Best of the Week
of Aug. 30, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Aug. 30, 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:
RE82: Occasionally I experience anti-Catholic bias from some Protestant Christians. I understand that since the Reformation there was a general feeling of distrust directed toward Roman Catholics by the sects that broke away, but why do some people still hold on to that distrust? What is it about Catholics that scares certain fellow Christians?
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
Stephen S., 31, Catholic, San Antonio, TX

ANSWER 1:
There are many reasons I have an anti-Catholic bias. For one, I feel there is a high degree of hypocrisy in the Catholic church, such as the practice of annulments (allowing people to pay the church to get out of a marriage "honorably"). I have even seen this done in marriages that yielded children. Many Catholics, I have observed, feel that they only have to go to Christmas and Easter mass, and confession. The very act of confession is against my beliefs about Christ. My church feels that Christ is our high priest, and therefore confession is only placing unnecessary middlemen between us and the work God would do in our hearts. Many Catholics I have known feel that as long as they confess their sins and go to mass every now and then, they are still Christians and free to sin as they please. Other denominations are guilty of this, but it seems to be a pattern. A related issue is that it was hundreds of years before the Catholic church began to hold mass in the vernacular, withholding God from the people. The Catholic church is also very oppressive of women, not allowing them to be priests. Additionally, the icons (saints, virgin Mary, etc.) that are prayed to are considered a form of idolatry by many Protestant denominations. The leadership of the Pope also frustrates many Protestants. We feel that his leadership allows Catholics to simply follow him, and not analyze for themselves whether things are biblically sound or not, such as birth control, abortion or communism. To me, Catholicism seems to be a weak faith, one that allows for spiritual flabbiness through the delegation of responsibility in the church structure (priests, pope, bishops, etc.) that has flourished because of early missions to underdeveloped countries.

In general, the Catholic church does not offer the freedom of worship and individualism that I desire out of a church. Many kinds of music are prohibited in Catholic services, and speaking in tongues (a biblical doctrine - see Acts) in a Catholic mass would be unnacceptable to parishioners. I have been told by Catholics that I am demon-possessed and a member of a cult because of this, so maybe that relates to my bias.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Julie H., Protestant, Assemblies of God, Springfield, MO
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THE QUESTION:
R9: I would like to know if there is any truth to the stereotype that Native Americans cannot hold alcohol, and if not, where and how did this stereotype start?
POSTED FEB. 28, 1998
R.D., Jacksonville

ANSWER 1:
I have read that historically, the Native American culture did not produce or use alcohol. Therefore, no built-in genetic tolerance to alcohol existed in the Native population, as opposed to the Europeans whose culture had used alcohol for centuries.
RECEIVED MARCH 11, 1998
Pierre M., 56, Phillipsburg, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE:
I'm Euro-American. My information isn't from experience. A mental health professional, I have considerable interest in substance abuse and in how people respond to grave mental and spiritual injury.

Alcoholism rates on reservations are horrifyingly high: Estimates range in the 50 percent region. I don't know about statistics for non-reservation Natives. I think the first responder has a good point (alcohol wasn't a part of Native culture before the European invasion). I also believe that people whose cultures have been decimated by genocide face a great risk of substance abuse. Less than a century has passed since whites finished destroying most of the Native Americans, though the worst damage was done in the 1500s. We demolished their cultures, trampled what they saw as holy, stole their land, and brought about the death (through warfare and disease) of well over 90 percent of their people. What people could endure this kind of horror and remain intact?

When an individual is in despair, s/he is vulnerable to substance abuse. When an individual's culture and the people who embodied it have been obliterated, despair is hard to avoid.
POSTED MARCH 16, 1998
Will Handy, Dallas, Texas

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
According to the knowledgable internist and addictionologist Dr. Drew Pinsky, one of the hosts of the syndicated radio call-in show "Loveline," Native Americans have such a high rate of alcoholism because their ethnic group is genetically predisposed to it. This isn't unique; he gave examples of Scottish and Irish peoples as two groups that also have a higher-than-average tendency toward alcoholism. His explanation was that people who are predisposed tend to be set up for greater reward activation, which on the plus side helps them to stay collected and focused in intense situations such as disaster or combat. In the end, this means that Native Americans, who managed to survive incredible adversity for centuries, were left mostly with those predisposed for survival. Unfortunately, they were also at greater risk for alcoholism and other dependencies.
POSTED MARCH 19, 1998
Aaron, 21, Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It was stated that Native Americans may have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism. I would counter that with a simple fact: Alcohol was "discovered" probably no more than 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Methods of refining products with high alcohol content are even more recent. I therefore suggest that not enough time has passed for the human species to hvae developed genetic tolerance to a foreign substance.

