Best of the Week
of Aug. 23, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Aug. 23, 1998, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you 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 our guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.


THE QUESTION:
R435: What is the origin and significance in Hispanic culture of grieving (weeping) until one passes out after the death of a loved one? This was widespread after the recent death of a popular local girl.

POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
J. Cook, 43, white <
evll92a@prodigy.com>, Fillmore, CA
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THE QUESTION:
GD27: I would like to know what the benefit is of valuing diversity. I have worked and played with groups that are single-sex and single-race, as well as groups of mixed sex/race. I have not seen any benefits from having mixed groups. I seem to have just as much fun or get just as much done in either one. I want to know how specifically I and my neighbors will live better if we have a diverse neighborhood or work place. I really don't want answers related to oppression or power groups, etc. What I want is a practical answer I can use on a day-to-day basis.
POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
Lorne W., 50, white male <
woody141@hotmail.com>, Los Angeles, CA
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THE QUESTION:
SO28: Are people who are extremely homophobic really closet gays afraid to come out?
POSTED MAY 2, 1998
Human Relations Class, T.J. High School <
jskradski@council-bluffs.k12.ia.us>, Council Bluffs, IA

ANSWER 1:
I have not seen convincing evidence to confirm or deny this. While some extemely homophobic people may have suppressed homosexual desires and project their fear and hatred of these hidden feelings onto others, my guess is that for many people, homophobic behavior possibly serves different functions.

For those who engage in arson, physical assault and other violent forms of gay bashing, such behavior may engender feelings of power over a perceived easy scapegoat (just as against other targeted groups). Threats and violence may be used to intimidate gay people. However, the most widespread if not most virulent homophobic behavior I have witnessed has been generated or inspired by organized groups, often with specific political, membership-drive or fund-raising goals in mind. This will often show up during political campaigns, school board elections, corporate approval of domestic partnersip benefits or any time that expansion of some civil right to include gay, lesbian and bisexual people is under consideration.
POSTED MAY 17, 1998
DykeOnByke <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield , MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
I read a report stating that about 80 percent of a sample of highly homophobic men developed erections when shown pictures of male-to-male sexual interaction. (Yes, researchers measure erection directly). Unfortunately, the report I read didn't include crucial information on what percentage of non-homophobic, straight-identified men showed erections to these pictures. If, for example, it turns out that men get erections when shown any kind of sexual activity, the reported results would not be meaningful. Anyone have more complete information?
POSTED MAY 20, 1998
Will H., 48, Euro-American, gay, Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
To Will: In a more complete write-up on the study, there was a control group of non-homophobic straight males whose responses to gay porn were drastically lower than those of the homophobes. Non-homophobic straight guys tended to see gay porn and think "whatever" and have very little response to it. Makes sense to me; that's how I feel about straight porn: Whatever.
POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
Max M.,44, gay male <
qteacher@pacbell.net>, Oakland, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R338: Why do people from Mexico and South America tend to have more than two children? It feels like even second- and third-generation families are very large in the United States.
POSTED AUG. 5, 1998
L.M., 31, white female, <
merry@dcn.davis.ca.us>, Davis, CA

ANSWER 1:
Being a male of Mexican-American descent, I can say that most of the Latin community is Catholic. Traditional Catholics do not believe in birth control, but they still like to have sex. Also, most Latinos are very family-oriented. Unfortunately, what you are seeing is mostly uneducated Latinos, who come to this country to seek a better future, and they soon learn of the free money they can get from welfare if they keep making babies. I know it sounds terrible, but it's true. An educated Latino who is successful in his or her own country will not come to the United States to live a policed and controlled life.
POSTED AUG. 6, 1998
C.E., Mexican American, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
There are five basic causes for this: 1) Four or five decades ago, many people in Latin America lived in the country and needed cheap labor. Having many children was one way to supply the labor deficit. 2) The influence of the Catholic Church in the education of Latin American people. Because the Church doesn't allow birth control methods, many people don't use them. 3) It was easier in Latin America to raise a child some years ago than it is today. 4) For the Hispanic culture, family is very important. All the social life develops around the family. So the bigger the family the better. 5) A long time ago, because of poor medical infrastructure, if a woman had five children, at least two of them died. To prevent that, old Latin American families used to have many children.
POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
N.G., 26, South American, Pasadena, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R418: Why are so many East Indians named Patel? I know it's not possible for them to all be related.
POSTED AUG. 14, 1998
Sanford, 51, black <
sfinley@earthlink.net>, Naperville, IL

