Best of the Week
of Oct. 10, 1999

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Oct. 10, 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:
I have a black friend who used to mock women who locked their car doors as he walked by. Recently, I was walking home and was approached by a black man, who, after being ignored, said, "You're not ignoring me because I'm black, are you?" So I talked to him, and five minutes later he put a gun to my neck and robbed me. By giving him the benefit of the doubt, I put myself at risk. Another time, a black man asked to use the phone, and then came in with three friends and wouldn't leave until the police were called. I have only had problems with black men. My questions are: 1) Doesn't it then make sense for a woman to lock her car (better safe than sorry)? When should you not be trusting? 2) Is it fair to blame solely white thinking for racism when some of it is also based on some black behavior - especially if the person cries racism in an attempt to take advantage of you? Isn't that betraying your own race?
POSTED 10/15/1999
Craig, Minneapolis, MN, United States, <cmorris@loft.org>, 36, Male, White/Caucasian, Computer support, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 101499115130
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Question:
I am a 24-year-old male and have a moderately hairy chest and legs. I also have a little hair on my lower back right above my waist, as well as on my buttocks. Is this a huge turnoff to women? How common is it in men?
POSTED 10/15/99
Will, Charlotte, NC, United States, 24, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, Middle class, Mesg ID 10139911201
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Question:
How does a male tell another male he's attracted to him when he doesn't know his orientation without offending him or getting beat up?
POSTED 10/13/99
Matt T., Olympia, WA, United States, 38, Male, Pagan, White/Caucasian, Bisexual, Laborer, High School Diploma, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 10111999110600

Responses:
I'll assume this exchange is taking place in a 'neutral' environment such as a shopping mall or a museum, and not at a gay bar. First, you must keep in mind that most men are straight and would not welcome the attentions of other men who confess such attractions. That having been said, however, there is the significant possibility that the object of your attraction is indeed gay or bisexual. Eye contact is important: If the man engages in longer-than-usual eye contact with you and accompanies it with a friendly smile, that's a good sign. Striking up some conversation is the next step: Are you in a music store? Have you noticed that the object of your affection is interested in a lot of the same recording artists as you are? You might remark, 'Oh, that's a great CD.' Different social environments call for breaking the ice in different ways, but once the conversation has started, you can begin to gauge how interested he might be in you depending on how much personal information he chooses to disclose. If you already have a lot of gay friends, your 'Gaydar' may be sufficiently well-honed for you to figure out whether the man in question might welcome your attentions. If you have not confessed your attraction to him, and yet he agrees to join you later for a beer or a bite to eat, you may have at least made a new friend. If anything, be discreet, and don't rush things.
POSTED 10/14/1999
Chuck A., Spring Hill, WV, United States, 40, Male, Gay, Mesg ID 101399111246
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Question:
Do men ever think their role as the sexual aggressor is something they might do away with, in the same manner feminism did away with the expectation that women should all be housewives?
POSTED 6/3/1999
Vanessa, West Palm Beach, FL, United States, <vmloy@yahoo.com>, 21, Female, Mesg ID 639952240

Responses:
Perhaps, although I distinguish between 'aggression,' which may be innate, and 'aggressive behavior,' which I expect mature people to control. I always hoped that the women's movement would spark an equivalent, viable men's movement that would help to free men of the gargantuan burden of expectation placed on us. What would it mean to be free of chivalry, the 'code of the West' and other social strictures? Free of the obligation (based on gender) to fight your nation's wars? Free to emote in public? Free from other men's judgment if you're not your family's chief breadwinner? Free of abused women's assumptions about you? Free to parent in an unreservedly loving manner?
POSTED 10/14/1999
Jim, Denver, CO, United States, 40, Male, European-American, Straight, Over 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 689950257
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Question:
Why are some white people so prejudiced and racist against people of color, yet burn themselves all the time in an effort to get darker? It doesn't make sense. What is the logic? Is it that this hatred is really a result of jealousy?
POSTED 10/13/99
Karen, Chicago, IL, United States, 27, Female, Baptist, Black/African American, Straight, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10121999105724