It was also stated that whites stole the Indians' land. Since we all have 20/20 hindsight, I suggest it is inappropriate to judge the past by our modern standards. By doing so, you pass judgement on people who have long ceased to be able to defend and justify their actions What price would you place on the survival of your own race?
POSTED MARCH 20, 1998
Jim, white, Brooklyn, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
The stereotype of Native Americans not being able to "hold" their alcohol is, in fact, accurate. Native Americans do not make an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps break down alcohol in the bloodstream. Because of this, even a small amount of ingested alcohol can make a person intoxicated if they are lacking this enzyme. The subject of alcoholism in Native Americans, however, involves a number of socioeconomic as well as historical issues, and is much more complicated.
POSTED JUNE 26, 1998
Ron Y., M.D., 36, Houston

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
It is a stereotype that Native Americans can't hold their alcohol. It began with the creation of reservations. It has been passed down from generation to generation that Natives are nothing but drunks. So the stereotype stayed with the Native race. But each Native person is different in his or her own right. I'm Native American, and I did not drink one taste of beer until I turned 21 two years ago. Needless to say, a white girl said, "I have never met an Indian who didn't drink." She knew the stereotype even though it was my first drink for my birthday party. My parents don't drink, my brother doesn't drink. As a matter of fact, I think white people consume more alcohol then Natives. The only difference is that when a Native person drinks to have fun, we are looked down upon because of the narrow-minded concept that we can't hold our alcohol, unlike when a different race drinks and it is accepted as socializing.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Shon J., 23, Native American <
shonj@hotmail.com>, Akron, OH
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THE QUESTION:
R442: I am a 36-year-old black male with a shaved head and goatee. I am 6'1" and weigh 175 lbs. Would I be frightening to a woman alone with me in an elevator? What about walking on a downtown sidewalk after 6 p.m.? Why or why not?
POSTED SEPT. 3, 1998
Tony W., 36, gay black male <
tonyway@yahoo.com>, San Francisco, CA

ANSWER 1:
As a relatively small female, I would be uneasy alone with nearly any unfamiliar male, regardless of race. The simple fact that almost any man could overpower me if he chose to do so makes me aware of where I am, who else is there, etc.. I would guess that most women are uncomfortable in these situations as well.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Beth K., 38, white female, 38 <
bking@nscl.msu.edu>, Lansing, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
As a middle-aged woman who grew up in this violent society, I can assure you I'm very nervous about getting into an elevator alone with any man I don't know. I'll take the stairs unless I'm really not in a position to do that (too many flights, carrying something heavy).
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Becky, 50 <
bthacker@iupui.edu>, Indianapolis, IN

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I would be frightened being alone in an elevator with any man, regardless of color or length of hair. As for walking down the street, probably not, because it's a more public place than an elevator. In an elevator you're in an enclosed, confined place and trapped, so to speak.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Chris R., 45, female, Lincoln, NE

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Tony, I would probably not be frightened of you but I would likely be very uncomfortable, because you are a man who is a lot bigger than I am. I have to admit your race would add to my discomfort somewhat, because I'm still unlearning childhood prejudices picked up in the white, rural community I grew up in. As an aside, the prevailing attitude was that we should be afraid of blacks because they were all criminals, even though all the local crime was committed by the white people who lived there. Pretty stupid, huh?
SEPT. 4, 1998
Heidi J., 31, white female <
heidij@ix.netcom.com>, Simi Valley, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I'm a white male, same height and close to 200 lbs. As a military member my hair is always short, and sometimes in the summer I shave it almost bald. I've noticed some people seem intimidated by me when I have little or no hair, but not so much in the winter when I grow it longer. I don't think our height and weight is all that intimidating, as we're just a little bigger than average, so I imagine it's our lack of hair. Sad as it may be, the reality is that race is probably a factor in your case and peripherally in mine. I've been accused of being a skinhead myself, and also told that with my hair short I look like Tim McVeigh (Oklahoma City bomber), so this misperception does exist on both sides of the issue.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Charles, 30, white military member <
Sw1mFast@aol.com>, Bellevill , IL

