Best of the Week
of Dec. 2, 2001

Best of Week Archives

Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Dec. 2, 2001, as selected by Y? These postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found by accessing Y?'s database using the search form, or, in the case of answers posted before April 24, 1999, in the 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. You are encouraged 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.

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Question:

Shopping for Christmas gifts for an 8-year-old I could not help noticing the sudden and sharp differentiation between girls' and boys' toys starting at about this age group. I find it pathetic. All girls' toys are ridiculously wrapped in pinkish stuff and center on mothering or dressing (dolls and accessories), or crafts of the pretty and cute kind ('Jewels and gifts for your friends!'). Then, turning around the corner, you seem to enter a different world of brown, black, silver and plastic: boys' corner! Here you get to build/buy monsters, dinos, spaceships and machines galore, or fiddle about with computers and game stations. Also, the challenging types of games are in the boys' corner as well: inventions, experiments, programming. I've been in so many department stores and shopping centers and these impressions are uniform - and uniformly depressing. I know from several children that this differentiation does not at all conform to their interests. Girls love to experiment, invent, construct as well - and yet from a certain age they get discouraged from it because the outfit clearly is boyish and aims at boys only. My daughter's school-friends all mope secretly for a Gameboy, yet they would not be seen dead with one at the same time. No matter how cute that Pikachu is, a Gameboy is a GameBOY. And why do boys in turn get discouraged from caring (like they do naturally for their teddybears) and encouraged instead to play games of endless and often mindless destruction/construction/destruction? I used to think we were beyond such ridiculous gender attributions in society, yet when I enter toy stores here they all are again. How are we to raise these children as mature, complex, multifaceted individuals when the role models we offer for their games are so ridiculously confined? I cannot believe this is all because of the industry banking on that which sells best. I am sure more differentiated toys and games would sell as well. Any thoughts?

POSTED 12/5/2001

T., Munich, NA, Germany, 32, Female, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1252001121531

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Question:

I have a new friend who is black. I have never been uncomfortable around black people before, however, recently he and I were at a play at his college when he confided that he had never been to a play before. I was surprised because he is one of the smartest people I have ever met, lived in Cleveland (what us small-towners call a big city), is well- read and is a history major in a small liberal arts college near my hometown. I looked at him and shockingly asked, 'Why?' He turned and said almost angrily, 'Andrea, I'm black!' I just sat there and watched the play. I know that not all African Americans are like this, but how should I respond to him the next time I see him?

POSTED 12/5/2001

Andrea, Mansfield, OH, United States, 20, Female, White/Caucasian, Straight, student, High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 1252001101322


Responses:
I go to plays now because when I was a child, I was taken to them by my parents, schools, etc. Don't assume that just because he's 'smart and from a big city' that he had the same opportunity. It could be that going to plays wasn't a priority in his family (perhaps money was a consideration). Rather than be uncomfortable with him now, try to discuss with him what his explanation 'I'm black' really means.

POSTED 12/6/2001

E.D., Kansas City, MO, United States, 45, Female, Black/African American, Mesg ID 126200164944

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Question:

While grocery shopping today, I ran into a white co-worker. She asked what I was doing, and I replied I was picking out some collard greens. She said her (white) husband liked greens and also sweet potato pie, but she implied she had never tasted either, and wouldn't like to. She is not the first white person I've noticed with this reaction to traditional African-American foods. Is there a stigma attached to eating these foods among some white folks?

POSTED 12/3/2001

E.D., Kansas City, MO, United States, 45, Female, Black/African American, Mesg ID 122200185301


Responses:
It sounds like your white friend is snooty. I can't think of any other reason she wouldn't at least try collard greens, especially if her husband likes them. I'm white and like to try foods from all cultures; Ethiopian food is my favorite in the world...

POSTED 12/5/2001

K., Minneapolis, MN, United States, 32, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, Mesg ID 123200191337


I've always thought of collard greens as a Southern or country food, but never as an ethnic food. I'm white, and my family frequently had greens of all varieties when I was growing up. Never had sweet potato pie? Where is your co-worker from? Here, that's as common as pumpkin pie during the holiday season.