Responses:
This is a really excellent observation. As a white person, it made me think about the difference between skin color and skin 'color.' Skin color being the actual aesthetic qualities of one's skin, and skin 'color' being the politics of one's race. To my eye, people with that sort of milk chocolate brown, 'Oprah Winfrey' color are really a pleasing skin color. There was a writer once who offended people's sensibilities by referring to Martin Luther King as being the color of a fine cigar. (The same writer once referred to Herbert Hoover as the color of a puffed marshmallow.) People chastised him for the 'cigar' reference, but he said he was just trying to find a good descriptive adjective. My Northern European genetics gave me a peach-colored skin, which is fine for absorbing vitamin A from sunlight in low light latitudes but actually rather dull from an artist's standpoint. I believe when Caucasians try to tan they are risking skin cancer to simply locate a better looking color. However, when people refer to black skin in the social setting, they are hauling in all the history, politics and social placement issues. So yes, we are probably jealous of the actual color of black skin, but not jealous of the politics it brings.
POSTED 10/13/99
Steve, Houston, TX, United States, 39, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Executive, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 10139985030

I agree with just about everything in Steve's response. To expand somewhat, it is not just race that is a basis for these feelings. Look at the hostile feelings between groups in Serbia, Ireland, etc. I even saw a question on the Y? Forum regarding how Hispanics from outside the United States can sometimes put American (U.S.) Hispanics in the 'other' group and discriminate against them. Robert Wright describes the basis for a lot of this in his book The Moral Animal. It is a tendency that we all have to some degree, and that we have to recognize and often struggle to overcome.
POSTED 10/14/99
Lazarus, Lawrenceville, GA, United States, 41, Male, Unitarian, White/Caucasian, Straight, 4 Years of College , Middle class,Mesg ID 10139974650

I, too, have wondered why, and it goes much further than just tanning of the skin. Blacks were made fun of in cartoons and comic strips because of our full (big) lips. Now, whites are having collagen injected in their lips for fullness. I have seen whites with dreadlocks, corn rows and braids in their hair. Our urban culture, i.e., style of dress, dance, and speech is being copied. Strange.
POSTED 10/15/99
Lisa, Detroit, MI, United States, 38, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Clerical, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10149932636

I don't think it is a result of jealousy. It is merely done for cosmetic reasons. For instance, I could say the same thing about racist blacks who straighten their hair. It seems to me that you are over-analyzing and making something an issue that wasn't one in the first place.
POSTED 10/15/99
L. James, Chester, SC, United States, 21, Female, Presbyterian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10149923657

You pose a good question. As for the logic of tanning, it was Hollywood that gave us that look. Up until this century, to have pale skin was a sign of wealth. It meant that you didn't have to work in the fields or outdoors in the markets; that you had enough money to spend your time indoors. Some people were so pale that you could see the blue veins under the skin of their wrists, and that's where the term 'blue blood' came from. But then Hollywood stars started coming back from their vacations tanned. And soon movies were scattered with these tanned bodies and it became hip to be tanned. And this 'fad' has yet to fall out of style. As for it being envy: Honestly, I don't think so. I'm Puerto Rican but have Irish coloring, i.e. I'm pale, and I've never felt jealous of some of my darker cousins. However, this may be different for other people.
POSTED 10/15/99
Mekki, Virginia Beach, VA, United States, 22, Female, Catholic, Irish/Puerto Rican, Straight, Mesg ID 10141999124448

