Best of the Week
of Aug. 29, 1999

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Aug. 29, 1999, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing our new database using our search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in our 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. 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.


Question:
What are the religious differences between Protestant Christians and Roman Catholics? Also, what does the making of the sign of the cross signify? My guess is for protection, or giving thanks?
POSTED 9/3/1999
A.P., N/A, N/, United States, 17, Mesg ID 93199962121
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Question:
Is it true that people in Mexico do not like Hispanic Americans?
POSTED 9/3/1999
D. Price, Albuquerque, NM, United States, <abqteachr@netscape.net>, Mesg ID 93199964353
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Question:
Why do some whites attempt to use aspects of Native American tribal religions, often through paying money for something? And when they do, why do they insist it's an attempt to 'honor' or 'join' us, when for the most part they don't live in or work for the benefit of our communities?
POSTED 9/3/1999
Angela P., Minneapolis, MN, United States, 22, Female, Mandan/Hidatsa/Cree, Mesg ID 93199964632
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Question:
Why is it that nurses, who are there to save your life, are paid less than the plumber down the street?
POSTED 9/3/1999
Tammy P., Jackson, CA, United States, <pearelli@volcano.net> , Female, Mesg ID 93199965300
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Question:
I grew up in Detroit and have had many friends of all races. One thing I have noticed: African Americans seem to be very loud and boisterous, even in everyday situations. My neighbors will shout across the street instead of walking or calling. I have not noticed this in other races. Are there any explanations?
POSTED 9/3/1999
Tracy P., Redford, MI, United States, <POP4443@aol.com> , 26, Male, White/Caucasian, Mesg ID 93199963213
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Question:
Why do men always feel funny asking for directions? Do they feel it challenges their masculinity? Are they trying to impress women? I am not impressed when a man shows up late because he gets lost. Why do they do this?
POSTED 9/1/1999
Shelby, Colorado Springs, CO, United States, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, Mesg ID 679931648

Responses:
What about the stereotype that most women are bad at finding their way even when they do have directions? Men and directions is a stereotype. It gets a lot of laughs, kind of the male equivalent of dumb blond jokes. Research indicates that, in general, male brains are hard-wired to view the world in a way that is spacially different from females. I don't know if that is true, but personally I am not uncomfortable in being lost. I enjoy trying to figure out how to get back unlost, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I feel the same whether I am with someone or alone. Getting directions ruins the fun. Besides, asked-for directions are usually crap and get you further lost.
POSTED 9/3/1999
Steve, Houston, TX, United States, 38, Male, White/Caucasian, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 91199911309

I think it boils down to men feeling the need to be independent, self-reliant, strong, capable, etc. I think you can point to society for that, or just human genetics. 'Boys don't cry,' that kind of thing. Some people don't realize that boys and men have this pressure to be strong and not complain or need help. Asking for directions shows weakness, which is a big deal for a lot of men. And furthermore, it seems many women admire those qualities in men (strength and control) so it ties into that - not necessarily to impress a woman by not asking directions, but a general sense of needing to be capable and in control.
POSTED 9/3/1999
Joe, San Francisco, CA, United States, 32, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Graphic Artist, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 93199925454
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Question:
Why do so many mentally disabled people have such poor-looking haircuts and "nerdy" clothes? Wouldn't they get a little more acceptance if their caretakers dressed them more like "regular" people? They stand out enough as it is without the clownish-looking clothes. There are many simple haircuts and clothing styles that would look good and provide for more assimilation.
POSTED 8/31/1999
Penny, Des Moines, IA, United States, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Teacher, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 829199913656

Responses:
I was a caretaker for years working with the mentally and physically disabled. First, let's get one thing out of the way. They are regular people, just as regular as a disabled war vet, a woman who has lost her legs in an accident, etc. They are disabled, not irregular. The greatest reasons for the differences in clothes and haircuts are non-caring and money. If a disabled child is a ward of the state, he or she gets a small stipend that their personal needs must come out of. The clients I took care of got $55 a month. This paid for toiletries, haircuts, clothes, field trips, etc. So you bought the best clothes you could afford, which meant they were not in style. If they weren't state wards, their parents would provide more, which is why you would see children of wealthy parents better dressed and groomed. But the poor parents tried very hard, also. Again, look at the cost of clothes. And you simply have many people, caretakers, parents, social workers who just don't care. The vast majority do, but many do not. The child is an "embarassment." A final reason that ties in with not caring is the abilities of some of these people. Low-functioning children like those I worked with (my teenagers had the intelligence equivalent of a 2-year-old) are very rough on clothes. Many soil their clothes, spill food and drink on them, etc., just as little children would do. If you have to change them four times a day, what would the cost of clothing come to? But money is far and away the biggest reason. If you don't like the way they look, become a friend to one, and pay for their clothing and haircuts. If we all did this, just think how much better off they would be. I know the staff where I worked did as much as we could. But with 50 children, and when you only earn $7 an hour, how much can you do? If the people who take care of these wonderful human beings get so little, imagine how much the clients get.
POSTED 9/1/1999
JeniB, Boston, MA, United States, <JeniB@vjmail.com>, 33, Jewish, White/Caucasian, Straight, Software Technician, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 8311999111907