POSTED 12/5/2001

Todd, Gastonia, NC, United States, 38, Male, White/Caucasian, Gay, Network Administrator, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 125200182301


Many people are suspicious of foods they're not used to. Your co-worker seems to be among them.

POSTED 12/6/2001

Rick, Springfield, OH, United States, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 125200172050


It's not a snooty thing. It's just that when you don't know much about soul food, and what you do know is eating crawdad soup, pig's feet and chitlins, you tend to get scared away pretty easily, because it is like eating scavenger food -leftover parts, which is its origin - eating what the white people discarded - and some people still think of all soul food that way. As far as sweet potato pie, white people's sweet potatoes are eaten once a year, at Thanksgiving, with brown sugar and marshmallows. I've never been able to stomach it. But when I reluctantly ate sweet potato pie over a lot of protest, I was amazed how good it was, much better than pumpkin. Concerning greens: again, most greens, like cabbage, dandelion greens, etc., are either not that good, due to overcooking, lack of spices or bitterness. But when someone made them for me Cajun style, they were great. White people just grow up with parents overcooking brussel sprouts, cabbage and other greens, or making black-eyed peas with no spices, and it makes a world of difference. My friend and I always laugh at Thanksgiving when we go into the market: Black people have greens, white people have broccoli.

POSTED 12/6/2001

Craig, Minneapolis, MN, United States, 38, Male, Mesg ID 126200113306

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Question:

In a society that has recently seen the advent of 'love it or leave it' types, I want to know what everyone considers patriotism. Is it being concerned with your country and its well-being? Is it fighting for freedom? Is it thinking as an individual for the betterment of your country? Is it nationalism? Is it standing with your government for better or worse?

POSTED 12/3/2001

Seamus, Charlestown, MA, United States, Male, Mesg ID 11302001105500


Responses:
After having witnessed Sept. 11, 2001, with my own eyes, I feel it is everything you mentioned. Prior to '911,' I considered myself a liberal Democrat, but after the last three months, I am more of a 'hawkish' political conservative, viewing America's protection of its citizens and way of life as something to defend to the death. If it has come to a choice between the United States and them, I am on the side of the United States. I can't really explain to you what it has been like to be alive and see so many people die just because they were Americans.

POSTED 12/6/2001

Matthew, New York City, NY, United States, 43, Male, Gay, Middle class, Mesg ID 125200151130


To most American Indians, patriotism means something very different. Since citizenship was forced upon us, many of us have never considered ourselves U.S. citizens. We are citizens of sovereign tribal nations, period. Many even enlist in the military as foreign nationals. We are bound to the United States by treaties of obligation and friendship. We honor those treaties and uphold them, even if the United States has rarely done the same. Some natives consider themselves dual citiznes of both the United States and their tribal nation. Probably the only natives who consider themselves 'just Americans' are those who are mostly white who had one Indian ancestor way back when.

The biggest part of patriotism for us is defending the land that we regard as sacred, not any political system - and sure as hell not any of the goals of any of the wars we've fought in.

POSTED 12/6/2001

A.C.C., Phoenix, AZ, United States, Male, Mexican and American Indian, Grad student, ex-Army, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 125200194520

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Question:

In other countries, is it OK not to accept gifts? Or is it considered rude if they are not accepted?

POSTED 12/3/2001

Kelly, Chicago, IL, United States, 20, Female, White/Caucasian, student, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 1212001103604

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Question:

This is for any American: I'm a Mexican living in Mexico City. Two weeks ago I had a business meeting in Atlanta. This trip turned out to be the most traumatic experience of my life. I was walking in a mall when a group of men mistook me for an Arab. They started to yell and abuse me in the most profane language they knew. I just walked away without responding. I never expected this of the American people. I've been thinking about this a lot after my return home. Is American society just flat ignorant or racist? Can anyone enlighten me?

