Best of the Week
of Sept. 20, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Sept. 20, 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:
A30: How come it seems as though teenagers are afraid to take part in the care of AIDS patients?
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
Shannon, 18, Southampton, NY
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THE QUESTION:
GE68: When I start a new relationship, am I dreaming or is it possible to hold off on sex for at least six months until the two of us have had a chance to get to know each other? The last few men I've met make it clear they don't want to wait. Does my age have anything to do with it?
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
L.B., 33, black female, Detroit, MI

ANSWER 1:
Although I found it very frustrating, my girlfriend and I did wait before having sex for about six months after meeting one another. The sex itself was very satisfying, I think, because the emotional content was higher and we meant more to one another than would have been the case if we had "given in" earlier. It has also made us more trusting of one another, as we have demonstrated our committment to one another. I think we have proven to each other that we are serious about our relationship. I also find it very reassurring that I don't have to worry about her cheating, and that feeling is more satisfying than any sex could be by itself. So yes, there are men like us out there, and if he believies you are worth it (or is telling you so) he can wait. For me, it was more than worth it.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
M.M. 44, white male, Manteca, CA
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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

FURTHER NOTICE:
The same belief is prevalent in India and Pakistan. The babies are not allowed to see themselves in a mirror until they are about 16 to 18 months old. It is considered bad luck, and also it is supposed to stunt the growth. I was also told by a friend that some babies get frightened looking at themselves in the mirror. Another reason might be that since babies are still learning to judge the shape, color, dimensions and distance factors associated with surrounding objects, a mirror reflection might give a distorted orientation and confuse the infant in some way.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
Brian C., Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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THE QUESTION:
GE76: Why are married men (not all, of course) with attractive/sexual wives choosing cyber-porn and sexual chat rooms over intimate sexual relationships with their wives? I'm struggling with this at home. Responses, please!
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
Married 15 years, white female, San Antonio, TX

ANSWER 1:
Just because a man is married doesn't automatically mean all of his sexual desires are, or should be, filled by his mate. I have been married 12 years and find the occasional access to porn on the web an interesting and stimulating experience. I would never allow myself to be seen renting porn flicks or buying pornography, if only to prevent having it around a house full of children. Many of the things I have seen I would never want my wife to do nor would I want to participate in such things. I love and respect my wife more than anyone else I have ever known and I would lose all interest in her if she were to lower herself to do the sick things many others seem proud enough to post for all to see. However, as sick and degrading as much of it is, I do find it stimulating. I have found that the visual stimulation enhances our lovemaking experience for me by increasing my level of mental stimulation prior to sex, resulting in a more intense climax. As long as it doesn't become a dangerous preoccupation, I see web porn as harmless, mental mastUrbation.
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
S.W., 35, white male, Pontiac, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
Is he choosing cyber-porn over real life interaction, or is he using it in addition? That's not the same thing. Maybe he's just looking for a way to spice things up (passion tends to fade over time, they say). If he's ignoring or neglecting you, then you have a problem and need to tell him how you're feeling. If he's just using it as a fantasy supplement, maybe you can sit back and reap the benefits. This is no different from the stereoptypical man in the '70s with a subscription to Playboy. Sure the tools are slightly more sophisticated, but porn is still porn
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
S.S., unlicensed sex therapist <
senorsex1@yahoo.com>

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I've heard of using the sex sites as arousal tools, but in these instances the arousal usually manifests itself in the bedroom. Those who make the exclusive choice you describe are finding something on the net they are not finding at home. You sound willing and interested, which implies a communication break between you and your husband. As painful, difficult and embarassing as it may be, in your position I'd start looking for a marriage counselor. Good luck.
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
Al, 59, male <alarose@ncwc.edu>, Rocky Mount, NC

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THE QUESTION:
R340: What is the origin to the stereotype that Hispanics are lazy?
POSTED JUNE 16, 1998
Alex S., 23, Richmond, VA

