Best of the Week
of Oct. 3, 1999

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Oct. 3, 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:
Who do people look at me as a third-rate person when I tell them I am an auto mechanic? Do they realize that the cars of today require a constantly increasing amount of knowledge to diagnose and repair, that the systems utilized in today's cars are rivaled only by those of the human body, or that a good tech earns $40,000 to $70,000 anually? We are professionals and deserve to be treated as such.
POSTED 10/4/1999
Rodney O., Virginia Beach, VA, United States, 33, Male, Episcopalian, Black/African American, Straight, ASE Master Auto Tech, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 925199943420

Responses:
All my life I have been surrounded by auto mechanics and handymen in general, and I have been asked, told and pushed to become one for as long as I can remember. My uncle is the penultimate "grease monkey." He is, in short, disgusting. None of his work has any quality, he does not take care of his hygiene and he has no social life. If you ever saw the Western Union commercial with the stereotypical grease monkey, he's it and more. He is filthy, his hair is rarely washed or cut, it looks like his jaw will fall off and he is inarticulate. He does not work as a professional garage mechanic; he would never be hired. Another auto enthusiast I know, who also is not a professional auto mechanic, has destroyed his marriage by spending all his time on cars. Sure, you deserve to be treated like a professional businessman, like any other. But as long as there are "enthusiasts" who can't do quality work, wouldn't be hired by you or your employers and leave such a shocking, terrible impression on people, you will have to work ever harder to get respect. A lot of people you meet would probably guess that your house/apartment is full of auto parts and that you go home a mess. I would. You should make it clear that: a) You are a professional who cares about cleanliness and a home/family life; and b) "Enthusiasts" who produce shoddy work represent the opposite of professionals and give them a bad name.
POSTED 10/6/1999
Alex, Toronto, Ontario, NA, Canada, 24, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Lower class, Mesg ID 106199913355
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Question:
I'm a deaf girl who has grown up around hearing people. One thing I have noticed is that hearing people tend to have an uncomfortable or awkward time around deaf people and stare while we sign. Why is that? Is it because you are afraid to contract deafness? We are willing to make an effort to communicate on our part, so why don't you?
POSTED 10/6/1999
E. Henry, Steamboat Springs, CO, United States, 19, Female, Straight, Deaf, Student, High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 10499110629

Responses:
I think it is natural for people to feel a bit awkward in situations that are unusual to them. I went to a college with a relatively large population of hearing-impaired students, and got very used to seeing sign language in class and out. I still "stare" at it (though I'd call it "watching"), not because I think it's strange, but because it fascinates me. I know a very small amount of sign language and would like to learn more. Perhaps some of the people you see staring are just watching, too.
POSTED 10/6/1999
Shari D., Canton, MI, United States, 28, Female, Lutheran, White/Caucasian, Straight, Teacher, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1061999112857

When I have seen people signing, I couldn't help but try and sneak a look because I find sign language really fascinating and beautiful to watch. I don't know about other people's reasons, and granted it is rude to stare at other people's conversations, but for me it isn't because I am afraid or hostile; it is only admiration of another type of speech.
POSTED 10/7/1999
Meriam F., San Francisco, CA, United States, Mesg ID 106199934952

I have always stared because I love sign language and have been trying to learn it. By watching people sign, I'm learning more about signing, the way people learn Spanish or French by listening to it. Also, just as with some people learning French or Spanish, I don't feel very comfortable using the language around people who speak it fluently and prefer just to watch. Don't always assume that when a hearing person stares at you it's because they are thinking something negative or ignorant. They might just be watching and learning.
POSTED 10/7/1999
Mel W., Gunnison, CO, United States, 18, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Student/Carhop, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 106199952506