POSTED 11/30/2001

Omar G., Mexico City, NA, Mexico, Male, Catholic, Hispanic/Latino, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1129200125558


Responses:
As with any other country that contains humans, we have many who are ignorant. I don't think most think of themselves as racist. My best guess is that these guys are just not too bright. They're angry and probably scared by recent incidents and don't have the ability to go within their thoughts and think about things, and/or they don't have reasonably intelligent friends and family with whom they could discuss their feelings.

POSTED 12/3/2001

K., Minneapolis, MN, United States, Mesg ID 1222001102200


Gee, when I spent time in Mexico a few years ago, a cab driver asked me to have sex with him, people on the street routinely called me 'gordita,' which I find rather rude, and I was followed around by men I didn't know on several occasions, sometimes with them requesting sex from me. Is Mexican society rude and disrespectful of women? No, just some individuals. Same with America ... and just about every country I have ever visited.

POSTED 12/5/2001

Lori, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 41, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 123200152953


America is angry. Not all Americans are alike. You met some angry, ignorant people. Sorry, but times are different. Nerves are more on the surface, inhibiting the editing of 'thought-to-mouth' impulses.

POSTED 11/30/2001

Matthew, New York City, NY, United States, 43, Male, actor, Middle class, Mesg ID 1130200153307


Some Americans ARE just ignorant or racist, yes. But please don't lump all Americans in with those idiots who yelled at you. Most of us can tell the difference between a Latino and an Arab. I'm sure you can understand why Americans are a bit uptight of late, but that doesn't excuse their behavior. I'm sorry you had such a horrible experience. We're not all like that. I promise!

POSTED 11/30/2001

Shari, Canton, MI, United States, 30, Female, White/Caucasian, 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1130200180553


Omar, be assured that the vast majority of Americans abhor this kind of bigotry. Please accept my apology on behalf of all decent Americans for the treatment you received by a group of ignorant racists in Atlanta.

POSTED 11/30/2001

Bill, Burlington, VT, United States, 43, Male, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 1130200192938


Many people are just plain ignorant, anywhere. If I were you, I would have fought back, unless there were a bunch of them and they seemed dangerous. Americans aren't anymore ignorant than anyone else. I am somewhat sure that a lot of hate groups operate in Atlanta, though. Do you remember what these people look like? You should report them.

POSTED 11/30/2001

Vincenzo, Small town in Saskatchewan, NA, Canada, 17, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, musician, Less than High School Diploma, Middle class, Mesg ID 11302001104827


It used to be we knew that, to racist Anglos, 'todos somos illegales,' we were all seen as wetbacks. Now we have to worry about being attacked for 'looking Arab,' too. Over here we've had a rash of hate crimes against anyone 'Arab looking,' including the murder of an East Indian Sikh who was killed because a hateful idiot thought his turban meant he was Arab. The guy was screaming, 'I'm a patriot, why aren't you killing all the damned Arabs!' as the police hauled him away. Sept. 11 has brought out the worst in Americans in a lot of ways. Most Mexicans and American Indian males I know decided to shave off any facial hair they have to avoid being mistaken for Arab. Plenty of foreign exchange students have left, travel only in groups now or wear clothing with American flags or sports teams to try and stave off attacks. One poll I saw said two-fifths of all Americans support the deportation or internment of all Arabs and Muslims in the country. Yes, there are plenty of hateful and ignorant people here. It's one of the biggest reasons I enjoy visiting Latin America so much, since I'm treated far better there than here. But I also know there are plenty of good people here as well, and this is the land of my ancestors and family. Even Bush Jr., as much I think he is an idiot and dead wrong about virtually everything else, showed a better side of America when he came out against the wave of prejudice sweeping the country when his father had stood by and encouraged it during the Gulf War and had the FBI targeting Middle Eastern people. We have our David Dukes and Strom Thurmonds, but we have our Dr. Kings and Cesar Chavezes as well. I don't judge all of Mexico by its crooked and brutal cops and racist, upper-class criollos. The idiots who attacked you represent part of America, but not all of it. Just remember to be careful, and get their sorry asses sent to jail if anyone tries anything like that to you again.