ANSWER 1:
It's funny, because I have heard the reverse: That white people are lazy. I guess it depends on the person. I am Mexican, and all the Hispanic people I know are very hard-working. All of them have at least one job. I have a neighbor who is white, and in the year he's lived next door, he has changed jobs at least five times, and every time he does, he tries to get workers' comp. So maybe it depends on the person and the financial need they have to keep a job.
POSTED JUNE 24, 1998
Aztlan, 21, Mexican female <
aestra@chmc.org>, Bothell, WA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Perhaps, if it exists, it stems from the siesta, which is more predominant in Hispanic culture vs. others. Even though business hours are extended later into the evening to accommodate this time of rest, the knowledge of these extended hours may not be as well known as the siesta itself by other cultures.
POSTED AUG. 9, 1998
Phil C. , 45, white male, Walnut Creek , CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
When I was in college, I worked at a convenience store with a young man who was the son of the Military Attache from a South American country. We were the same age, and from the same type of middle-class economic background. I asked him what he found to be the biggest "culture shock" between his Hispanic culture and his life in the United States. I'll never forget his response. He grabbed my arm and pointed to my watch: "You Americans are slaves to your clocks. They tell you when to eat, when to sleep and when to start work, and when to stop. This makes no sense to me. In my country, you eat when you are hungry, you sleep when you are tired, you start working when there is a job to do and stop working when the job is completed. This makes more sense to me than stopping because a clock says it is time for lunch, or not eating because the clock says it is time to work."

He was right. Our culture is very closely tied to our concept of time. I have since noticed that the cultures that do not submit themselves to the almighty timeclock are the ones that get stereotyped as "lazy" by those who do. Is it any wonder that our clock-crazy culture has a bigger problem with depression and neurosis than those "lazy" ones do?
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
Greg, 36, WASP, Newport, RI
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THE QUESTION:
R339: It seems to me that when stresses in the black community reach a certain level, one reaction is to riot, loot and burn the very community in which they live. Why is this? I cannot recall a riot in the white community equal in scope and damage to the L.A. riots, the Watts riots or the riots in Detroit.
POSTED JUNE 16, 1998
Ray B., 40, white male, U.S. Navy (retired) <
raynfran@bellsouth.net>
Summerville, S.C.

ANSWER 1:
A very wise man I know said that "white people do their rioting at the ballot box." (And sure enough, not long after that, they voted out affirmative action programs in California.) That made me realize that feeling empowered in a society makes someone believe they have options for changing things they don't like. But when a group of people feel powerless and oppressed and think they have nothing to lose, they can resort to irrational behaviors such as violence. As far as riots happening in the community where someone lives: Every person of color knows that the price is higher for committing a crime in white neighborhoods than in non-white neighborhoods. Secondly, usually when violence erupts, it's spontaneous; driving across town to another neighborhood is not spontaneous.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Sara, black female, Oakland, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
In the communities you mention, the simplest reason people riot and loot is that they don't own any of the establishments they are burning and destroying. It was true in D.C., Detroit and L.A. Part of the reason tensions build so high is that people feel they pour their money into these establishments and that they are the primary, if not only customers, and still they are treated unfairly. If you'll recall, during the '93 riots in L.A., much was made about the fact that a number of black-owned establishments were spared. That's why.
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
Greg, 20 black/white male <
december@brigadoon.com>, Olney, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
About three or four years ago, when the Vancouver Canucks won the hockey championships (I am not a sports person, so I apologize for being vague), there was a major mass riot and looting in downtown Vancouver, and there were very few black people present. It was mostly white people acting like idiots and destroying their own town.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
D. Meerkat, 26, white male <
lnx@netcom.com>, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
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THE QUESTION:
D26: I am a "normal"-looking person who has a life-threatening, debilitating, painful illness. I often use my handicapped parking decal. Since I look so normal and healthy, people are very mean to me when they see me use the special parking spot. Why?
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
Kathy C., Newport News , VA