I worked with developmentally disabled for more than three 3 years. It is a very taxing experience. In most cases, the most simple haircuts are chosen because the goal is to help teach the individuals how to take care of themselves. As far as the clothing, most agencies and individuals do not have a lot of money. Also, we try to allow the individuals themselves to pick out their own clothing. This allows them to have some control over thier own lives. We need to emphasize here, that what you are referring to is all 'lipstick and rouge.' Do you know what? We all need to look beyond that with all individuals. Even though the individuals I worked with were non-verbal, extremely developmentally disabled, and did not have stylish hair cuts, or stylish clothes, they touched my heart. I think of them often and wonder how they are doing. Their emotions are often unconditional even though many people have abandoned them in their lives. I think we all could take a lesson from them. They don't look at clothes, or hair or anything physical, they care just because.
POSTED 9/1/1999
Leah, Seattle, WA, United States, 28, Female, Paralegal, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 831199961844

First, because many mentally challenged people require extra care for daily tasks, caregivers often keep their clients' grooming to a very simple routine. It's a concept similar to giving recruits in basic training crew cuts, in part, so that they will not have to have a trim during basic. Second, some mentally challenged people require expensive care, and thus do not have a great deal of money to spend on a wardrobe. Some rely on clothing donated by others, which may be very worn, out of date, and mismatched. Third, most of the mentally challenged people I have met are much more comfortable with themselves than those of us who call ourselves normal. They wear what they like. It often reflects a bright, whimsical outlook on life. Finally, I have to express some concern about why you feel people have to assimilate to be accepted. Do people have to have a certain 'look' or act by a defined set of standards to have value? While I'm not necessarily offended by your asking the question, please take the opportunity to examine why you asked, because, as a teacher, the values you model will be passed on to the people you teach.
POSTED 9/1/1999
Stacee, Sugar Land, TX, United States, 30, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, TV production, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 831199925846

Two possible answers: 1)Social security and/or disability payments do not stretch very far, especially if you cannot hold a good-paying job. This limits the amount an individual can spend on clothes and haircuts. 2)Caring for a person who is mentally disabled may be an emotionally and financially draining situation. There may be increased medical bills or money must be spent for assistance from care providers. You also remarked in your question that mentally challenged people 'stand out' anyway. Maybe you are just noticing the clothes and haircuts because you are noticing the individual.
POSTED 9/1/1999
Greg, Denver, CO, United States, Male, Methodist, White/Caucasian, Gay, Law student, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 831199952151
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Question:
I have been an auto mechanic for 13 years. I have worked very hard to learn my profession, considering that cars have changed drastically over the years and I have to constantly re-educate myself to learn new and complex systems. But I'm still regarded as a grease monkey and a thief. Why hasn't public opinion of my profession changed in 50 years?
POSTED 8/31/1999
Curious, Taylor, MI, United States, Mesg ID 62999101916

Responses:
I would guess that the grease monkey opinion of mechanics is similar to the lower opinion that a lot of people have of certain types of manual labor. Maintenance people, factory workers, plumbers, etc. I don't get it, either. It's just a classist view some people take. My boss, who has worked in the same building for more than 10 years, was amazed that after six months of working there I knew the maintenance men's names. She asked 'How do you know their names?' My response was simply: 'I asked them.' I could tell she thought it was below her to even bother with such trivial matters. It is upsetting that people feel this way. At any moment a person can find themselves working at a job that they'd never 'stoop so low' to before. Also, every job, especially manual workers, is extremely important to the functioning of our world. I know it's a yucky thing to have to just suck it up and deal with it. I even have to do it as a college-educated consultant working at a university. You have no idea how many professors treat me like I am some idiot and talk down to me when they call me for help. They don't even see the irony in that - that they aren't capable of solving their own problems. They simply don't have those skills, much like the people who bring their cars to you don't have those skills. (I'm sure you can work in some psychology about how a person, when feeling insecure, demeans the other person who holds the power in that situation.) I love my mechanic and would hope I've never given him the impression that you get. I'm sure there are other customers who do. It's something you get in every customer-based job, probably more so in your profession than mine. It would be nice if more people did start to change their opinion of auto mechanics. Until it happens, you'll just have to continue to show yourself as the more socially evolved person!
POSTED 9/1/1999
Stacey, Northampton, MA, United States, <stimply@bigfoot.com>, 27, Female, Computer consultant, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 8311999103208