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
No, I wouldn't normally find either situation frightening. If there had been a recent string of assaults on women and the assailant matched your description, that might send up a warning flag. But generally what makes me cautious in a given situation is not someone's looks but their behavior. If a man is either being friendly or ignoring me, I would not likely be concerned. If he is high, drunk, making rude comments or eyeing me like a piece of meat, I'd likely toughen my stance and project my infamous hardnose "Don't f--- with me" attitude.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
DykeOnByke, 48, white lesbian <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R441: I`ve noticed that white people tend to go barefoot into businesses such as supermarkets, 7-11's, etc. Why is that? Is it a cultural thing? Does it not hurt their feet? Is the skin texture different from everybody else's?
POSTED SEPT. 2, 1998
E. Ford, 37, black <
QuietS@webtv.net>, Virginia Beach, VA

ANSWER 1:
I think the answer is simpler than that. You say you are from Virginia Beach, VA. Whenever I visit the Jersey shore, I notice that nearly everyone goes barefoot since they are on vacation and basically relaxing. I imagine that a beach town like Virginia Beach would be the same way.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
John K., 25, straight Irish-American male, <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE:
I have done that before and I am white. I did it because I was too lazy to put my shoes on for just a quick trip in to buy gum or something. I don't know about the texture on the bottom of my feet being different or anything. I think it's just laziness.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Stacy, 20 <
stace20@yahoo.com>, Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I'm white, and I would never go into a store barefoot. There's too much potential for debris, dirt and infection. White feet develop callouses just like black feet, and hurt no less barefoot. I live in the Ozarks, and not to knock the Midwest, but I think this is a subcultural thing rather than a race thing. Many of the people I have seen barefoot in stores are children of poor, uneducated country people.
POSTED SEPT. 4 1998
Julie H., white female, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Most white people do not appear in public with bare feet. The fact of the matter is, the white people that I know, myself included, who I have heard voice an opinion on this topic think that those persons who run around in public without shoes are lower-class types. As for your other question, I can only speak for myself: My feet are as tender as any.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Michell, 31, white, Panama City, FL

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THE QUESTION:
O22: I grew up in a solidly middle-class community, and the few times I encountered police officers, they were always polite and friendly. Later, when I got married, my husband and I had very little money and lived in a poor area of town. I saw police there often, and in interactions with them - even the most innocuous - they were consistently insulting, aggressive and threatening (they weren't there because of us - we have always been law-abiding). Even now, I still get nervous when I see an officer, and I do not consider the police my friends. Having seen both sides of the coin, I'd like to ask law enforcement officers to respond to this and explain this the difference in attitude toward the poor.
POSTED SEPT. 2, 1998
Laura, 37, white female, Baltimore, MD

ANSWER 1:
The sad reality is that there are more "bad" people in poorer neighborhoods than there are in middle-class ones. I'm not saying all poor people are bad. But the criminal element generally does not have money. They commit their crime, then use the money they make to party, take drugs, etc. Some people in poor neighborhoods make middle-class money but just don't know how to spend it. They buy beer for themselves, and milk for the baby comes second. These types of people are hostile and aggressive to all types of authority. Most do not respect or respond to cops unless the cop swears at them or does something else to immediately establish his authority. Toughness is the only thing these people respect. Fortunately for you, your stay in the poor neighborhood was temporary. I'm sure there were many other nice people, especially elderly ones, who refused to leave the old neighborhood and are still stuck between rough cops and criminal neighbors.
POSTED SEPT. 5, 1998
MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
Unfortunately, police are like a lot of others in the communities they serve. They have many of the same fears and prejudices based on their experience in a given environment. They perceive the threat of their surroundings in much the same way you might. Truthfully, do you behave in the same manner in a community with drugs and violence that you do in a white suburb? It is sad that these officers treat everyone as a threat until they have reason to not fear the encounters they have with normal citizens. There, in my experience, seems to be no major difference in the way white and black officers act toward people in minority communities. This is probably just a self-defense mechanism, but I agree, a poor excuse for not treating everyone equally. If you fear the police, they are not doing their job. If they die by being too casual and fair, they will not survive long enough to contribute to the community. A difficult situation I struggle to justify and understand.
POSTED SEPT. 5, 1998
Dee, 46, male <
dsands@activetool.com>, Detroit, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R411: Is it true that some African Americans believe that allowing a baby to see its image in a mirror might bring bad luck? If so, why, and what is the origin of this belief?
POSTED AUG. 10, 1998
FloT <
umzamo@ij.net>, Tampa, FL