POSTED 11/30/2001

A.C.C., Phoenix, AZ, United States, Male, Mexican and American Indian, Mesg ID 11302001123332


There is a lot of variation in U.S. society, so much so that it is basically impossible to say American society is like this or like that. There are Americans who are ignorant and racist, but most Americans are not. Unfortunately, you seem to have run into some of them. I don't believe these people are representative of Americans in general, and I hope this experience won't deter you from coming here again. Regardless of where you go, there will be good and bad people. It's true in the United States, in Mexico, and all over the world.

POSTED 11/30/2001

Lucy, San Jose, CA, United States, 27, Female, Hispanic/Latino, Engineer, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 1130200111613


You will find segments of American society that are ignorant and racist, but most people are quite tolerant. It sounds like you just ran into a few of the first type. Although this doesn't justify the treatment you received, the most likely explanation is that emotions are running very high right now due to recent events and they were looking for someone to lash out at.

POSTED 12/3/2001

Trudy, San Jose, CA, United States, 19, Female, Mormon, Straight, Student, 2 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 1212001100822


As with any other country that contains humans, we have many who are ignorant. I don't think most think of themselves as racist. My best guess is that these guys are just not too bright. They're angry and probably scared by recent incidents and don't have the ability to go within their thoughts and think about things, and/or they don't have reasonably intelligent friends and family with whom they could discuss their feelings.

POSTED 12/3/2001

K., Minneapolis, MN, United States, Mesg ID 1222001102200


Gee, when I spent time in Mexico a few years ago, a cab driver asked me to have sex with him, people on the street routinely called me 'gordita,' which I find rather rude, and I was followed around by men I didn't know on several occasions, sometimes with them requesting sex from me. Is Mexican society rude and disrespectful of women? No, just some individuals. Same with America ... and just about every country I have ever visited.

POSTED 12/5/2001

Lori, Los Angeles, CA, United States, 41, Female, White/Caucasian, Over 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 123200152953


To Lori: They were not being rude. It's common in Latin culture to comment on physical appearance. Adding the 'ita' or 'ito' on the end of it signifies an intention to regard your physical traits as endearing or cute, such as morenita (little brown one) flaquita (slim little one) or guerita (fair-skinned little one). It has no more an offensive or rude intent than someone in the United States saying 'lefty.' Lots of Mexican men find voluptuous or full-figured women very appealing, and they were probably trying to flirt with you. It's a shame you didn't know more about the culture before you completely misjudged what was happening to you. You might try something very common sense like asking people what they mean by a comment instead of projecting your own cultural presumptions upon it next time. As for the sex comments, here's something that might surprise you: Americans have a reputation in Mexico for being oversexed, probably because so many of them come to the border towns looking for cheap prostitutes. Blame American males for that.

POSTED 12/5/2001

A.C.C., Phoenix, AZ, United States, Male, Mexican and American Indian, Grad student, ex-Army, Over 4 Years of College, Mesg ID 125200195650


People posting here are living a delusion. It's easy to say that only a few 'ignorant' Americans are racist (or more simply and fittingly put, 'hateful' ) when you're not one of the people racism is directed at. Fooling yourself into beliveing that only 'ignorant rednecks' are racist just lets you feel superior and comfortable in your ivory tower. Plenty of doctors, lawyers, physicists, politicians and other highly educated people are racists, and you cannot call them ignorant. Sept. 11 didn't bring anybody together, it just tossed one more group on the hate pile. I believe that all of the American majority is racist. It's to a much higher degree in some, and not so apparent in others. Being the whipping post for the majority, minorities think in racist ways, too. I saw a group of Asian men playing basketball this past week. It reminded me of all the commotion that occurs when someone tries to start a midnight basketball program for young blacks, to give them some direction. If a group of blacks play basketball, they're a dangerous gang, but if anyone else does it, it's community bonding.