In my experience, trusting an auto mechanic can be a difficult decision. I have had good and bad experiences. My mechanic in Virginia turned out to be bad. He replaced my alternator with a 'new' model that died within a month. He also took a deposit on work that he never did, and refused to pay me back. On the other hand, my 'new' alternator died while I was moving to New Jersey, and I wound up having to get a mechanic in a small rural Virginia town to replace it. It would have been very easy for the mechanic to take advantage of the situation, but he charged a fair price and bent over backward to help. Unfortunately, I have to say that my bad experiences outnumber my good experiences, so I tend to distrust mechanics. In addition to personal experience, I can point to any number of undercover news programs that show examples of mechanics purposely damaging a vehicle to get more business, or charging a customer for work not needed or services not rendered. All of this has contributed to a stereotype that I have to resist. I can imagine that the experiences of others are similar.
POSTED 9/3/1999
John K., Cranford, NJ, United States, <jkeegan3@home.com> , 26, Male, Chemical Engineer, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 91199931738
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Question:
Why is it that whenever I hear something just totally crazy, something I would never have thought of doing, it's always white people who are doing it? For example, devil workship, white kids killing their own parents and other kids, and even weird sexual fetishes. I even saw something involving white kids eating human waste for a keg of beer. I don't see any people of color doing this kind of stuff, unless they grew up with white people or hang around them too much. I'm not talking about all white people because I have some cool white friends. But do many white people not have any self-esteem?
POSTED 8/27/1999
Cheemama, New York, NY, United States, 25, Female, American Indian/ Latino, Lesbian, Entrepreneur, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 825199980116

Responses:
I have to admit the keg of beer one was pretty weird. I suspect we all more sensitive to the outlandish things of other cultures and overlook our own. As a white 'burbs kind of guy, I think those souped-up cars that can hop up and down are pretty strange. But come to think of it, Sport Utility Vehicles that never leave the road (like mine) are kind of odd, also. Some of this is publicity, also. The media publish what they think their readers will read. The weird, disgusting stuff that "others" do always is interesting. (National Geographic Magazine has made hay with this for a century!) The weird, disgusting stuff that your own culture does is, frankly, just as weird and disgusting.
POSTED 8/27/1999
Steve, Houston, TX, United States, 38, Male, White/Caucasian, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 8271999100015

For the moment, I'll ignore the fact that you seem to imply that being around white people will make you some kind of sociopath. Part of the answer is numbers. Frankly, there are more white people around, so there is more of a chance that a white person will be involved in a behavior, or that the behavior will be noticed. The other part of the answer is that you are incorrect in your assumptions. White kids are hardly the only ones killing other kids or adults. Black-on-black violence is a quick example. Gang violence is also widespread, crossing ethnic boundaries. And for everyone who seems to think that all serial killers are white, what about that Latino serial killer who was arrested several weeks ago? So, getting back to the first point: Maybe you think that only white people do nasty things because you have a negative opinion of white people and fail to recognize the many valid examples of non-whites doing nasty things.
POSTED 8/27/1999
John K., Cranford, NJ, United States, <jkeegan3@home.com>, 26, Male, Chemical Engineer, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 827199911622

I think this is a problem of the media. The media tends to be the most upset when a member of a middle-class white family turns into a monster, much more so than when a member of another social class or race acts in a similar manner. If you watch the news, the media almost appear to say, "My God, can you believe it: They're white."
POSTED 8/30/1999
Xaque, Sanders, OR, United States, <darshevania@hotmail.com>, 20, Male, Searching for religious view, Chinese/American, Student, 2 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 829199925007

I disagree with the statement that only white people do crazy things. Just look at our prison population; filled with every ethnic group out there (a large portion African American. Convicts do crazy things to get in prison.
POSTED 8/30/1999
Daniel, Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States, 23, Male, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 828199940400