ANSWER 1:
Your question made me smile. As a new mother almost 19 years ago, my mother-in-law became highly upset with me when I allowed my baby to look in a mirror. She claimed my daughter would be toothless for life. As a young, white new mom, I looked to this 70-plus, black woman for her reasoning. Having been raised in the deep South, she explained that this was absolutely true, as were many other beliefs, such as that looking at a snake when you are pregnant will give your baby snake skin. (And she swore she had seen a baby with snake skin). My blessed mother-in-law told me many stories and superstitions throughout the years, all of which I listened to intently as a learning of her heritage. Many of these were based in the church (she was a Pentecostal minister), many from old voodoo. Regardless, they were fact to her. I cherish these memories as a part of my daughter's rich African-American background. By the way, my daughter does have teeth.
POSTED SEPT. 2, 1998
Kathy T. <
kdm05@bellsouth.net>, Jacksonville, FL
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THE QUESTION:
R380: I'd like to know why black people think my husband is cool for marrying a "sister," but at the same time think I'm a traitor to my race for not choosing a black man. Can anyone explain this double standard?
POSTED JULY 21, 1998
L.S., 23, black female, Orlando, FL

ANSWER 1:
This problem is rather deep. If your husband is white, it reflects not so much different standards as different responsibilities inherited from slavery: His to atone for the sins of his forefathers; yours to redress the sufferings of your foremothers. One of the most debasing features of slavery was the white male's freedom do anything he wanted with a black female - except marry her. He devalued her to a forced concubine and ready vehicle for his sexual relief without care, respect or responsibility. She was just there for the taking and was taken. His marrying her today re-validates her (vis a' vis his forefathers) and implicitly atones for those sins by avowing precisely those things his forefathers never would have, and he is seen as being "cool" for doing it. If she cannot demonstrate having redressed the past, she is likely seen as flaunting it and gets the "How could you!?" reaction. For other non-black males, the dynamic is quite different. Since she was devalued by the white male, other non-black males marrying a black female are again seen as "cool," but for being smart enough to see and honor her values. Attitudes against her marrying such males reflect the common garden variety of ethnocentrism. The past is unforgiving, and its ghosts will not rest until the wrongs have been righted.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
FLW, 57, black male, Columbia, Md.
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THE QUESTION:
RE87: As the son of a Jewish mom, I experienced a lot of guilt growing up. From what I've heard and read, making their sons or daughters feel guilty seems to be characteristic of Jewish moms. If this is so, why is it? I would like to understand this better so I could better understand the way I am today, and some choices I've made.
POSTED AUG. 9, 1998
A.K., 40, Jewish male, Sitka , Alaska

ANSWER 1:
I think "guilt" has gotten a bad rap in the Twentieth Century. Millions of people spend a fortune going to psychotherapists, trying to lose the feelings of guilt their parents and churches/synagogues instilled in them. But on the whole, guilt is a healthy thing. The best definition of guilt is "The disturbing feeling that I'm not as good a person as I should be." And that feeling is essential if we're ever to be good people. The most sick and evil people in this world are the ones who are incapable of feeling guilt. If you're faithful to your spouse because you'd feel awful if you hurt her, that's good! If you give generously to charity because you'd feel awful if children starved and you'd done nothing, that's good! If you refrain from hurting others because you'd feel guilty afterward, that's good! So, don't knock guilt. Sometimes, that little nagging voice your mother (or priest or rabbi) put in your head is just what it takes to make you a better person.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
Astorian, 37, Catholic male <
Astorian@aol.com>, Austin, TX
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THE QUESTION:
A27: I enjoy eating out often with other senior citizens, but somehow the young waitress usually talks "baby talk" to us when describing the specials. We can hear fine, but they shout as well. How come?
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Patrick, 73 <
pfall1@aol.com>
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THE QUESTION:
SO68: As both a transsexual and a lesbian, I have a hard time with the gay and lesbian community at large, which fails to acknowledge transsexuals can also be as queer as they are. Why can't gays and lesbians accept us for who we are - their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters?
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Marlene, 38, out and proud transsexual lesbian <
marleneb@wcnet.org>, N. Baltimore, OH
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THE QUESTION:
GE67: Is it true that men take splitting up much harder than women, and if so, why? It seems to me that men are more physical, while women are more emotional, in general. Because a relationship has more to do with emotion, being in a relationship is very different from not being in one (for a man), so would there be more a sense of loss? Perhaps there is something a man only gets from a relationship, which a woman gets from friends? I am especially interested in hearing women�s comments.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
S.W.M., 31