I used to stare at deaf people the few times I saw them. But that was because I was genuinely interested in learning more about signing. As fate would have it, my fiance is fluent in sign. His parents are deaf and his stepfather is deaf, so he's known sign since he was just a little kid. Now, I have someone to help me become more fluent in signing. I'm not very good at it, but the few people I've signed to seemed to enjoy my attempts. But I wouldn't think too much of the people that stare; they probably are curious about sign language and find it just as interesting as I do.
POSTED 10/7/1999
Angee, Clarksville, TN, United States, <Boointn@aol.com>, 24, Female, Future ASL Interpreter, Mesg ID 106199970024
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Question:
I've always wondered about the different Christian religions and who's right about what. I'd really like to know, though, if most Catholics are really Christians. I know they believe in God, buy have they accepted Him into their lives?
POSTED 10/6/1999
Jillian H., Lansing, MI, United States, Female, Christian, Lower class, Mesg ID 699960405

Responses:
Yes, Catholics are considered Christians. It is believed that the Catholic Church was started by the apostle Peter.
POSTED 10/7/1999
Mark, Mountain Home, AR, United States, 37, Male, Straight, Manufacturing/technician, Technical School , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 106199994911
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Question:
I am a heterosexual female and recently I have noticed that almost every woman now claims to be either a lesbian or bisexual. Almost all my friends are following this 'talk show' trend, and I am just curious: Why? I know that sometimes oral sex and foreplay (the only things two women are genetically capable of doing together) are a lot of times more enjoyable to a woman, but why are so many of us just giving up on the men? I could never be intimate with a woman even if I wanted to 'fit in,' so what is going on today with this latest trend? Am I a part of a dying out, true heterosexual breed? Am I the only one who sees this? Remember, Eve was the one who gave Adam the apple that got them both thrown out of Eden.
POSTED 5/8/1999
Tiorea T., Wayne, NJ, United States, 19, Female, Straight, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 579963951

Responses:
Many of the younger people of today have been indoctrinated, unsuspectingly many times, over the years by activist school boards. The school boards have traditionally had the trust of parents who have simply assumed that the teachers of today are of the same moral fiber as the teachers of yesteryear. The aim of some of these school boards may have been laudable, but the result is that young people often see homosexuality as no different than other lifestyles. It takes a strong person to stand up and say "No" to this sort of influence.
POSTED 10/6/1999
Normand, Alameda, CA, United States, 50, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Blue-collar, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 679930528
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Question:
I do not understand all the public sympathy that racial and HIV matters get. So many problems of people incapable of representing themselves (the retarded, mentally ill, abandoned children, etc.) are being pushed further and further into the corner. To me, public figures flock to causes that are behavior choices, while people who are truly innocent and cannot be other than they are catch a crumb or two every year. I have lost all feeling for the serious illness of AIDS and the error of racial discrimination. Don't people care about more than being part of the latest fad?
POSTED 10/5/1999
K., Austin, TX, United States, Mesg ID 105199945833

Responses:
Racism is a social problem that derives from oppression, discrimination and systemic marginalization of groups by the dominant culture. AIDS is a lethal, infectious disease. Both are preventable. On the other hand, the physically challenged are equal citizens who deserve equality rather than sympathy. I believe these three distinct issues can be addressed in a manner that does not prioritize one as being more vital than the other. In fact, if left unattended, each of them eventually results in poor quality of life and/or death. Shouldn't we simply work on eradicating all forms of disadvantage and affliction?
POSTED 10/6/1999
Dee W., Cleveland, OH, United States, 34, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Educator, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 105199971936

AIDS knows no age, race, religion or gender. You do not need to be a junky, whore or homosexual to get HIV or AIDS. You need only to be human. I have AIDS. I contracted it by having sex with my husband. I know many women of all races who contracted AIDS through rape, or consensual sex with boyfriends or husbands. Some who got it were nurses who were pricked with dirty needles, and one woman who was infected in her native Africa contracted it from a simple malaria shot. Almost all of these women have one or more children. Some unknowingly passed HIV on to those children in childbirth. And those children are the innocent ones who do deserve sympathy and an outcry to help them.
POSTED 10/7/1999
Female, Dallas, TX, United States, 27, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, Accountant, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1061999111253
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Question:
I am Indian and never call myself a "camel jockey." I have Jewish friends, and they never call themselves "kykes," and I have white friends and they don't refer to themselves or their friends as "crackers." So why to blacks use the derogatory term "nigger" when talking about themselves or their friends and family? Why do African Americans get upset when other people use the word "nigger" if they use it themselves?
POSTED 10/4/99
Vinod, Seymour, CT, United States, 20, Male, Hindu, Asian, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1019911614