ANSWER 1:
As strange as it may sound, you should be grateful to those people. They're trying to make sure you aren't a robust, healthy person abusing the parking spaces that have specifically been set aside for those who need them. I realize you said you have a valid medical reason for using handicapped parking, but surely you don't expect everyone who sees you use the spot to stop you and ask for a medical explanation of why you had a handicapped parking permit.
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
J. Storm, Salem, OR

FURTHER NOTICE:
I too am seemingly too young at 47 to need a handicapped parking place, but have had three leg surgeries and braces on my legs. People used to give me dirty looks when I pulled into the handicapped parking places till I took out my handicapped placard. You can't depend on people to understand because you can be very disabled and not appear to be so. I ignore these people, and if they're bold enough to comment on it, I simply explain to their satisfaction. We see many healthy people park in handicapped parking, and I can't even find an empty one. It makes my angry and hurt that people are so selfish and inconsiderate of those of us who need them. As long as you display your handicapped placard, hold you chin up don't be ashamed; there are many of us.
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
Handicapped too <
ruthmcgill@ivillage.com>, Asheboro, N.C.

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
To answer fairly, I have to look back on my own responses to this type of situation before my brother became disabled. You know that old saying, seeing is believing? When driving my brother to the store in his wheelchair-accessable van, I would park, jump out of the car - all young, healthy and full of vigor - and immediately feel eyes on me. Looking around, I saw dirty looks. It was not until I opened the side door and started lowering my brother's chair lift that the looks stopped. What those people where thinking, as I once found myself thinking many times, was, "Hey! They are taking a spot that somebody else might need!" But they could not see that I needed it in order to have space to get my brother in and out of the van until I started to do so. People make judgments based on the information they have available, and in your case, all that is available to them is what they see. With advances in medicine and technology, people who would have at one time died or been rendered bed-ridden are now leading active lives. Unfortunately, education of the general population regarding this has not caught up yet. It will.
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
Kay H., Alpena, MI

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THE QUESTION:
GE73: To men: What is your opinion of women who have had their breasts enlarged? Are you any less attracted to them if you find out their chest size is "fake"?
POSTED SEPT. 10, 1998
Steph, 18, Lawrenceville, Ga

ANSWER 1:
Steph, I am a 45-year-old white male. I have been with women who have had breast augmentations and those who haven't. My choice? Go with what God gave you. The size of your breasts has nothing to do with you as a person, lover or friend. Granted, most men will turn their head when a woman who is "stacked" walks in a room. Again, based on my experience, I would rather be with a woman who enjoys lovemaking instead of looking good in a sweater.
POSTED SEPT. 14, 1998
M.O., 45, white male, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am a 26-year-old male who finds large breasts extremely attractive. I cannot help at least glancing at a woman with proportionately large breasts, whether it be at work or anywhere else. However, recently I have noticed a lot more women my age (and especially younger) having breast implants, although their breasts are fine "as is." What is going on? I figure it must be a self-esteem problem. Would I want my mate to get a boob job? No way. Would I hold it against a potential mate when I found out she got a breast enlargement? Maybe. A woman who is happy with the breasts she has radiates the confidence and self-respect I (and most respectable men) look for in a partner. I like large breasts to look at, but I prefer "real" small to "fake" big for other important reasons.
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
Taran6, 26, male <
Taran6@Juno.com>, San Diego, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R461: Why do teams use demeaning and hurtful names like "Redskins," "Braves" and "Wahoo"? "Redskin" is, according to the U.S. Dictionary, equal to calling a black person "nigger." Does anyone care that these things degrade and stereotype a living, breathing race? Do we have rights to the same racial dignity others now enjoy? I apologize if I sound angry. I just pray that Creator gives the people of America the empathy, compassion and conviction to see the wrong in these things, and make them right.
POSTED SEPT. 21, 1998
C. Nunpa, Lakota/Potawatomi, MI

ANSWER 1:
I am a black woman who is strongly offended by the use of racist logos. I refuse to attend any sports contests where these teams or logos are endorsed and will not purchase this racist merchandise. The effects of racism are immeasurable, and it doesn't matter who the target audience is. My prayers are in line with yours.
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
Dee W., black female, westde@hiram.edu, Cleveland, OH