I would be willing to bet that if you really tried, you could find some instances of non-white kids participating in devil worship and the like. White kids might do some nasty stuff, but what about the nasty stuff the African-American college kids do when they participate in "Freaknik" in Atlanta? I don't see any white kids doing that stuff. Also, you commented on white kids killing other white kids. What about all the African-American, Latino and Asian kids in gangs who kill each other? There's an awful lot of killing going on, and it's not all done by whites. I don't think lack of self-confidence has anything to do with it. It's lack of self-control and lack of respect for anyone. Parents have abdicated their responsibility to teachers, police officers and anyone who will do anything so they don't have to. Don't blame the kids, blame the parents.
POSTED 8/30/1999
Cheryl, Atlanta, GA, United States, 50, Female, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Tecnhical Analyst, 4 Years of College , Upper class, Mesg ID 827199915013

You think it's white people? The world in general thinks it's Americans. When you talk about crazy, ask anyone from Argentina to Zaire and they will tell you that Americans in general (no matter what race), and those raised or living in American society (like that Latino serial killer), are the wackiest of people. A good standard of living (when you don't worry about having food to eat) plus racial hatred, plus a stressing rat race and dog-eat-dog materialism creat a society in which the weak (no matter what race or social status) simply crack up and lose it, being absorbed into abnormal practices and conducts. The conducts that you all mention (souped-up cars that hop, the dirty keg contest, gang violence, serial killers, etc.) are not black or white things, they are American things.
POSTED 9/1/1999
Nelson A., Caracas, NA, Venezuela, 30, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Lawyer/Business, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 8311999102553

While I would have to say that most white people don't do crazy things as you mentioned, for the most part, whenever I hear about someone doing something crazy and sometimes just all-out stupid, they tend to be white. I often ask myself why this is, especially when they have to be rescued. For example, I read about this man who decided he wanted to be closer to God so he went out into the desert in Australia for 40 days. He had to be rescued because the fool ran out of food and was severely dehydrated. Something should have told him that what he was doing was foolish, especially when even nomadic people refused to live in this desert. I've come to realize that people of color have too many burdens to face. We don't have enough time to experiment with things that will cause us harm.
POSTED 9/3/1999
Cherita, San Francisco, CA, United States, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Professional, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 831199920132
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Question:
This has bugged me for months: I have heard the word boo used by black women in describing a relationship. Now, I was married to a black woman for 17 years until she passed away, and I thought I was pretty knowledgable, but this word really doesn't make any sense to me. What does it mean?
POSTED 8/27/1999
Dorssie M. Jr., Pensacola, FL, United States, <www.lavernemelvin@prodigy.net>, 52, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Retired soldier, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 826199925223

Responses:
From what I know of the word, it's simply a cutesy way of saying that someone's your love or "baby."
POSTED 8/30/1999
Orleanas, Boston, MA, United States, 19, Female, Black/African American, Mesg ID 827199931048

The term 'boo' is not in reference to a 'relationship', it is a term of endearment (like baby, or honey).
POSTED 8/30/1999
Malinda, Kansas City, MO, United States, 19, Female, Black/African American, Straight, Student, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 827199980322

The word 'Boo' is just a term of affection. It is very similar to being called Baby or Honey. I've haven't heard very many whites use the term but I have heard it a lot. Check out my email ID.
POSTED 8/30/1999
Angee, Clarksville (Ft. Campbell, KY), TN, United States, <Boointn@aol.com>, 24, Female, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 828199974606
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Question:
I was in Louisville recently and noticed the following in an area frequented by gays: Several adult males walking, driving, etc., with pacifiers in their mouths. Can anyone tell me what this means?
POSTED 8/30/1999
Steve J., Warrensburg, MO, United States, 42, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, 2 Years of College , Middle class,Mesg ID 8281999111001

Responses:
A few years ago, the pacifier thing was popular - out here, at least - among teenage girls, especially among black girls. But I have never seen it among gay men, and since I'm a gay man in the San Francisco Bay Area, I tend to think I've seen it all. It must be very localized. Is there a gay fraternity at a college in Louisville?
POSTED 8/31/1999
Max H., Oakland, CA, United States, Male, Gay, Mesg ID 830199965231

The "pacifiers for grownups" fad was big here in the San Francisco Bay Area back in the early '90s. Here, it was mostly young gay men and straight women who wore them as pendants on a cord. It started with rave culture and became a fad. This fad for pacifier jewelry has petered out here by now. There is also a candy I have seen called "Bottle Pops," which is like Pixie Stix in a baby bottle-shaped dispenser. Personally, I think that grown people wearing pacifiers is silly and juvenile, but who am I to judge because it is harmless.
POSTED 8/31/1999
Crystal, Oakland, CA, United States, 30's, Female, Pagan, White/Caucasian, Straight, Office Manager, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 8311999123055
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