Responses:
First, I would like to say that I am not African American, but of mixed race and ethnicity, with one parent from the Dominican Republic and another from the United States. However, I went to an all-black high school and also consider myself an ally to African Americans, as well as a child of the African diaspora. There are systematic definitions of who we are supposed to be, and then there are words of resistance. "Nigger," as used by African-American youth, has a specific history of meaning resistance to the definition of blacks as 'less', or as nigger as "non-human" - just like gay men use "fag" and lesbians use "dyke." These have all been words used to dehumanize us, but among ourselves we use them as a way to reclaim the anger and pain and turn it into a community building force. However, the intent and the owner of the use of the word is very important. It is very different for a Jewish lesbian to refer to herself as a kike dyke, or a first nations person to refer to themselves as Indian, or a black person to refer to themselves as a nigger, than for someone outside of that particular place of resistance to use those words. We embue these words with new meaning when we use them in our own contexts, than when someone who is not black uses the word nigger, or not Jewish using the word kike. Also, there is no singular experience. I am sure that you as an Indian person can relate to the idea that you are different from a lot of other Indian people, and that you have your own opinions and ideas about names, labels, words, etc. The same goes for individuals in all communities.
POSTED 10/4/1999
Ana L., Boston, MA, United States, <laraana@hotmail.com>, 24, Female, Mesg ID 10499115820

I'll give you my opinion on it. First, when other races use the word 'nigger,' it's meant to degrade black people and make them feel less than human. When black people use the word with other black people, it's not meant to degrade or make you feel low. Now the word has a totally different meaning with some black people. It could mean your homie or friend, not a low, dumb stupid, ignorant being. For some black people, there is no difference. Nigger is a bad word no matter who says it. To me, there are two different meanings: One is someone who is ignorant and doesn't act like they have any sense. The other is just meaning your boy, homie or friend. I don't use 'nigger' every day, just sometimes. Yet if other races use the term, they mean it to be derogatory and to degrade. And they use the word with the intent of having some sort of hold on you and power over you.
POSTED 10/4/1999
Naomi, Lansing, MI, United States, <gauldinn@pilot.msu.edu>, 20, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Full-time student, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1049912539

I know white guys who refer to themselves as Crackers, Rednecks, Peckerwoods, White Trash, etc. Same guys would be brandishing a broken beer bottle at someone from another race calling them that. This phenomenon is not limited to African Americans.
POSTED 10/5/1999
Steve, Houston, TX, United States, 37, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Engineer, Over 4 Years of College , Upper class, Mesg ID 1049955707

In middle school and early high school, I didn't understand this, either. Nowadays, it makes more sense, since I do the same kind of thing. Around my sophomore/junior year of high school, I realized I was a lesbian. It was this terrifying experience. What if people called me queer? What if they said I was a dyke? After a while, I came to understand something: I was queer, and I was a dyke, and ... so what? The gay community, perhaps more than any besides the African-American community, uses language reclamation. What that means to me is that I will choose the power these words have. There is no longer any insult in the word "dyke" for me... at least, not generally. In fact, the word itself never bothers me ... it's the tone, and the impetus behind it. At the same time, these words are used within the community, often at full force. More than once I or someone I know has made a reference to so and so being a "fag" or a "big dyke." Usually, these are merely reference points. (It saves going through a lot of qualifiers: "You know, the one with the bi-level hair cut and the leather jacket. She rides a motorcycle and lays pipe for a living. She looks kind of like Billy Ray Cyrus." Read: the dyke.) Women seem to have done this to, with "bitch." It's all about choosing where the power lies.
POSTED 10/5/1999
Kathryn, Roanoke, VA, United States, 21, Female, Lesbian, Mesg ID 1051999102236
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Question:
Why do Latino Catholics kiss their hand after making a sign of the cross (genuflecting)?
POSTED 10/4/99
JoAnna R., St. Louis, MO, United States, 25, Female, Catholic, Straight, Adminisrative Assistant, 2 Years of College, Mesg ID 1029945925

