great number of others, that 'white people' do not have culture, do not have personality, or even are not good enough, so to speak; as if 'white people' are left out, and all other races are just grouped into one category like they have everything in common. My skin is light, and, in fact, it lighter than most 'white' people's. It has color to it - it's a light, peachy hue. If I were 'white,' I think I would either have a serious health problem or would be dead. Blood-wise, I am not all 'white,' and frankly, people with light skin from a certain area or of a certain ethnicity are as different as night and day. Can't people use more serious/understandable phrases like 'people with darker skin' or 'people from [whatever] country' or 'people of [whatever] nationalities' or 'people from [whatever] part of the world'?
POSTED 8/24/2000
Lisa, Raytown, MO, United States, <kaeori@lymax.com>, Female, Atheist, Straight, college student, Mesg ID 8232000120732

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Question:
I am a European woman living in New York. Why is it that Caribbean blacks are, on first contact, friendly and open with me, while American blacks are often distrustful?
POSTED 8/24/2000
J.G., Staten Island, NY, United States, Female, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, writer, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 8242000123822

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Question:
What images do people of various backgrounds have of Finland? What do they know about my country?
POSTED 8/24/2000
Leila K., Rauma, n/a, Finland, 18, Female, Lutheran, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 824200040513

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Question:
Though it may be debated in some circles, I think it's safe to say that forms of sexuality and sexual practice like heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality and genital, anal and oral sex are pretty much conventional and engaged in by all races. However, why is it that the most disgusting, crazed and depraved forms of sexuality (things like incest, being beaten until bruised or scarred, bestiality, being fisted, drinking urine, being defecated upon, necrophilia, etc.) are almost always the province of whites? What's that about?
POSTED 7/15/2000
T. Davis, Las Vegas, NV, United States, 25, Male, Agnostic, Black/African American, Straight, Supervisor, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 715200071735

Responses:
Depravity and 'unacceptable behavior' seem to go hand-in-hand with civilization. Civilization breeds boredom. And for the moment, Western civilization seems to be run by white men. I believe many people wish to experience sensations that are unacceptable inside their society. The limits of what is acceptable are set by the common experience of that society. Where I live, snowboarding or mountain climbing are perverse and unacceptable. On the other hand, drugs and misogynistic sexual behavior are a way of life. I believe sooner or later that we will find out that people of many cultures are performing the same selfish acts that many white men are known to do (via various media, which is limited in many arenas). I think it all comes down to access to information. Like any other drug, sexual stimulation can have expanding tolerance levels, and people are eager to find out how far they can go before something kills or injures them.
POSTED 8/21/2000
Ulysses N., Detroit, MI, United States, <unewkirk2@hotmail.com>, Male, Multicultural, Artist, Technical School, Mesg ID 72500123934

I am white, and as a married woman I enjoy frequent sex with my husband. Ordinary intercourse and oral sex are the only practices in which we indulge. I occasionally masturbate with my hand when I have trouble falling asleep. So, although I'm white, you can say that I do not have any interest in the sexual practices you mention. My point is that I don't think that the phenomenon you mention is a racial one.
POSTED 8/24/2000
Caryn, Corvallis, OR, United States, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Mesg ID 8222000112311
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Question:
I was wondering if any night-shift workers use melatonin supplements to help them sleep during the day. If so, do they work, and what are the side effects, if any, that you recognize?
POSTED 8/22/2000
Slyosa, San Jose, CA, United States, 21, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 821200024404
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Question:
My girlfriend is overweight. I love her and care a lot about her, and I try not to talk about this in front of her because it is a very sensitive thing for both of us, and I do not want it to be an obstacle for us. For those people who have an overweight partner, how do you deal with this subject, and what are some things you do to make things work out?
POSTED 8/21/2000
Oscar, Washington, DC, United States, 31, Male, Catholic, Hispanic/Latino, Straight, waiter, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 8202000101659