As a white male who tans on a regular basis, it really is just a matter of looking better and healthier. I wouldn't assume that every white person who tans has some kind of jealousy or prejudice against black people. Using that kind of logic, maybe black people are jealous of white people because they can tan. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? I can see how black people might not understand tanning, but in today's society, most whites and blacks work indoors, as opposed to outdoors. As a result, we white people tend to not receive any benefits from the sun that might not be apparent to blacks. Remember, the sun spits out huge amounts of ultraviolet rays that can be harmful to people who have not built up a healthy tan. Therefore, if we are to spend ample amounts of time in the sun, we must prepare as well. Besides, it looks good, too.
POSTED 10/15/99
Kevin, Birmingham, MI, United States, <kevin@3rddegree.com>, 26, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Graphic Designer, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 1014199995914
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Question:
On a recent extended stay in Southern California, I was treated with disrespect and utter hatred. I am from New York and was in California for two years. To me, the people there are fake. They smile to your face and talk behind your back. There is no such thing as "real." The people there don't like New Yorkers or outsiders. They feel like we don't belong in California. They say people in California are the nicest, but I say people in New York are nicer and more willing to help!
POSTED 10/11/99
Vincent A., New York, NY, United States, 26, Male, White/Caucasian, , Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class class, Mesg ID 1010199935911

Responses:
Please don't judge all of California by Southern California. People go to Los Angeles to 'make it big' in show business, so consequently you are dealing with cutthroat ambition and inflated egos. I am from Northern California and also find that a lot (by no means all) of Southern Californians are superficial, rude and hell-bent on being 'superstars.' If you want to see a better side of California, come to Oakland instead! I can attest to the fact that we are a much nicer, happier breed up here. We do hate to be painted with the same brush as the people in the southern part of the state, though!
POSTED 10/13/99
Crystal, Oakland, CA, United States, <chrysantza@earthlink.net>, 30's, Female, Pagan, Straight, Office Manager, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 10111999121923

People think a lot of things about California that aren't very accurate. Such as everybody has blond hair, a nice tan and surfs. California is a big place, and there are a lot of different types of people here. I have lived in California all of my life, spending time in several different places around the state. There are tremendous differences between one part of the state and another. Every part is different and has its strengths and weaknesses. I would hate for the whole state to get a bad reputation just because people in a certain area act badly.
POSTED 10/13/99
Lucy H., San Jose, CA, United States, 24, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Engineer, 4 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1011199923850

Two responses: 1) Southern California is a very transient area. Half the people here are from back East or the Midwest. My roots have been here for three generations or so. I guess some of those who think they have all the rights to this piece of real estate are a tad resentful of outsiders. But they are a minority. Perhaps the area you were in and the type of people you were around were factors. 2) Much of Southern California is blue collar, casual and easygoing (as far as attitude goes). L.A. itself has a Latino majority, and we are a bit more hospitable than the majority culture, from what I've seen. Perhaps you were surrounded by snobs or territorial types (euphemism for certain 'rough' whites). Southern Cal is definitely not all about jet-setting yuppies and movie stars.
POSTED 10/13/99
Dan, Los Angeles area, CA, United States, 20, Male, Pentecostal, Hispanic/Latino, Student/dishwasher, Lower middle class, Mesg ID 1011199972049

I have visited California and New York on a number of occasions, and I must say New Yorkers are much friendlier. I've had the opportunity to travel around a lot, and I've met lots of great people, and New Yorkers were the most surprising. It is a common 'understanding' that they are rude or abrasive or whatever, but I've found the exact opposite. Californians seem to be pretentious for some reason. I'm not saying individual Californians are this way. It's just the feeling I got from the people in general. So no matter what anyone says, I know the truth about New Yorkers and always look forward to visiting the city.
POSTED 10/13/99
Kate, Columbus, OH, United States, 28, Female, 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 10121999124935

I have lived in both places and have heard the same conversations on both sides of the country. I would just like to offer that what you expect to see, you will see. I have wonderful friends in California, and the same here in New York. The two areas are completely different with respect to energies, topographies and people. But both have nice people and mean people. I would also like to know why this question was allowed out there on Y? Forum. It is not a question, but rather a prejudicially laden statement. I thought the forum wasn't about that.
POSTED 10/13/99
Matthew C., New York, NY, United States, 41, Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Artist, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class,Mesg ID 1012199982608
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Question:
Why is it that young people seem to think something is wrong with you if you are a virgin? I'm 46 and proud that my wife is the only woman I have ever slept with.
POSTED 1/18/1999
Jay K., Charleston, SC, United States, 46, Male, Straight, Mesg ID 189961135