FURTHER NOTICE:
I don't feel we have any rights to "racial dignity." We do, however, have a right to freedom of speech. Native Americans (neither word being very accurate) are a conquered people and as a whole are well-respected and accepted by the general population. When these terms were first used, they were not meant to be negative. The idea that a competitive sports team would use an ethnicity to promote itself shows honor. In today's society, these terms have become less than acceptable among the politically correct. Names like Canucks, Fighting Irish and Vikings are all words that can now be found offensive. That's life. Win the war, write the rules.
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
Kirk <saturnkk@concentric.net>, Warren, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I think you should lighten up. The teams are named after a people who are admired. It's not a putdown. It's a compliment.
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
Half Native American, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Thank you for bringing to my attention that these words are offensive to Native American people. I was aware that "Redskins" was considered insulting. However, I had no idea that "Braves" was also an insult, and I have never heard the word "wahoo" before. Could you explain what these words mean and where they come from? I'm afraid I'm very ignorant of your culture!
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
Liz, white <
Elizabeth.Baines@bbsrc.ac.uk>, Edinburgh, UK

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
C.N., you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but your rights end when they impose on another's. Words carry different meanings to different people. In fact, your own name might be considered an insult in other tongues, yet I have no right to tell you not to use it.
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
Arlin, 49, Polish, Forest Meadows, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I will believe "Redskin" is a compliment for Indian people as soon as I hear of a team being named "Small Penises" or "White Trash" and whites take it as a compliment. These names are stereotypes and negative ones definitely. Imagine a team being named "Stingies" or "Kikes" and then people claiming they were complimenting Jews on their thriftiness. The "Fighting Irish" of Notre Dame was objected to as a stereotype by Irish people in the 19th Century and early 20th Century, when discrimination against the Irish was still quite common. But I have never heard of discrimination against Canadians or Scandinavians. That's why no one objects, because whites do have power within this system. But there is no group more powerless than American Indians (only guilty whites say Native American; I've never heard another Indian call themselves anything but Indian or their particular tribe). I cheer those who search their conscience and do not laugh off hateful language.

To Kirk: The "conquered people" idea was proven wrong long ago by historians. First, some Indians such as the Seminole were never defeated. Others, like the Apache, were never defeated by the military but by Indians allied with the United States. Dozens of tribes never fought the United States at all. Disease and starvation played the main part in those that were temporarily defeated. As you can see, we are still here and stronger than ever. I am not "conquered" anymore than blacks are still slaves. The conquered people argument is another way of saying "might makes right." But we all know what is right is right. It does surprise me that you claim Indians are well treated when that part of the country, the North-Central, is where Indians are commonly referred to as "Prairie Niggers." The use of sports teams using racial epithets is a sign of a larger problem, just as there used to be a chewing tobacco brand called "Nigger Hair."
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
A.C.C., 32, Mexican and American Indian male, San Antonio, TX

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THE QUESTION:
R463: I work at a very ethnically diverse company in Southern California. I have noticed (as have several of my co-workers) that people from the Philippines are very noisy when they eat and drink. Why is this?
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
Sally, 46, white, La Verne, CA
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THE QUESTION:
D23: To people in wheelchairs: Is it appropriate for someone to ask if you need assistance? Is it patronizing for someone to ask you, "May I get the door for you?" I recognize that the answer will probably depend on the individual and the circumstance, but I'm hoping for some guidelines.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Kim S. <
gibbon@asu.edu>, Tempe, AZ

ANSWER 1:
As a wheelchair user, I appreciate it tremendously when someone asks if I need assistance or offers their help. In fact, I find it terribly rude when someone obviously sees me struggling with something (such as opening a door, reaching objects in a store or going up a ramp) and either ignores me, or worse, stands there and stares without helping. In my opinion, asking if someone needs help is always the polite thing to do, wheelchair or not.
POSTED SEPT. 9, 1998
Patricia J., 40, wheelchair user <
clotho@alaska.net>, Richmond, VA