Responses:
I think it's wonderful that you want to be sensitive about your girlfriend's extra pounds. As someone who is overweight married to someone who is not, I can give you a bit of advice. Compliment her, including about her body, but never insincerely. Do not make comments on what she eats or how much. Do not suggest that she lose weight, but if she truly wants to do it for herself, be as supportive as possible. Do not insist on knowing exactly how much she weighs or what size clothes she wears. Whatever you do, do not make her weight a big issue. Just be natural. You said that you don't want to talk about it with her, but if you do decide that you want to be more intimate and open about everything, I would suggest you start by telling her about some sensitive issue of your own: your stuttering problem as a teenager, your shyness, the abuse you suffered as a child, how you feel about being a minority, something like that. Maybe then she would feel more free to talk about her own struggles.
POSTED 8/24/2000
C.P., Montreal, Quebec, NA, Canada, 22, Female, Mesg ID 8222000123123
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Question:
I remember seeing a Sikh with a turban. He was in some of my classes in college, and I noticed every so often that he would be wearing a different color turban. Does the color have any kind of significance (religious holiday or time of year, etc.), or is it just what he felt like wearing that day?
POSTED 8/21/2000
J., Snow, NA, Canada, 32, Male, Native American, Native American/American Indian, Straight, librarian, 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 8182000115224
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Question:
We have a business in which we give estimates. Why does it seem that natives of India who are professionals want to bargain about the price we give, sometimes even after the work is completed?
POSTED 8/21/2000
J.L. Burns, Tuscaloosa, AL, United States, 43, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, administrative assistant, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 818200053605

Responses:
I don't think that it's just an Indian thing. I've been to a lot of places where bargaining over the price of some things is expected. That's the way it is here in Israel. It's just that in the United States it's not done that way and you have no experience dealing with it. The foreigners you deal with instinctively feel that the price you quote is an outrageously overpriced opening bid and expect it to come down.
POSTED 8/22/2000
Jesse N., Herzliya, NA, Israel, 41, Male, Engineer, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 822200015822

From what I understand from Indian friends, bargaining is part of the culture in India. It's just part of what happens. In the United States, many people see bargaining as low class or tacky and a sign that you cannot afford the services or products you wish to purchase. But in many other cultures, bargaining is the way things are done. In fact, if someone takes the first price a vendor quotes, that person is seen as a sucker.
POSTED 8/24/2000
Lucy H., San Jose, CA, United States, 25, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 821200033619
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Question:
I just finished reading The Bell Curve, which states that of all the races, blacks have the lowest IQ. I know you can attribute this to supposed cultural biases, but why is it that blacks achieve such low scores on any tests they take?
POSTED 8/21/2000
Rufus M., Salterville, TN, United States, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Construction Manager, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 819200060552

Responses:
I am skeptical that black people achieve low scores on ANY test they take, and I am highly suspicious - as any critical thinker should be -of the motives of the author of The Bell Curve. Secondly, I believe socioeconomics play an important - if not the most important -part in determining test performance. Poverty affects health, mental and emotional development, access to quality education, exposure to bad influences and a host of other factors that may result in low test performance. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of people of color live on or below the poverty line. Studies corrected for socioeconomic status have disproven the notion that black people are inherently inferior mentally, and I don't believe that book of yours mentions these studies, sadly.
POSTED 8/22/2000
T.R., Newark, NJ, United States, Female, Black/African American, Ph.D student, Mesg ID 821200072450

I can't remember offhand who wrote The Bell Curve, but I do remember my physical anthropology professor telling my class that it was written by a renowned eugenicist. She recommended we read it for a laugh. It is not to be trusted.
POSTED 8/22/2000
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 22, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, barista, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 821200042113

Since you are researching the topic, might I suggest reading Stephan Jay Gould's book The Mismeasure of Man. It is very scientific and blows holes in any discussion of race and intelligence.
POSTED 8/22/2000
Steve, Houston, TX, United States, 43, Male, White/Caucasian, Corporate Cubicle Guy, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 821200034850