Responses:
I am a 21-year-old virgin, but not for the expected reasons. I had too many opportunities throughout my teen years to have sex, but it wasn't the fact that they weren't the 'one' that stopped me. It was me. The same is true for today. I am a college student, a mentor and bill payer. One day, when I am able to juggle all of these things and get everything paid for on time and organized, then maybe I will have sex. When I do, it will be on my time and my terms. I am not mature enough at this point to take on the risks that come along with having sex. I guess what I am saying is that it is important that a person knows where they are with themselves before they consider having sex.
POSTED 10/11/1999
Christina, San Diego, CA, United States, <delan008@coyote.csusm.edu>, 21, Female, Lutheran, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student/ Mentor, 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1010199970856
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Question:
I read a statistic that stated that blacks make up 14 percent of the population but are responsible for 78 percent of violent crimes. Is this accurate, and if so, what can we do to change this trend?
POSTED 10/11/1999
Martin, San Diego, CA, United States, 27, Male, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Straight, Adventurer, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 1011199914900

Responses:
Those often-quoted statistics are not exactly a lie, but they do give a distorted picture that often becomes misused as an excuse by many for fear of blacks and other non-whites. Most of those statistics come from the FBI's reports of who gets arrested. Blacks make up a much higher proportion of that, and even a greater percentage of the prison and jail population, but they do NOT make up the majority of actual criminals. The Justice Department makes annual surveys of crime victims that give a much more accurate picture. By their figures, about 2/3 to 3/4 of the violent criminals in the United States are white, not too different from the proportion in the general population. What this says is that blacks and other non-whites get the great majority of law enforcement attention, which has some pretty disturbing implications for the amount of continuing racism among cops.
POSTED 10/13/1999
A.C.C., W. Lafayette, IN, United States, Mexican and American Indian, Grad student, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 1011199985335

According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States (1998), more blacks are victims of crimes, while more whites are offenders. More whites were charged with serious crimes than blacks (62.2 percent vs. 35.1 percent). My thinking here is that blacks are portrayed more in the media than whites. And, being minorities, they are watched more closely.
POSTED 10/15/99
C. Thomas, Renton, WA, United States, 57, Male, White/Native American, Straight, Photographer, 2 Years of College , Middle class, Mesg ID 1014199924456
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Question:
Why do even scientifically educated whites of scientifically advanced nations believe the Bible, which by its records states that the world is only 2,500 (approximately) years old? I'm not trying to be offensive with this question.
POSTED 10/11/1999
S.T. Marban, Madras, , India, 29, Male, Hindu, Asian, Over 4 Years of College , Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1011199942701

Responses:
We are told to find the comprehensive sense of the Bible. And the sense is: To keep one's soul healthy. This is done by fulfillment of the 'Ten Commandments' and the most important commandment 'Love your Next (everyone) as Yourself.' This is the main message for real Christians. It is not easy. And somehow we are all betrayers of Jesus Christ's idea. But it can be rectified by rationalism as well. Most Christians take the Bible as symbolic.
POSTED 10/12/99
Andreas L., Freising, NA, Germany, <Phil1@gmx.net>, 34, Male, Catholic, White/Caucasian, High School Diploma , Middle class, Mesg ID 1012199925219

I was wondering why you find it so significant that some 'scientifically educated whites' believe in the Bible. Does being white automatically make your thinking more rational and science-based than if you are non-white?
POSTED 10/13/99
K.R., Atlanta, GA, United States, Mesg ID 1011199982327