ANSWER 1:
My hunch is that men are more devastated by a breakup because they're not as intuitive or introspective as women. A woman usually senses trouble in a relationship long before a man does. She may be saddened, disturbed and depressed about this for weeks or months, while the man is still blissfully unaware anything is wrong. Thus, when the problem finally comes to a head, and the couple break up, the man is devastated because he never foresaw the problem. The woman, on the other hand, has already done a fair amount of grieving and crying over the relationship, and is more ready to move on.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
Astorian, 37, divorced male, <
Astorian@aol.com>, Austin, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
All men are not the same emotionally, intellectually, spiritually or in any other way. After losing the championship game, some men pound the lockers, some cry, some are quiet, some want to be with their friends, some want to be alone. You can't generalize that most men are one way and most women are another. Even if you collect data that seems to support such a conclusion, it inevitably leads to destructive attitudes that "men are this way" and "women are that way." Look around you at the variety of emotional needs in the people you encounter, and realize it is not necessary to find an easy answer that puts all people in a few tidy boxes. Certainly some men suffer more than their ex-partners when they separate. Others do not. The same man may suffer differently when separating from one partner than another. People need and deserve to be treated as individuals, especially in such a personal crisis as the end of a significant relationship.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
Jay R., Kent, WA

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THE QUESTION:
RE78: I've noticed many Christians view the belief in reincarnation with strong animosity (calling it "New Age" and ignoring the historical origins). Is it typical for Christians to vehemently attack this ancient and cross-cultural belief? Doesn't their religion profess transcendence also?
POSTED JULY 23, 1998
Wolfe, 22, white, San Diego, CA

ANSWER 1:
Reincarnation is a belief that is contradictory to Christian belief. Christianity is based on the belief that Christ did something no one else has ever done: Rose from the dead and defeated death. If others are capable of such a feat, whether it is as another person or animal or whatever, then the grounds Christian belief is founded on do not exist. The Bible is pretty clear about this topic. In the end, you can't prove reincarnation anymore than I can prove Christianity. I believe the resurgence of modern belief in reincarnation comes from perverted psychological studies of hypnotic suggestion (I have a degree in Psychology and Religion, so I have studied it some), a growing interest in Eastern religions that practice this belief, and a yearning in humanity for something spiritual to believe in. We as Christians have not given a good example, so many strive to find something else to believe in.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Eric R., 27 <
ericandjjrubio@mindspring.com>, Monroe, GA
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THE QUESTION:
SO44: Do bisexual women find greater satisfaction with their male partner or female partner, and why?
POSTED JUNE 13, 1998
Ty, 35, straight black male, Costa Mesa, CA

ANSWER 1:
Your question seems to be making a common incorrect assumption about bisexuals: Namely, that we have to have one partner of each sex to be happy. As with gay or straight people, the choice to be monogamous or have multiple partners depends on the individual's preference (and the preference of their partner(s), hopefully). I am a bisexual woman who is now happily married to a man. I don't feel I'm missing out by not having a female sex partner in my life. In fact, the only time I have dated more than one person at once, I was seeing three different men! (All of whom knew I was seeing other people). Sex with women and men is different, but it's like enjoying both chocolate and strawberry ice cream - they're both nice in different ways, and you don't have to have both to enjoy having ice cream. Having one or the other is equally fulfilling.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
S. Addison, 24, bisexual female, <
elusis@dreamscape.com>, Syracuse, NY
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THE QUESTION:
R433: Do African Americans and other minority groups feel more comfortable in online chat groups and websites that identify with their ethnic background than other online places? If so, do you think people are still making judgments even though they can't "see" you?
POSTED AUG. 27, 1998
Justin M., 20, Jewish <
justin.mandel@dartmouth.edu>, Newport Beach, CA