ANSWER 1:
It may seem that way in the United States, but it's not true of Indians in general. "Patel" is a very popular family name in the state of Gujraat in India. It so happens that of the Indian population in the United States, Gujraatis make up a disproportionate chunk. Why that might be is a matter of conjecture. Some popular hypotheses: Gujraatis are more business-oriented/enterprising, etc.; immigrant Gujraatis tend to get their entire extended families to immigrate too, more so than other immigrant groups ,etc. I am not sure if anybody has done a proper study of this topic. It will be very interesting to know for sure.
POSTED AUG. 27, 1998
C., Indian male <
p2k4@hotmail.com>, MI
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THE QUESTION:
D22: What do deaf people think when you try to communicate with them in sign language? I learned the fingerspelling alphabet when I was younger and a few assorted signs, but I'm very slow. Do you appreciate the effort, or feel frustrated at the difficulty in communication? A deaf woman is a regular at one of my jobs, and I'd like her to feel comfortable.
POSTED AUG. 25, 1998
Isabelle, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R416: Why is it that some black people in chat rooms call white people "white devils"?
POSTED AUG. 13, 1998
Molson, 19, white <
molson_c@hotmail.com>, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

ANSWER 1:
In my opinion, the devil is often associated with death and destruction. I feel white people have shown themselves through history to be the devil. Examples include: 1) the production and releasing of nuclear weapons and atomic bombs; 2) the killings of several races or cultures by the Ku Klux Klan, through biological weapons such as AIDS or through the introduction of drugs; 3) the constant development of more powerful guns and weapons, ships and submarines; and 4) the constant belief of superiority over others. In my opinion, the white man is clearly the equivalent to my definition of the devil.
POSTED AUG. 21, 1998
Rita, black female, Newport News, VA

FURTHER NOTICE:
It's easy to see how Answer 1 could be arrived at. So many black Americans are still treated with hate by many white Americans. However, evil behavior is like any other stupid behavior - it does not discriminate. I feel hateful acts by blacks are not made very visible because many in the media are afraid of "offending" black Americans and being accused of further racism. The problem is that because blacks still endure racism in this country, many feel that when black Americans do something hateful, they should not be held accountable for it. This creates a double standard that is both confusing and destructive. If I as a gay American commit a hateful act, the fact that I have been discriminated against does not give me the right to do it. I feel this issue is a significant barrier to improving race relations in America
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
Lesbian, 45, female <
pridewks@centraltx.net>, Kempner, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
To Rita: 1) Nuclear reactions also gives us tons of electricity. We just need to figure out how to dispose off that radioactive waste. 2) I wasn't aware that AIDS was a biological weapon. 3) And hence this freedom we enjoy in the United States. And the technology that goes into it is pretty cool, too (I am not advocating war; I just like those cool gadgets on Apache helicopters and Stealth bombers!)
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
S.L , 22, American, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I am surprised the moderator posted Answer 1. It seems to me the message was one of hatred and misinformation. Rita gave as evidence that whites are the devil the creation and use of bombs and creation of better guns and other weapons. My father works in the defense industry, where his Asian, African American, Native American, Hispanic, European, male and female co-workers all contribute to the creation of bigger, better weapons and fighter planes. I don't see how this can be attributed solely to white males. In addition, I was most surprised to see Rita's assertion that the white man is responsible for "biological weapons such as AIDS." Is there some evidence I am unaware of that white men created this disease? I have never heard such an accusation. Please either educate me on why these allegations are or may be true, or stop posting such hate-filled responses.
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
Michelle, 26, white, St. Louis, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
To Rita: Newport News would not even be on the map if it were not for those evil submarines. And if memory serves me correctly, was not AIDS originally an African disease?
POSTED AUG. 25, 1998
Tim, 49, white, Syracuse, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I am glad to see Rita's answer. While I agree with Michelle that hate is involved, I also see a large magnitude of honesty. I believe part of this country's problems are due to the quieting of the unpleasant. However, it seems to me her examples are after the fact, and I have to wonder what initiated her belief. I have read that Black Muslims truly believe the white race stemmed from the devil incarnate, and I wonder if this reason is involved in her answer.
POSTED AUG. 25, 1998
Mark, 37, CO