Responses:
It is a Spanish custom that when approaching the altar of God, as a sign of homage a Catholic would genuflect and make the sign of the cross. As for kissing the hand, the Spaniards make another sign of the cross by bending the index finger of the right hand under the right thumb, again creating a cross and kissing the cross that was created by the two fingers. I hope that answers your question.
POSTED 10/4/1999
Sonja E., New Orleans, LA, United States, Female, Catholic, Hispanic/Latino, Manager, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10499123125
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Question:
Why do Hindu or Indian women wear black dots on their foreheads?
POSTED 10/4/99
Jamila M., Detroit, MI, United States, 13, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Student, Less than High School Diploma, Mesg ID 1029995334
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Question:
For women who are paraplegic, quadraplegic or have cerebral palsy or similar conditions: If you get pregnant, can you carry your baby to term? If so, can you give birth vaginally or do you have to have a C-section?
POSTED 10/4/99
Crystal, Oakland, CA, United States, 30's, Female, Pagan, White/Caucasian, Straight, Office manager, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 9301999125704
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Question:
I have been raised "culturally Jewish" (as opposed to religiously) in a multi-ethnic family. Recently, I've experienced being quite offended by online conversations in mostly black-oriented chat rooms where someone (who either doesn't know or doesn't care that I'm Jewish) has made stereotypical comments about Jewish people owning all the media and banks, and making negative comments to that effect. What is the rationale for the Jewish stereotype of the greedy, capitalist cheapskate? And do non-Jewish black folks know that there are black Jews out there? That we feel offended when we're branded by members of the black community with negative stereotypes?
POSTED 10/4/99
Taneia, Toronto, Ontario, NA, Canada, 26, Female, Jewish, Polynesian/European, Straight, Graduate student, Over 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 9309924420

Responses:
The simplest answer I can give you is "consider the source." During my earliest days of web surfing, I used to visit several black-oriented chat rooms, but was turned off by the disturbing level of aggressive ignorance that was usually on display there. The few bright spots of intellect weren't worth my time (perhaps the same could be said for most chat rooms of any kind?) I do believe, though, that a larger issue is at work. For two groups of people with such similar recent histories of suffering brutal oppression (i.e., American slavery and the European Holocaust), you'd think blacks and Jews would automatically consider themselves spiritual kin. Alas, our history of oppression in this country has not granted enough blacks the gift of insight, or even empathy. Too many of us continue to hate ourselves, and are quick to leap on the bandwagon of bigotry regarding other perennial targets of discrimination. Next time you see this sort of talk, perhaps you should urge the offenders to visit a Passover seder: Maybe then they'll begin to develop a clue.
POSTED 10/5/1999
Sam, Chicago, IL, United States, <SamAlex67@aol.com>, 31, Male, Black/African American, Straight, Firefighter, High School Diploma , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1049965333

I think it's interesting that the writer would focus on negative stereotypes coming from the black community. Believe me, there are people in all communities who continue with this stupidity. That being said, there is an historical basis for some of this. In many cases, Jews were the last group of merchants to leave the black community before the 1960s. People in my mother's age group can remember feeling mistreated and cheated by these merchants, who sometimes displayed unconscionable behavior. If the merchants had been Irish or Italian, those groups would have been painted with the same broad brush as the Jewish community, based on the activities of some of these merchants.
POSTED 10/6/1999
Rikki, Cleveland, OH, United States, <rhowell37@hotmail.com>, 51, Female, Humanist, Straight, Over 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 106199991132