Isn't it funny you would ask this - I just read an article about this topic in the current (sports) issue of The New Yorker. Malcolm Gladwell, who is a fabulous thinker/essayist, wrote about why people sometimes 'choke' when the stakes are really high - in sports, academic life, whatever. He noted that when black kids are told they're being given a test to measure their IQ, they choke. When they're told the test is for statistical or research purposes only, they do exactly as well as non-blacks. He attributes this to self-fulfilling cultural expectations - the idea that stereotypes suggest they won't do well, so they don't. It wasn't clear in the article if this is because the kids unconsciously believe the stereotypes themselves, or just because they're so aware of them that they get really nervous. Interesting, though - it certainly supports the idea that their poor performance is not due to any kind of innate difference.
POSTED 8/22/2000
Sue, Toronto, Ontario, NA, Canada, 33, Female, White/Caucasian, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 821200025003

When people do these supposedly scientific studies, I wonder if they really take all factors into consideration. If you'd like to look, overall, at all IQ scores, I would assume blacks would do poorer than whites. But I don't believe the reasons are racial or genetic. There is a large percentage of poverty in black families. Single mothers are out working trying to feed their children and often don't have the time or resources to sit and read books and teach ABCs. I wonder if two middle-class children of similar family structure, one white, one black, took IQ tests, if there would be any difference. I bet if you looked at all the scores from poor, working-class families as a whole, they would have lower scores - not because of race, but because of the lack of time parents can spend teaching their children, going over homework with them, etc.
POSTED 8/24/2000
Danielle, Forked River, NJ, United States, 25, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 822200094131

The best reason to ignore the conclusions in The Bell Curve is the data it contains. It shows that, while the scores obtained differed by race, the range of scores for each race far exceeded the difference between them. In other words, many very bright blacks were measured as much more intelligent than many whites. This suggests - and there is more evidence for this emerging - that IQ measures are culture-bound. White Americans created the tests in their culture; inevitably they score better.
POSTED 8/24/2000
Paul, Brisbane, NA, Australia, 56, Male, Wiccan, White/Caucasian, Straight, Academic, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 823200044751
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Question:
What are Amish beliefs? Why do the Amish not use modern conveniences, such as automobiles or electricity? What does an Amish day consist of? Also, I'd like to know about their building talents, from furniture to barns.
POSTED 8/21/2000
Linda E, Flint, MI, United States, 53, Female, White/Caucasian, Technical School, Mesg ID 819200073511

Responses:
I grew up surrounded by Amish communities in Geauga, Ohio. Contrary to myth, the Amish do not reject all modern advancements and are not 'stuck in time.' Central to their religion is simplicity and humility. Their society does change, but much more slowly and deliberately than ours. For example, most Amish clothing uses hooks rather than buttons or zippers, simply because they work fine and everyone in the community can have them. The Amish will make concessions to modern equipment; they just don't bring it into their homes. They will travel in buses and cars but won't drive. When I was in high school, I often was hired by the Amish, who produced maple syrup in the spring. The entire elaborate operation was manual, using human and horsepower except for one gasoline-driven pump that moved the sap to the roof of the sugar bush. As a non-Amish, they could hire me to run the pump for them. This was a great improvement in safety, whereas before heavy sap containers had to be hand-lifted, in cold winter weather, to the roof, and many an accident happened when someone slipped. Consequently there had been lengthy community debate before acquiring the pump. They paid me in one gallon cans of maple syrup.
POSTED 8/22/2000
Steve, Houston, TX, United States, 43, Male, White/Caucasian, Corporate Cubicle Kind of Guy, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 821200043306
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Question:
I live in a small, white and working-class town. I work in a grocery store and often notice people's hands. I have noticed that a lot of people have homemade 'jailhouse' tattoos of a small cross in the web of the hand between the thumb and index finger. Does it mean something? Is it a regional thing?
POSTED 8/21/2000
Iris, Wahoo, NE, United States, 32, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, clerk, High School Diploma , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 8202000113755