ANSWER 1:
I think it's much simpler than that. Chat rooms are generally for relaxing. After a stressful day of speaking standard English and interacting with the majority population at work, it is much more relaxing and certainly less stressful to converse with other blacks. There is also the matter of sex and flirting, which is prevelant in many chat rooms. It is also more entertaining to flirt with a person of the opposite sex and know they won't suddenly become distant upon finding that you are a different race.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
S. Finley, black male <
sfinley@earthlink.net>, Naperville, IL
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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

ANSWER 1:
Wow! Passing out. Never seen that before. This girl must have been truly loved and the people around her very emotional, but I think to relate this event to "Hispanic culture" is generalizing a bit too much. It could probably be a custom in a certain region of Mexico, for example, but I don't think so. What if you don't want to cry anymore? Should you keep going till you pass out, to stick with tradition? Hermanos Mexicanos, conocen algo de esto?
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
N. Agelvis, 29, Latino <
nelsoneas@hotmail.com>, Caracas, Venezuela

FURTHER NOTICE:
I don't know the origin of weeping until you pass out at funerals, but I saw it among my aunts when I was younger. I believe some people are more emotional and not afraid to show their sorrow. A family member has not died in recent years, so I don't know if these women would react differently now that they are older.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
Cindy R., 37, Chicana, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
How do you pass out from crying? Is that medically possible? I'm first generation Mexican, and this is the first time I've heard of this. I agree with the other answer - that this must be from a certain part of Mexico.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
Al M., 47, Mexican, Saudi Arabia

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It is a very old Mexican tradition to weep at funerals. In small towns it used to be common to hire "lloronas" (wailing or weeping women). It is not only a reflection of emotions but a very deep root custom in smaller communities.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Guillermo, 40, Mexican, Monterrey, CA

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THE QUESTION:
R437: I'm white and two of my co-workers who are black took me to a restaurant where they were the only blacks there. Later, I asked them if they noticed that type of situation when they go to places, i.e. being the only blacks in the crowd. They told me they don't usually notice that kind of thing unless it's brought to their attention by a rude waiter/waitress or clerk. I wonder if this is true among all blacks? When you go into an establishment where there are primarily white people, do you notice this right off or just don't think about it unless something happens where it's brought to your attention?
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Mary, Asian <
maryb@lanminds.com>, Oakland, CA

ANSWER 1:
I don't think about it because I'm expected to be in the minority and just go with the flow.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
A.A.W., 42,black female <
ANABWI@aol.com>, Plantation, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
My tastes and diverse group of friends typically results in me being the only black person (or one of a few) in the group. I am aware of this when we frequent our haunts, but am completely comfortable. Why? Partly because my mother made an effort to send me to integrated schools and involve us in activities in which we interacted with others who were different from ourselves, and I don't mean along racial lines only. Additionally, I am constantly seeking and am attracted to the different and exotic. In other words, I consciously choose to experience things that appeal to me, and not just what is familiar or typically associated with my culture. I enjoy classical, jazz, new age music, particularly Celtic and medieval arrangements. I am a vegetarian (no flesh or other animal products). I wear locks (nothing dreadful about my hair). I am a truth-seeker (believer in metaphysics). I write poetry and frequent coffee houses. Though many blacks enjoy these activities or hobbies, my experience/interactions often have been that I am a minority within a minority.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Zawadi, 33, black female, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
Most blacks, especially middle class and upper class, grow up with the ability to live in two worlds. We live in a black world, among our own people. But because we live in a predominantly white culture, watching predominantly white TV, reading predominantly white-oriented (mainstream) newspapers, magazines, books, etc., we have grown quite comfortable and at ease in all white envinronments, frequently to the point of not noticing. You cannot truly relax, interact and feel at ease if you always notice, because being the only minority is too often the case. It's unwise to truly not notice (reminders are sometimes cruel and often dangerous), but that's another subject for another time.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Greg R. <
IATKOP@AOL.COM>, Atlanta, GA
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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

 ANSWER 1:
Working, playing and living in a diverse atmosphere will cut down on misunderstandings. You might be open-minded enough to accept people from different backgrounds, but not everyone is. Mixing with different people, seeing they're regular people and them seeing that you're a regular person cuts down on suspicion and mistrust between races, cultures and sexes. Another practical benefit is that mixing with people of different cultures can help you learn about how other people live, and help other people learn how you live and think.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Andrew, 34, white <
ziptron@hotmail.com>, Huntington, NY