POSTED 12/6/2001

Nathan, Seattle, WA, United States, 35, Male, Black/African American, science, 2 Years of College, Lower class, Mesg ID 1262001122100

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Question:

It could be my imagination, but I'm white and have noticed that girls of different races are much more attracted to me than white girls. I would never ask this in real life because people would be like, 'Yeah, right, you wish,' but I know it's true. Is there a certain kind of white guy they prefer? Is it my un-hostile, nice attitude? My physical features? Or is it my imagination?

POSTED 12/3/2001

Chris, Seattle, WA, United States, 18, Male, White/Caucasian, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 121200110857


Responses:
I would hazard to guess that they sense you are someone who is more interested in the person they are rather than the color (or lack of) of their skin. You are probably easy to talk to, not afraid of being honest and like women in general. We women are quick to pick up on men who are apt to respect us and treat us as if we are more than a body - even if our body happens to not be so good. I am a 45-year-old black woman, and my husband is a 35-year-old white male. It was the qualities mentioned above that attracted me to him. He also was not afraid of what others thought when we were together and took no notice of the stares we would sometimes elicit. Him being so at ease with me, no matter where we were, was very endearing. We have been together for 10 years, have two sons, and I am still crazy about him.

POSTED 12/5/2001

Donna P., Waterford, CT, United States, 45, Female, African Methodist Episcopalian, Black/African American, Straight, 2 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 1242001102034

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Question:

I've found that when I'm with my friends, masturbation is a common subject, and none of us feels uncomfortable about it. When the subject came up with a female friend, however, she said it was disgusting, and when I questioned her about the acceptance of it among girls, she said that anyone admitting to it was made an outcast - and that almost none of them do it, obviously including her. But she then said that they find it acceptable among boys. So I'm wondering: Do girls do it as much as boys? And why is it such an ackward subject?

POSTED 12/3/2001

Phil, Kent, NA, United Kingdom, Male, Atheist, White/Caucasian, Straight, Mesg ID 1232001121215


Responses:
All my ex-girlfriends have admitted to masturbating. We did a survey in my sexual behavior class, and it showed that the majority of females masturbate or have masturbated, but they by no means do it with the frequency that men do.

POSTED 12/5/2001

Shifty, Mobile, AL, United States, Mesg ID 125200112552

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Question:

To African Americans and Asians: What comes into your mind when you think of the physical characteristics of white people?

POSTED 11/27/2001

Bobby, Portland, OR, United States, Male, White/Caucasian, Straight, Over 4 Years of College, Upper class, Mesg ID 1124200130049


Responses:
Just off the top of my head, without trying to be PC all-inclusive: Varying hair colors and textures from white to black, stick-straight and fine to curly and coarse; varying eye colors from blue to black; red-faced when angry, embarrassed or after exertion; flatter bottom, no matter what their weight; men hairier than black men or Asians, i.e. fingers and toes, chests, legs, backs; and lots of people with very small lips.

POSTED 11/30/2001

Jennifer, St. Paul, MN, United States, 31, Female, Christian, Black/African American, Straight, Non-Profit, 4 Years of College, Middle class, Mesg ID 1128200192233


Fair skin. That's it, really. I have a lot of friends of varying ethnic backgrounds, and come to think of it, my closest white friends are actually blond. But no, it's not hair color that comes to mind, just fair skin. And I know that's not a characteristic typical of all whites, but it answers your question, I hope.

POSTED 11/30/2001

Sarah C., San Francisco, CA, United States, 24, Female, Agnostic, Asian, student/retail/illustration, 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 11282001115145


To me, most white people considered beautiful by white standards are just ... nasty. Their butt is way too flat (I am not an advocate of a big booty, but a little flesh wouldn't hurt). The body is almost waif-like. The ones I consider beautiful are a little more curvy and woman-like.

POSTED 11/30/2001

Jasper, Dallas, TX, United States, 28, Male, Mesg ID 1129200182319

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