Responses:
Where I come from those tattoos are called 'placas' and are generally a sign of affiliation with a person's barrio or neighborhood. Getting a placa can be part of a comming-of-age ritual, or part of being accepted into the gang. But just having a placa does not necessarily mean the person is a gang member. Many people get involved in gangs as kids and then get out later on.
POSTED 8/21/2000
Lucy H., San Jose, CA, United States, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Mesg ID 8212000113712
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Question:
My boyfriend is in his mid-thirties and does not like for me to look at his penis. After we have sex, he covers his penis up. When he showers or needs to get dressed, he will change in another room. He even gets offended if I sneak a peek at it. He said he does this because he is shy. We've been together a little more than a year and he still doesn't feel comfortable being naked in front of me. Is this normal, especially for a man in his mid-thirties? I don't think it is, and wonder if perhaps he was abused as a child or something. I've always thought that men were proud of their tools. It seems like he's ashamed of it or something. I don't think he's ashamed of the size, either.
POSTED 8/17/2000
J.W., Newark, NJ, United States, 25, Female, Methodist, Black/African American, Straight, Customer Support Administrator, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 815200044428

Responses:
As a man in my thirties, I can relate to the same problem of being self-conscious of my genitals. Maybe your boyfriend got sized up one day in gym class and hasn't been the same since. I speak for all men when I say we are never happy with our genitals. Even if a man has a rather large penis, he may complain about the shape, color or even the way it dangles. I was the same way with my girlfriend (now my wife), and she couldn't understand it, either. My suggestion is just to give him time. Simply don't bring up the subject and eventually he'll realize that if it doesn't matter to you, it shouldn't matter to him. Eventually, he'll come around.
POSTED 8/21/2000
Murray C., Halifax, Nova Scotia, NA, Canada, 32, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Draftsman, Technical School , Middle class, Mesg ID 818200072924
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Question:
All my life I have been searching (more or less actively) for what I believe in and a form of religion that felt right to me. My family is Catholic, but I always had great doubts about many of the Church's teachings and practices. My mom has been fairly open-minded, but for my father, openly questioning my faith was never an option. His parents are also very strict Catholics, more active in practice than my father, so I have never raised any questions with them because I fear it would break their hearts. Over the past few months, I have been attending a Quaker meeting, and for the first time I feel really comfortable in a religious setting and very much in concordance with their beliefs and practices. I believe I have found my niche. I have told my mom and she is happy for me and has offered to speak with my father about it for me. I am scared about telling my father; the other night I dreamed he found out that I had chosen another religion and was enraged and upset. Does anyone have suggestions on how to tell my father and grandparents, or has anyone faced similar circumstances before with their family?
POSTED 8/17/2000
Shelly, Pittsburgh, PA, United States, 25, Female, Quaker, White/Caucasian, research, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 8162000101125

Responses:
Tell him that you love him and that you will always love him. Tell him that you have been searching and have found meaning in your new church home. Tell him you are happy. Don't try to convert anybody or put your beliefs up as more correct than theirs. Respect the beliefs of your parents as valid and don't distance yourself from them. After that, it is their choice whether to respect and love you. You have to be true to yourself. Pray for wisdom. I have lived a similar situation, and as I view it, the tree has many branches. The meaning of religion is 'binding together.' Any religion or expression of religion that has the opposite effect is questionable in my mind.
POSTED 8/21/2000
Jeff, San Antonio, TX, United States, 46, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, HR Professional, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 818200083645