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
To Michelle: I believe you missed the point of the "Y" forum. It's supposed to be an international exchange of cross-cultural, gender and racial questions, and answers. It is not supposed to be all nice and tidy answers.
POSTED AUG. 25, 1998
L.W. 24, black female, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
To Rita: I feel it is unfortunate that hatred, racism and half-truths have shaped your opinions of white people. But equally unfortunate is that you exhibit the same qualities you abhor. Each of us is reponsible first for ourselves. If racisim is to end, it must end first from within.
POSTED AUG. 25, 1998
M.O., 45, white male, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
To Molson: What I understand is that according to Elija Muhammed, the founder of the Nation of Islam, white people are basically devils, black people being the true children of God. Read Alex Haley's Malcom X or another history of the Nation of Islam for the whole story.
POSTED AUG. 27, 1998
Bakum, white Jewish male <
bakum@bigfoot.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
To L.W.: I think most of the people who have written in opposition to Rita's statements, including Michelle, have a good understanding of the rules of this forum. They object to Rita's answer for many reasons, all personal and subjective, but they point out that it seems to violate the spirit of the forum. Why? These are the rules given by the forum itself: It does not accept submissions that "contain broad, presumptive statements, internal bias or falsehoods," "contain language deemed hostile, profane, vulgar or abusive" or "deemed to be insincere, a prank, or designed to provoke or bait, rather than promote dialogue." Rita's answer violates all of these rules. Her statements are extremely racist, and one might wonder whether a similar statement against blacks or some other minority would be so strongly defended. We, as a society of many differing cultures, need to denounce racism of all kinds, by all people.
POSTED AUG. 27, 1998
John K., 25, straight Irish-American male, <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
The term "white devil," in reference to white Americans, became popular when deceased Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X stated publicly his distrust and disdain of whites. The notion of being "devils" reflected that whites were considered evil and extremely toxic to civilization. These feelings are likely a result of white supremecy and America's long-term legacy of racism. Are whites literally devils? Certainly not. Has racism scarred relationships between blacks and whites? No doubt. Name calling is only one attempt to organize our feelings and thoughts around this difficult issue.
POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
D. West <
westde@hiram.edu>, Cleveland, OH
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THE QUESTION:
GE66: Why do many of the same women who battle sexual harassment seem so willing to forgive President Clinton for his actions and subsequent "misleading" of his family? Would they feel the same if he were a Republican?
POSTED AUG. 20, 1998
Dan, 34, voted for Clinton twice, Charlottesville, VA

ANSWER 1:
I'm a female who has been sexually harassed in the workplace, and I voted for Clinton twice. There is a difference between unwelcome sexual advances and a mutual affair such as the one Clinton and Monica Lewinsky apparently engaged in. That's not to say the affair was right, but in my opinion Lewinsky was not sexually harassed if she was a willing participant. Sexual harassment, if I have it correctly, means unwelcome advances from one person to another with the sometimes veiled threat that the unwilling party will not advance in their career if they don't bestow sexual favors on the other person.
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
Jane F., 38, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
As a woman who voted for Clinton twice and would do it again ... I'm a strong believer in battling sexual harassment, but what Clinton did is not sexual harassment. He had an "affair," consensual sex. It's between him, his wife and their daughter. I didn't choose him to be my husband, but my president. As long as he does a good job, what he does in his personal life is irrelevant. He's not the first president to have an affair; far from it. I would feel the same way if it were a Republican.
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
Christina <
frankieox@aol.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I feel the individuals who belong to these groups are liberals first and feminists second. There first commitment is to liberalism.
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
Frank, 48, <
Maximo@aug.com>, St. Augustine, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Unwelcome advances are one part of the definition of sexual harassment. The rest of the definition involves whether Monica Lewinsky received benefits in the workplace that were not available to those who did not have (consensual) sex with the President. It's not just the small trinkets. She was given a paid position in first the White House and then the Pentagon. A $600-and-hour lawyer (Vernon Jordon) tried to get her a job at Revlon. This is the same Monica who was painted by the White House earlier this year as a nut and slut, bimbo, and someone completely untrustworthy. Clinton also used his position as President to "wow" a 22-year-old intern. Had he been Joe Blow on the street, it would have been merely crude of him. As her superior, he took advantage of her awe.