I can say a bit about the source of the stereotype. In Medieval Europe, Christians believed it was a sin to deal in money, so money lending became the profession of Jews. In fact, the only one they were allowed to have. If you've borrowed money, you understand how the rich people of Europe felt about money lenders. They (the rich people) loved the Jews when they needed money. But when it came time to pay it back, their feelings changed. In some countries Jews were expelled when the king owed them money, and then he welcomed them back in when he needed money again. A law of the time said that, when a Jew died, his property belonged to the king. So, any money a Jew had, he had to make during his lifetime. So, here you have a combination of being limited to the profession of money lender, having to support your family only on what you yourself make, and living under the threat of having to pick up and leave. You can see how this would make a person careful about money, and appear greedy to others. And, if those others owed that person money, well, you get the idea. Of course, as time went by, and some of the laws changed, there were some Jewish families that did become rich. There were also some rich Jews that came to America and continued the banking tradition. However, most Jews who came to this country were poor and trying to build new lives in the land of plenty.
POSTED 10/6/1999
Gail G., Oakland, CA, United States, <gail@homemail.com>, 35, Female, Jewish/Pagan/Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Technical Writer, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10599100357
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Question:
Do people feel that the United States is influencing the rest of the world on how people look, dress and eat? For example, why do teenagers worldwide dress in American styles and use American-derived words, expressions and slang, etc.?
POSTED 10/4/99
Rob M., Glasgow, NA, United Kingdom, <robert.mccomick@ukf.net>, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight,Mesg ID 9309972816

Responses:
I think it partially has to do with the popularity of the American media (American movies, music, etc.), which obviously would spread the mannerisms of their own country. But I guess that still leaves a sort of chicken-and-egg question of why the American movies, music, etc. are so popular. Are Americans seen as more interesting or more fun-loving, or perhaps simply more wealthy?
POSTED 10/5/1999
John J. D., Pittston, PA, United States, <54dziak@cua.edu>, 22, Male, Student, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 10499104501

Yes. It is called cultural imperialism, and we need to be on our guard against it. It is a shame because we are losing so much valuable cultural diversity to Hollywood & Co.
POSTED 10/5/1999
C.P., Montreal, Quebec, , Canada, 21, Female, Mesg ID 1049973012

The United States is an economical, military and cultural empire, just like the Roman empire was 2,000 years ago. The influence by the Roman empire exists even today. The United States exports its culture (McDonalds, Levis, Tommy Hilfiger, Halloween, Jordan & Chicago Bulls, Harley Davidson, American Football, etc.) through the media (movies and television, music industry, etc.) and through business. The influence is vast, almost wherever you go in the world. We the 'gentiles' must take the best from their society and reject the bad things (excessive materialism, arrogance, savage capitalism, cultural ignorance, superficiality, aggressiveness, etc). We must also uphold our own values and cultures, like the Latin community is doing in the United States, making Americans learn Spanish and dance salsa. The Jewish community has survived many an empire because of this. All empires throughout history have fallen, and normally they fall from within, from their own mistakes. Let's make the best of today's Roman Empire, until the foolish emperors and their supporters come along and let it fall.
POSTED 10/5/999
Nelson A., Caracas, NA, Venezuela, 30, Male, Catholic, White/Hispanic, Lawyer/Business, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1049993910

As an American teenager I traveled to nine foreign countries (spending an average of 2-6 weeks in each), and have seen firsthand the American influence in other countries. At first it was a little flattering, but as I thought about it, I found it was truly sad. In many places the teenagers choose their clothes and their music according to what they have been told American teenagers like. Their impressions of the United States are very often skewed by industry, or are almost a decade behind. But it has been my experience that teenagers in foreign countries do have the desire to be as much like American teenagers as they can.
POSTED 10/5/1999
S., Ann Arbor, MI, United States, 19, Female, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College, Mesg ID 105199922354
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