I believe in a religion different from my parents. I know that if they knew, they would be heartbroken and angry. I have chosen not to tell them because A) It would drive a deep wedge in a currently excellent relationship B) I don't feel that my spiritual beliefs are any of their business, and C) I don't attend religious services of any kind, so my beliefs are truly privately held, so I don't feel a need to tell people who don't understand them. Sometimes I feel that I may be a coward and a hypocrite about this matter, but I know that my silence is preventing a lot of harm. I'm not saying that I recommend my choice, just that I wanted to share this with you. Good luck to you. I don't think your wish to tell your father is wrong, just that you should be prepared for fallout if you tell him.
POSTED 8/21/2000
Caren, Corvallis, OR, United States, Female, Mesg ID 817200071241
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Question:
I was watching Big Brother on TV with a friend. I said I thought Eddie was really great. My friend said, 'How can you look at a man with one leg gone?' It doesn't matter to me - he's strong, funny, open and handsome. Why would girls not want to go out with Eddie?
POSTED 8/11/2000
Jayne, New York, NY, United States, 24, Female, Catholic, Asian, Straight, media planner, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 7142000100446

Responses:
Unfortunately, people still have prejudice toward people with handicaps. I watch that show all the time, and I have to admit that Eddie is pretty strong. I bet if Eddie were a millionaire, your friend would have a different opinion of him!
POSTED 8/21/2000
Cherita, San Francisco, CA, United States, 20, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, College Student, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 817200011254
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Question:
Which restroom do transsexuals use? I mean, a man who tries to be a woman? Please excuse my ignorance, but I am trying to open myself to the world. Also, does transsexualism have anything to do with homosexuality?
POSTED 8/10/00
Robert, Phoenix, AZ, United States, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Gay, Less than High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 890085908

Responses:
As a single Christian woman, I attempt to live as chaste a life as I can. This means that until marriage, I will remain celibate. This is not just a random decision ... it is a way of life. I object strenuously to men being in the same bathroom with me. Is the need of a sexually confused person to be 'reassured' more important than my right to privacy?
POSTED 8/13/2000
Amanda K., Jacksonville, FL, United States, <POSITIVEVIBES@iwon.com>, 44, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Self-Employed, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 811200014511

To Amanda: As to your 'right of privacy,' do you let women sit in the stall with you, but not men, and feel private? Do you use only those public restrooms that are single-occupancy? Have you ever discovered a transgendered person using the restroom with you?
POSTED 8/21/2000
Greg, Sacramento, CA, United States, 37, Male, Taoist, White/Caucasian, Straight, counseling, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 8192000112422

First, I find Amanda's sermonizing response to be judgmental and offensive. I don't understand how your choice to remain celibate until marriage has anything to do with the original question of what restroom transsexuals use, or the similarity of transsexuality and homosexuality. Second, to respond to the original question, transsexuals use the restroom of the gender they choose to live as. Male-to-female transsexuals use the ladies room. Female-to-male transsexuals use the mens room. As to your second question, transsexuality and homosexuality are two different things. Transsexuals live as a different gender than what they were born as. Homosexuals are sexually attracted to people of their same gender.
POSTED 8/21/2000
Darren H, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 38, Male, Recovering Mormon, White/Caucasian, Gay, Over 4 Years of College,Mesg ID 815200072421

Pre-op transsexuals are expected to live the life of the sex to which they wish to be reassigned, including using the appropriate restrooms if necessary. Transsexuals identify themselves as members of the sex opposite from the one they are born as and can be either homo- or heterosexual. Homosexuals choose partners of the same sex. That does not mean they identify as members of the opposite sex. As we learn more about the human body, genetics and the chemistry that makes us up, we will gain insight into what makes us one sex or the other (besides the obvious genetilia) and how all the variations in between happen. Meanwhile, consider this: evidence suggests these things are not conscious choices. We are born with chemical switches that determine our sexual identities and orientations.
POSTED 8/21/2000
N.J. Smith, Akron, OH, United States, <ranebow@iname.com>, 45, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Lesbian, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 819200094931
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