If Clinton can lie to the courts (perjury), why can't everyone else? Because he's the President? We do not have a constitutional monarchy. He swore to uphold the laws and the constitution of the United States and failed to do so. He has no moral character.
POSTED AUG. 25, 1998
J. Storm, female, Salem, OR

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THE QUESTION:
A21: Why are many old people, in my opinion, so mean and grumpy?
POSTED JULY 18, 1998
Brian W. <
CoyoteBw@aol.com>, Lincroft, NJ

ANSWER 1:
As a grocery store checkout worker, I have observed that many elderly are lonely or in physical pain.
POSTED AUG. 1, 1998
Christopher D., 22 <
alphacentuari@mindspring.com>, Arlington, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
Amen to that, Christopher. In junior high we had a substitute teacher who was extremely cranky and could not tolerate any noise or disturbance. I heard we were slated to have this elderly woman for a month while the teacher was out for health reasons, and we were dreading the experience. After a few weeks, I gradually got to know her better, and found out she had a lot of insight about many things. She was still very irritable, however, and years later, I found out why. It turns out she had bone cancer in her leg, which was a source of constant physical pain for her, in addition to immobilizing her and being a death sentence. It's probably the case that most elderly people, like the rest of us, are doing the best they know how, most of the time. If you know of any lonely old widows in your neighborhood, I would urge you to go talk with them every now and then.
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
Mike, 27, Salt Lake City, UT

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I have worked in many old people's homes as a caretaker. I agree that a lot of old people are grumpy - I'm not so sure about the mean part. I agree with Mike and Christopher that a lot of the grumpiness can come from pain. But I think there are additional reasons why the elderly can be grumpy, bad-tempered or depressed. For example, loneliness, frustration, mental illness or boredom. I once found a very elderly woman trying to hit a younger elderly man over the head with her zimmer frame (this is not a joke) and at first her caretakers were worried for her mental health, as senility can cause aggression in some people. As it turned out, she was just bored and was trying to liven things up a bit. Being bad-tempered can often get more of a reaction out of people than being quiet and polite.
POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
Liz, 24 <
Elizabeth.Baines@bbsrc.ac.uk>, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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THE QUESTION:
R388: It seems to me that many black people, despite the fact that they are intelligent, believe in irrational conspiracy theories. Why is this?
POSTED JULY 29, 1998
B. Douglas, white, Charleston, SC

ANSWER 1:
The experience of black people (and gay people) is that we are indeed conspired against, and when we speak out, we are called irrational. This is not the experience of most white people.
POSTED AUG. 7, 1998
Max H., queer irrational conspiracy victim, Oakland, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I believe you're correct when you observe that blacks tend to subscribe to numerous conspiracy theories. As to the rationality (or lack thereof) of these theories, please recall that the white power structure has done some fairly bizarre things to black people over the years. As an example, white America was only recently made aware that poor, Southern blacks were used as guinea pigs in the 1930s to see the effects of syphilis on the human body. Also recall that until very recently what the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution said were in direct disharmony with the reality of black existence in this country. Therefore, when you consider that blacks, like any other intelligent beings, learn from history, it stands to reason we would often doubt the "official" version of events.
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
Sanford F., 51, Afro American <
sfinley@earthlink.net>, Naperville, IL
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THE QUESTION:
R430: In San Francisco recently there was a debate over required reading in the public high school district. It broke down to a race issue. I continually heard the statement that the kids needed to read from authors who reflected their ethnicity to feel more positive about themselves. Is it possible this line of thinking could cause us to slip toward a situation similar to that of Bosnia?
POSTED AUG. 21, 1998
R.M.D., 32, white <
misterdillon@yahoo.com>, San Jose, CA

ANSWER 1:
Personally, I don't feel reading books by "dead white authors" is of value to my child. But if it serves your child's needs, fine. I have a problem with white people dictating to me what I should teach my child. Teach your child what you want them to learn, but do not force your values, beliefs, and version of history on my child. Who determines what is classical literature anyway? White people? I don't think so. (Unfortunately, you won't see this message! Honesty on this board? Please.)
POSTED AUG. 23, 1998
Wanda, black female, MI
(Director's Note: Many of our users express curiosity about the types of submissions Y? receives that it ultimately decides not to post. Y? has posted the preceding answer unedited in order to provide an example of such a submission, one it normally would delete for not adhering to the constructive spirit of the forum - not so much for its content but for its tone. Of course, no undertaking of a project such as Y? can be scientific, and such decisions about what is meant to promote dialogue and what is designed to provoke confrontation will always be subject to the biases of the moderator(s). As always, Y? encourages and depends on the feedback of its users to provide a check on the decisions it makes regarding content posted.)