FURTHER NOTICE:
There are three people in wheelchairs at my office. One will snap your head off if you offer help, and God forbid if you ever attempt to assist her in getting through a door. One woman appreciates any help you offer her, although she is very capable, has traveled on her own and lives alone. The third woman uses her wheelchair status to be dependent and as an excuse. This has really opened my eyes to the multiplicity of responses to "handicaps." That said, I would never hesitate to offer my assistance to a stranger. The fact that someone else might view my act of kindness as "rudeness" is their problem, not mine.
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
Amy, 45 <
amylf@aol.com>, Sarasota, FL
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THE QUESTION:
RE96: I would like to know from Catholics who have "converted" to other denominations such as Baptist, Lutheran, etc., what kind of effect the change has had on your spiritual life. Do you feel closer to God, have a better understanding of Heaven, etc.?
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
Suzanne, 29, non-denominational, Redmond, WA

ANSWER 1:
Having changed from a Catholic background to a Baptist style, I found the following differences: Spiritually, evangelicals (Baptists) study the Bible together and try to understand why something is right or wrong. Each congregation is autonomous (separately governed), and so no huge Church can dictate morals. Socially, I feel people are much more supportive in the evangelical churches. When I attended the Catholic church, after service I went home. Where I am now, after service, people visit. There is support for those needing support, be it friendship or prayer. Prayerwise, prayer is much more personal. I speak to Jesus as my friend, not as an Almighty God (who He is) who doesn't care about us mere mortals. Doctrinally, the Baptist and other evangelical churches are simpler. Basic beliefs number about 7 to 10. Roman Catholic canon laws number more than 1,000. If it isn't in the Bible, it isn't important for evangelicals.
POSTED SEPT. 24, 1998
A. Urbonas <
urbonas@freenet.edmonton.ab.ca>, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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THE QUESTION:
R439: I've noticed that many of the Hispanic mothers/nannies at our local playgrounds address their children as "mama," as in "Come here and drink your juice, mama." It's used as a term of endearment, the way I might say "sweetie" or "honey." But doesn't "mama" mean "mother" in Spanish, as it does in English? If so, it seems a strange thing to call a child. I'm curious if the word has a special cultural significance. Or, am I just misunderstanding what they're saying, and it's a word that sounds like "mama" but isn't?
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Cynthia, 37, white mother of two preschoolers, Pasadena , CA

ANSWER 1:
You're right. You have indeed heard mothers call their little girls "mama" and, if you listen closely, their little boys "papa." It's nothing more than a term of endearment. There are a number of variations: "mami" and "papi" or "mamita" and "papito" (diminutive). They are the same words you might use when addressing your parents, but they are interchangeably used for children (or spouses!) with great affection.
POSTED SEPT. 21, 1998
N., 33, Cuban-American female, Miami, FL
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THE QUESTION:
RE70: Islam is the second-largest religion in America, and growing fast. It accepts all the Jewish prophets and Jesus. Why is it then, that many Jews and Christians have an aversion to Islam, even though most Muslims are peaceful?
POSTED JUNE 26, 1998
Brad P. <
raddemo@aol.com>, Honolulu, HI