FURTHER NOTICE:
Until we realize we are of one race (the human race) on one planet (earth), we will never move beyond our petty differences and squabbling to accomplish so much more. It seems to me if we keep in our own culture, we will come to the false conclusion that ours is better than theirs. This I feel leads to fearing others and comes at a great cost to us all. Just look at what has been done in the name of God/Allah/Yahweh to maintain purity of race, thought or deed.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Matthew, 40, white, gay and other differences <
carninom@asme.org>, NY, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
The importance is not how much fun you have or how much you can get done. The reason for diversity is that each person can draw from others' experiences. This makes each of us a little wiser and a little more understanding of where others are coming from (especially if the ideas seem off the wall at first). The need for cultural and sexual diversity is for us all to learn from each other.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
M.B., 18, black, female, Kansas City, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
The value diversity brings to a group is not to make it more fun or more effective but to provide different perspectives that might not otherwise have occured to you. People with the same background as you (and I'm not just talking color or sex) tend to think the same way as you. For example, many Americans have the same expectations of a first date, whereas someone from the Middle East might not even understand the concept of a first date, because all marriages are arranged in their culture. The point is to make us question our assumptions - why do we assume our way is the best way to do something? Especially if we have never been exposed to any other way? A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to talk about marriage and divorce with a group of graduate students that included Americans, West Africans, Middle Easterners, Southeast Asians and some South- and Latin-Americans. The multitide of opinions on divorce and marriage and the different perspectives on it was amazing. We had individuals whose parents had arranged their marriages, others who were sleeping with their ex-spouses, others who wouldn't even consider marriage without a dowry. The value that conversation brought to me was not "fun" or "effectiveness" - it was the opportunity to see the world through someone else's eyes. That may not be something you value; but if so, you are really missing out on a world of experiences.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Nikki, white, 29, <
nichole.davis@tuckerknapp.com>, Chicago, IL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I think there is a negative and a positive way to exemplify why a diverse culture is beneficial. Negative: Look at what happens in a racially or culturally segregated society. Some have more than others. The have-nots are disaffected and will do anything to get "even." This might include coming into your neighbourhood and stealing your car or taking their anger out on you. If you mix, this problem won't be there. A good reason to embrace diversity. The positive: Different cultures (and most racial groups are also culturally separated) have come up with different answers to common questions. These different answers can help you a lot in your daily life. What foods do you like? Do you like to go to a Thai or Mexican restaurant? Do you enjoy a particular entertainer that is black or Jewish? Do you live because of medication invented in Europe or Africa? If you want that stuff, you better kiss up to all the people who have come up with it or might come up with it. Ergo, if you want to enjoy life, embrace diversity.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
David, Jew, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I don't believe there is a significant difference as long as the quality of the individuals is homogeneous. I attended one of the last all-male colleges in the country, and also took summer classes at large co-ed state schools. The education at the single-sex school was infinitely better than that of the co-ed school. Granted, we didn't pass notes and hold hands in class, but then again, we didn't try to show off or "look good" to impress anyone, either. We studied hard, argued harder and then had girlfriends for the weekend. Also, no one had to worry about saying something "offensive" to the female gender. This doesn't mean we slammed women all the time. There were plenty of liberal professors (many were women) who would keep us in line. But when discussing issues of social psychology, we didn't have to listen to a bunch of anti-male diatribes.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
B., 23, white male, Kokomo, IN

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Corporate support for diversity initiatives often places emphasis on the business case for diversity. The mandatory Diversity Awareness course that I help teach at my Fortune 5 company looks at five areas:

Changing demographics - A diverse society impacts both the workforce from which employees are drawn and the customer base with which companies interact. Impact of litigation - Harrssment and discrimination lawsuits cost billions. Better decision making -Products and services can be designed and marketed to specific groups and countries more effectively. One size does not fit all. Gains in productivity and profitability - Studies indicate that well-managed diverse teams typically outperform homogenous teams in terms of quantity, creativity and quality of results. Improved personal effectiveness - Research shows that people who work, live and learn in integrated settings develop stronger interpersonal, communication and negotiating skills. An environment that values and respects individuals has been proven to enhance the confidence and contributions of those existing within such an environment.