FURTHER NOTICE:
I was born and raised in Africa, and I am happy the school authorities made sure we got the best of the two worlds (African history and the Western world). The best way to educate children is to expose them to the different cultures and of course lay emphasis on their own culture. In my own understanding, America is a united country, and that means the different races that make up the country should be equally educated about one another. I believe that would eventually make the newer generations eager to bridge the racial gaps made by their predecessors.
POSTED AUG. 25, 1998
Ify <
ifebigh77@hotmail.com>, Miami, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
As a high school student, I am subject to reading the literature in question. Over the past years, the majority of the works I have read have been by European or white-American authors. The literature by authors of other ethnicities is usually not studied as thoroughly as American and European literature. I think it would benifit all students if we were educated more about other countries, ethnicities and cultures. This wide variety of exposure might teach American children that America is not the only "great civilization."
POSTED AUG. 27, 1998
Kia Baker, 15, black, Raleigh, NC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
To Wanda: If you are unhappy with the educational system, fight back. No one is forcing you to send your child to a public school. If you are unhappy with your child learning about dead white authors, petition your educators to provide a more ethnically diverse curriculum. And why would you want black history to be taught, but not others' cultures such as European studies? I happen to work for a publisher who produces multicultural studies. They're available; demand them. It's not the school's sole responsibilty to educate your child. I am a single parent who majored in English. I stress standard English in my home because it is a valuable tool (and before you ask, we use our own dialect as well). My children have several books about and by blacks. We also read books by and about other peoples. How can I teach my children to command respect without teaching them to respect others?
POSTED AUG. 27, 1998
Zawadi, 33, black female, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
To Wanda: For much of history, works of literature were produced only by rich, white males, so if you want a better understanding of our heritage, that's what you need to read. Reading European literature exclusively is no longer necessary or advisable, but if you are interested in having your child learn about his or her world, it might be a good idea to expose him or her to the predominant forces that shaped our world. While I do not appreciate your trying to disrupt a forum like this that I enjoy by making charges of dishonesty and would prefer folks like you be kept off, it's good for me to know people like you exist, so I can learn how you think and better protect myself from you.
POSTED AUG. 27, 1998
Steve, KS

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Why would anyone, regardless of race/ethnicity, deny their child the opportunity of being exposed to all literature? While I have read and enjoyed many great books by authors of African descent (most of my personal library content), I would have greatly limited my exposure if I had not read authors of other ethnic/racial backgrounds. While we have a reponsibility to make sure authors of all racial and ethnic backgrounds are made available to our children, they should be encouraged to read and enjoy a book, regardless of the author's ethnicity.
POSTED AUG. 27, 1998
Stephanie Y., 34, African American <
r_young@ix.netcom.com>, Houston, TX
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THE QUESTION:
R413: I notice that many Asians have difficulty using the "s" sound after words to indicate the plural. For example, they might say "two dollar" instead of "two dollars." I also notice the difficulty in using the "c" sound, for example saying "Ni try" instead of "Nice try." Why is this, or is it just my imagination?
POSTED AUG. 12, 1998
Paul S., 61 white male <
paul@ioc.net>, Mission Viejo, CA

ANSWER 1:
I am a Thai-speaking Asian. The reason for the difficulty is not in pronouncing the "s" sound or the "c" sound, but because in Thai, the noun does not change, i.e. there is no addition of an "s," whether the word is singular or plural. In Chinese (from what I know) this is also the case, except for some exceptions where the noun is given a different spelling. In Thai the "s" and "c" sounds normally come at the beginning of the word. Words ending with the Thai eqivalent of "s" or "c" will be pronounced as a "d" or an "n". For example, SAS-SA-NA (in Thai means religion) will be pronounced as SAD-SA-NA. So it is not that we cannot pronounce the "s" or "c" - it is that in speech we are not automatically programmed to add the "s" to the noun in plural.
POSTED AUG. 13, 1998
Kanokwan, Thai-Chinese <
kanokwanp@hotmail.com>, Bangkok, Thailand

FURTHER NOTICE:
Ditto that to the Japanese language as well. There is no plural form for nouns. An English counterpart for this convention would be a word such as "deer."
POSTED AUG. 24, 1998
David S., Japanese-American <
Dsugimoto@aol.com>, San Antonio, TX
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