I'm as embarrassed as anyone to have to explain to my incredulous foreign friends that many Americans are still indoctrinated to take the Bible seriously as a scientific document. I think it arises from the fact that the first English-speaking Americans were largely immigrants who, even in the 16th Century, were so religiously obnoxious that they were kicked out of a series of European countries before sailing to the New World, where they could worship, oppress, accuse, excommunicate and burn each other in peace. So, even four centuries later, we still have, underneath all the layers of sex-obsessed pop culture, these bizarre Puritan fundamentalist attitudes - for example, that the Genesis version of creation could possibly have any relevance to scientific fact. But to get back to your question: Scientifically educated people, whatever their color or nation, don't take the Bible as a literal history of creation. Faith and theology have one aspect and purpose, science has another; and there's no reason to try to force the two things to fit with the same set of facts.
POSTED 10/13/99
Erik, Detroit, MI, United States, 35, Male, Christian, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 10111999101407

I'm a college freshman, so I'm not by any means an expert in the field, but from what little research I have done, I've found some emerging ideas (supported by scientific evidence) of a young earth as described in the Bible. Remember, for years we believed that the sun revolved around the earth, and people were beaten and imprisoned for believing otherwise. Just because the majority of people accept something doesn't prove it is true. Test everything (that's what the Bible says).
POSTED 10/13/99
Brandon, Winter Park, FL, United States, 18, Male, Christian, Eskimo, Straight, Student/web designer, High School Diploma, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1012199990933

Sincere Bible believers vary. I believe that the Bible is our best source for information about God and our relationship with God but was never intended by God or Bible authors to provide information about geology or even, aside from specific chronicles, history. Thus it does not bother me that its information about the age of the planet disagrees with scientific estimates. Speculations about the age of the earth, by the way, are not even made in the Bible itself (not in the 'canon' ... you might find an article about this within the covers of a book that includes the Bible, but the article is not part of the Bible.) Estimates of 4,000-5,000 years have been calculated based on events that are described in the Bible and guesses about the length of time each event represented. I believe the Bible is true about God because I have been taught that it is by people I trust and because its truths match my personal experience of God and observation of the world. By the way, I am white, with a math degree and an art degree, born a U.S. citizen, and a practicing Christian. I understand that education, citizenship and beliefs are important to your question. I am entirely puzzled why you specified 'white.'
POSTED 10/13/99
Chris G., Dallas, TX, United States, Mesg ID 1012199993849

The Bible does not specifically state the age of the earth. People quoting 2,500 years are simply voicing their interpretation. The fact is that nobody knows how old the earth is; not even scientists. All anyone can do is offer their best guess.
POSTED 10/13/99
T.R., San Jose, CA, United States, 17, Female, Mormon, White/Caucasian, Straight, Student, Less than High School Diploma,Mesg ID 10129952023

My understanding was that the Bible does not explicitly state that the world is approximately 2,500 years old, but that James Ussher, a 16-17th Century bishop, calculated the creation of the earth to have been in 4004 B.C. The number was based on the long 'begat' sections of the Bible. James Ussher lived in a time when people generally believed the earth to be relatively young.
POSTED 10/13/99
S.R., Austin, TX, United States, 21, Female, Agnostic, White/Caucasian, Student, Mesg ID 10129954901

I'm a PhD geologist. The scientific view of the age of the earth (approximately 4.5 billion years) is based on a vast number of independent observations interpreted by many different techniques, such as radioisotope decay, erosion rates of mountains, the fossil record, comparison with meteorites and moon rock, deposition rates and thicknesses of sediments, etc. I am astounded by the degree to which these techniques corroborate each other and, scientifically, I have confidence in the estimated age. Personally, like most people, I find it difficult to grasp such an immense span of time, and I am humbled by it. Although an atheist, I have a profound respect for the scale and beauty of our world.
POSTED 10/15/99
Sean H., London, NA, United Kingdom, 35, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Geologist, Over 4 Years of College , Lower middle class, Mesg ID 10149995025
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