ANSWER 1:
1) Islam does not accept Jesus as Christians understand him (second person of a triune God). See C.S. Lewis for a discussion of the importance of accepting the divinity of Christ if acceptance means anything. 2) Iranians may have good historic, cultural and political reasons to hate the United States, but Muslims should not be surprised that hearing a nation constantly chant "Death to America" and identify the United States with Satan results in an aversion to Islam. 3) Muslims practice their religion freely in the United States - Christian missionaries are persecuted in Islamic countries. I don't justify the aversion by these observations, but I understand it.
POSTED AUG. 1, 1998
Charles B., 51, white <
owlfran@aol.com>, Haverford, PA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Mohammed, the founder of Islam, did say that he acknowledged the prophets of Israel and Jesus as prophets, but that he was truly The Prophet of Allah (the name of God according to Islam). Thus, what he says is the final truth, and all truth is contained in the Koran. Christians believe Jesus is "The Prophet" of YHWH (Yahweh or Yehovah; no one knows the vowels for certain) and truly the Son of God and Messiah, as prophesied. Jesus taught that He would be the last Prophet and that He was the fulfillment of the Law (Torah) and all prophecy. All new revelation from God ceased with the teaching of Jesus the Messiah, and any teaching from man or an angel of God that does not completely conform with His teaching is not from God. This is why Christians do not accept the teaching of Islam.
POSTED AUG. 3, 1998
Scott C., 40, Christian <
scampbel@netset.com>, Worthington, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
My introduction to Islam took place at the university. Before that, I had no opinion about Islam and was only vaguely aware of it. Many of the other students at this university were Islamic. I was instructed by one that while Christians say "turn the other cheek," Moslems say "hit back twice as hard." Those were his words. He was from India. I was a graduate assistant and taught labs. One day four men came up to me in a group and accused me of giving unfair grades to them because of their ethnicity. They too were Islamic, from Iran. As a lone woman, I was intimidated by this group of men. I took their complaint to the head of the department, who gave the papers to an instructor (also foreign, from Cameroon) to compare. He returned them with the comment, "The grades are fair." These instances and the things I have read about the treatment of women in Islamic counties have given me a bad opinion of the Islamic religion.
POSTED AUG. 7, 1998
Theist, 47, white, Ann Arbor , MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Islam's image is that of a zealous, violent religion intolerant of others' beliefs and religions. This may or may not be accurate, but we all see Iran and the intolerance toward the writings of Salmin Rushdie to the point of ordering his death, and we see the lack of women's rights , forced female circumcision , suicide bombers and kidnappings. This shapes our image. We never see Islam promoting world peace, non-violence or women's rights.
POSTED AUG. 17, 1998

Dave <GILSTRAP@MS13.HINET.NET>, Easley, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
In my humble opinion, the reason many Jews and Christians have an aversion to Islam is because of some of the statements you read here. Not because they are true, but because it's the common belief. Some of the notions here are purely laughable to me. Many misconceptions abound. The name of the religion "Islam" comes from the arabic root for "peace" or "tranquility." Most Muslims want nothing more than peace. However, in the face of oppression, Muslims must fight for what's right. As for unfair treatment of women, it truly does not exist in an Islamic framework. Just because someone states something is Islamic, or becuase they come from an "Islamic" country, doesn't mean what they do is Islamic. Just as the ethnic cleansing in Serbia, the KKK or the Spanish Inquisition should not be considered "Christian." A little bit of research on the part of individuals or the Western press will find that Islamic creed and Christian creed are rather similar, and that a relationship built on similarities instead of differences would be far more advantageous to everyone.
POSTED SEPT. 21, 1998
David, 29, Muslim <
dk4@bigfoot.com>, Washington, DC
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THE QUESTION:
R221: Why is the average American so ignorant about the Third World (Africa, to be exact)? The average African is very knowledgeable about the outside world and has a zeal to improve himself or herself. Why is the average American not like that?
POSTED APRIL 30, 1998
Ify <
ifebigh77@hotmail.com>, Miami, FL

ANSWER 1:
Some Americans think the whole world is like it is here in the States. We live here, and if we don't take the time to learn about other places, we won't know about them. Also, some of the media paints a slanted picture of Africa, so that the things we know about it are half true and not truly representative of Africa. Once, some students asked me if they had buildings like ours in Africa. They really asked me about lots of things. I had to show them pictures to make them believe Africa has lots of the things we have in America, but it is still different. It is not like they think it is going to be. (I have visited Senegal and am going to South Africa this summer.) The places I've visited so far were wonderful places that surpassed all my expectations of West Africa. Sadly, many of the people I have talked to still think of Africa in the Tarzan way. They think Africans are swinging from trees and eating grass. I think it is sad that we don't take the time to learn about other countries, Third World or otherwise.
POSTED MAY 7, 1998
Carmela, 29, black <
pecola@hotmail.com>, Atlanta, Ga