All of these business reasons for accepting, respecting and valuing diversity are meant to provide a competitive advantage in the face of global competition.

In addition, there is a "people" case for diversity. This may be as simple as good corporate citizenship. Treating all employees, suppliers and customers respectfully is simply the right, fair thing to do.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
DykeOnByke, 48, corporate diversity council member <
DykeOnByke@aol.com>, Southfield , MI

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
The best reason for valuing diversity as far as the employer is concerned is quite simple: Money. When the best person for a job happens to be from a different cultural background from those around them, the employer needs to be able to choose them and not worry about any possible tensions between them and the existing workforce. The successful promotion of valuing diversity results in a healthier environment for someone able but different to come into a new position, learn the ropes and do the job. There is nothing wrong with a single sex or single culture environment, but it should not be a reason not to consider someone from outside this group coming in.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Daniel B., 26, Leicester, United Kingdom

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
To Lorne: What is the opposite or absence of valuing? Devaluing? You've worked and played in diverse and non-diverse groups, and enjoyed both. If the diverse groups had devalued you for your diverse characteristics would you have enjoyed the contact? Or if you really devalued diversity, would you have wanted the contact? I submit that your own enjoyment is the answer to the question.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Al, 59, Caucasian, <
alarose@ncwc.edu>, Rocky Mount, NC

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
People from different cultures often have different points of view or approaches to problems. It is often helpful to have people with as wide a variety of experience as possible to deal with new difficulties as they arise. Dealing with different cultures on a day-to-day basis can also increase our understanding of the cultures of foreign countries, which is essential in an age of global economy and nuclear weapons. If we isolate ourselves, we have no idea how our allies/competitors/enemies will react to our actions, and you get wars and diplomatic disasters. And ... don't you ever get bored? Don't you ever want to eat something you never tried before, read a book unlike any other you've read, hear music that doesn't all sound alike? And just as travel broadens the mind, encountering and accepting diversity can teach tolerance and understanding, world culture, history and geography, which may be valuable to you even in a non-diverse setting.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Colette <
inkwolf@earthlink.net>, Seymour, WI

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
As a bisexual/lesbian female, knowing a gay person means you are more likely to treat us as people rather than as an item. People who are campaigning against us frequently don't know a single overtly gay person, but are convinced of our evil. If I don't tell them I'm queer, they will continue. If I tell them, they will see I am just a person, like them. I work, go to school, pay my taxes, etc., just like anybody else. They may still not agree with who I date, but that's their choice.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Kerry, married lesbian female, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
To B. in Kokomo, IN: What exactly was the value in being free to "slam women," if not all the time, then apparently some of the time? Why do you think it best to be able to comfortably avoid hearing the other side of social issues, which you characterize as anti-male diatribes? By the way, there are two or three co-ed state schools where you could have gotten an education on a par with or superior to the one you received at your all-male college. The one I attended produces outstanding engineers and scientists, note-passing and hand-holding notwithstanding. I don't recall anyone ever showing off, except of course the professors. If you reexamine your comments, you may have the rare chance for self-revelation. I experienced this in a small way in my college years while shopping for a poetry book, a gift for a female friend who was a "serious" poet. Not knowing much about poetry, but determined to get something she would like, I looked at books for hours and came up empty-handed. I was thunderstruck when I realized I had categorically avoided any book written by a woman.
POSTED SEPT. 1, 1998
Jay G.R. , Kent, WA

FURTHER NOTICE 12:
I am a white male from South Africa (a minority group in a black majority country) and have a good idea as to how African Americans feel about being a minority group in America. As a white person we are by nature proud and arrogant, so we cope fairly better in our situation, but in order to survive we have to accept diversity. I don't fully accept black African culture, as I don't expect them to accept all of mine, but in this land we are striving to build on common interests. Our motto is "strength through diversity." We are a "rainbow" nation. A rainbow is exceptionally beautiful with all its different colors, and unitedly they form this wonderful symbol of hope. In Johannesburg alone, 11 official languages are spoken along with some five other unofficial immigrant languages. I believe if we did not fully embrace all diverse races, cultures, religions, lifestyles, etc., we would certainly die as a nation.
POSTED SEPT. 3, 1998
Julian, 40 <
jayem0407@hotmail.com>, Johannesburg, South Africa
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