FURTHER NOTICE:
To Ify: You are correct. It comes down to the lack of Americans' direct contact with other cultures. Also, that contact would have to be more than being a tourist on a quick sightseeing tour. The United States is just about the only country, or at least developed country, that speaks only one language. I am a typical white male American with a college degree living in Taiwan with my Chinese wife. My wife speaks five languages, and the school system requires all students take English from seventh grade through graduating high school. Most people here speak at least two languages, and many three. There are many American news and other programs on television, along with programs from the Mainland , Japan, Singapore, etc.. There are subtitles on the movies that come from many different countries as well. The people here have a large exposure to other cultures. When I go back to the States to visit, I am surprised at the lack of perception most Americans have about the rest of the world, even though they tend to project outwardly that they know a lot. This is why Americans look niave and arrogant to many other cultures.
POSTED AUG. 14, 1998
Dave <
GILSTRAP@MS13.HINET.NET>, Taipei , Taiwan

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Americans are very ethnocentric because on the whole, we have everything we need. There is very little about a Third World country that I would like to bring into my neighborhood. Consequently, the only thing I want to learn about them is how to avoid their problems. Other countries want to learn about America because they want our money. Let's be honest: Does anyone really like our music that much? As a matter of curiosity, I have read and studied some of the political history of Africa, but there really isn't much there that interests me of late. Tribal rivalries and black-on-black violence is all it is. I guess I'm just a stuck-up American, but I really do think even the worst-off U.S. citizen has it better than the richest citizen in most Third World countries.
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
B., 22, straight white male, Indianapolis, IN

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It may also have to do with the fact that America is a very large country. Unlike the citizens of most countries, an American can travel for thousands of miles and still be surrounded by people who speak the same language and are subject to the same laws. This can lead to a perception that things are pretty much the same, i.e. American, everywhere. When I was in my early 20s I spent 2 1/2 years in Africa in the Peace Corps, and was delighted by how different the customs and language and food were, but how much the people really were like the folks back home.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
Steve H., 49, white American, Redondo Beach, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I am a college freshman, and thoughout high school traveled to six different Third World countries. Not just on quick sightseeing tours, but on extended stays, helping the country by building a church, etc. I was with a group of all high school students, and all of us had a heart for Third World countries. It was plain to see the needs, and how easy it would be to help. There are those young Americans who do see the need, and are trying to do something about it. We may not seem like many, but few with a good heart can do more than many doing "their share." And if you want many, then go to a public high school, share your stories and compel them to go and see for themselves. It does work; just tell them colleges like to see it on applications.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
Summer, 18, white <
summerconklin@hotmail.com>, Grantham, PA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I agree with Carmela. I was a citizen of country X before, and am now a citizen of country Y. Both X and Y are not the United States. I was asked, by some Americans, whether there was TV, whether we lived on trees and whether there were hospitals and cars in these countries. This gave me the understanding that some Americans are extremely ignorant about other countries. Just look at how many "world champions" there are in the United States, although those are really "U.S. champions." It's like other countries just don't exist. To B. of Indiana: Believe me, there are average people in many Third World countries who are better off than the better-off people in the United States.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
P.H., St. Paul, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
To B. of Indiana: Your answer has compelled me to respond to one of these issues for the first time. With all due respect, I believe your reply exudes the attitude that Ify is asking about. In my opinion, the American culture is so rich and may offer us "everything we need" thanks to the contributions of people from the world's diverse cultures, from developing nations and otherwise. Although I have never visited Africa, I have some knowledge of a few of its many cultures. I am not aware that Africa or other developing nations have more rivalries or violence than any post-Industrial nations. In fact, they very well may have less. Your point about the value of learning how to avoid problems by studying how other countries have handled them is very valid. However, I would not be surprised if many nations study the United States so that they can avoid some of our numerous problems! Lastly, I find that sometimes the more I learn about a topic, the more I realize I don't know. You may change your mind about the validity and richness of other cultures by learning more about them. As they say, variety is the spice of life.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
Dana, 29, American <
dkup@usa.net>, NY, NY
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