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Best of the Week
of Dec. 6, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of Dec. 6, 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.

Question Code Key:

A=Age

GD=General Diversity

RE=Religion

C=Class

G=Geography

SE=Sensitive Matters

D=Disabilities

O=Occupation

SO=Sexual Orientation

GE=Gender

R=Race/Ethnicity


THE QUESTION:
RE122: I've noticed that many Native American men I see have long hair. Is this for spiritual/religious reasons, or just preference?
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
K. O'Connor, 26, Hispanic, Salt Lake City, UT
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THE QUESTION:
C9: This question is almost the opposite of C1: With University of Michigan students returning for the fall, most of our stores have been deluged. I was in line at Target, behind a young woman wearing clothes that looked like they'd made several trips through the thrift store - thin, worn hooded sweatshirt, falling-apart sneakers, etc. In short, she was dressed like a lot of U of M students. If you haven't heard, this ain't exactly a cheap school, and it's even less so for out-of-state students. I don't know why I was surprised to see her paying with an Optima Gold card. Why do the poor try to make themselves look ostentatiously rich, and the rich try to make themselves look homeless?
POSTED SEPT. 7, 1998
White male, college town working stiff, Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I find it telling that the responses to this thread fail to point out how deep the prejudice against someone from a relatively privileged background can be. "Poor little rich kids" are easy targets for people who try to develop their own legitmacy by criticizing an element of society almost everyone is envious of. Like race or arguably sexual orientation, the financial resources of one's parents are an inherited trait. To find fault with how these kids live is automatic for some bigots and an easy step for many others. You can't win by wearing sloppy clothes or "money" clothes, and you spend an inordinate amount of energy proving you are "worthy" of the advantages fate has bestowed upon you. Imagine not feeling able to disclose any information about your background without drawing the kind of negative judgments and petty jealousy that attach themselves so casually to privilege.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
C. H., 34, upper-middle class family, Washington, DC
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THE QUESTION:
RE119: Do most religions still teach "Spare the rod, spoil the child" when it comes to discipline? Or have most Christians become "kinder and gentler" in that regard? What about other religions (Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, Pagan, etc.)? What effects do you think this has had on the state of today's youth?
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Jack, 28, agnostic, male, Irvine, CA

ANSWER 1:
Most pagan parents I know rarely or never spank their children. There is an oft-stated opinion (mostly among pagans who aren't parents) that this does not result in enough discipline. While I am not entirely opposed to spanking in all circumstances, I think the root of the problem is that "inflicting pain" and "discipline" have been so confused. Spanking does not by itself develop good discipline, nor does discipline require spanking. But understanding and establishing discipline through other means seems to be too rarely grasped.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Catherine H., ex-teacher, witch <
tylik@eskimo.com>, Woodinville, WA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I'm not sure about all religions, but the Catholic Church, once famous for its in-school beatings, has completely backed off child violence. It seems that the emphasis is now on parental patience and self-dicipline. While a strict upbringing is still valued, value has also been placed on the ability of adults to deal with misbehavior in a non-corporal way.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
D.M.M., 24, white Catholic <
donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston, SC
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THE QUESTION:
SO104: To any homosexual man: Why do you like guys? What is it about guys that attracts you that women don't have?
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
M. Guindon <
abqteachr@netscape.net>, Albuquerque, NM

ANSWER 1:
That is really difficult to quantify. In my case, it's the male physique, the strength, the sameness to me that attracts me. I can appreciate a beautiful woman, but there's little attraction. I've been married, so I know the "mechanics" work, but the emotional bonding and desire to really make it work just wasn't there. In the gay community you will find all types: Guys who like any type of guy, guys who only like men of color, guys who only like Asians, guys who only like younger men, guys who only like older men. So, to speak for my own likes: I like a man who's trim and fit, not a muscle-bound jock, but someone who just takes care of himself. Ethnicity is immaterial to me, as is age. If a guy has that "look" that pushes my buttons, I can't help but be attracted. Just as my straight male friends all have different takes on what makes a woman attractive, so do gay men.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Mark B. 37, gay white male <
bentley@cyberramp.net>, Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
This is a very difficult question to answer, especially briefly. I think it would be just as difficult for a heterosexual man to explain why he favors women to men. They just do. Personally, I like the male physique. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a beautiful, voluptuous woman with intelligence, great hair and gorgeous legs (The X-Files' Dana Scully comes to mind), but I find myself much more attracted to men. I like strong, muscular arms, legs and chests, great hair and a killer smile (and a nice butt doesn't hurt, either), and I find myself attracted to more sporty, athletic types. However, I do not find all men attractive (as I assume heterosexual men don't find all women attractive).
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
J. Crumpton, 31 <
tc@explorearizona.com>, Phoenix, AZ

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Simply put, there's no accounting for taste, and no one knows the mysteries of the human heart. Besides, gay men don't just like "men," they like types, just like anyone else. Some like effeminate men, some like masculine men, some like Asians, some like whites, etc.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Mark S., 30, white, gay male, Houston , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
This is a debate no one has been able to successfully conclude. I don't think woman lack something that precludes me from having mutual loving relationships with them. I have a desire to form those kinds of bonds in my life. But for me, all the needs for a loving, respectful, affectionate, caring, compassionate, egalitarian and supportive relationship are fulfilled by men.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Topaz, 26, gay male <
sirTopaz@netscape.net>, Boston, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
What makes you (assuming you are) attracted to women and not men? Sometimes it's physical, sometimes emotional/spiritual, but regardless, 99.99 percent of the time, they have to have the same XY chromosomal make-up. That said, here's an ego bruiser: Gay men do not find all straight men attractive - the ones who are most vocal (and homophobic) are typically not in the attractive category (even for straight women).
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Michael, 36 gay white male <
txmichael@worldnet.att.net>, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
For the same reason you like members of the opposite sex: I just do. It's the way I am. I never made a conscious decision to prefer men, just as you never made a conscious decision to prefer members of the opposite sex.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Travis S., 28, gay male <
00tdspence@bsuvc.bsu.edu>, Muncie, IN
To respond
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THE QUESTION:
RE39: Why do people in some Asian cultures shave the heads of their babies on or around their first birthday? What is the cultural/religious significance? I desire as detailed an answer as possible.
POSTED APRIL 30, 1998
L.A., 29, white female, Boston, MA

ANSWER 1:
I am from Thailand, where this custom is still practiced widely. The hair is shaved more for hygienic reasons, as the climate in our country is very humid. The head is not completely shaved - usually a patch covering the crown is left. This is to protect the head, as the crown is still not fully formed in the child's first year. In choosing a child's hairstyle, parents will give a couple of clay dolls with differing hairstyles to the child (some with pigtails or topknot, or as many as three to four knots of hair). The child will choose one style for himself/herself.
POSTED JULY 23, 1998
K.P., Chinese-Thai, Bangkok

FURTHER NOTICE:
Vietnamese people believe they will grow thicker and nicer hair once it has been shaved. As a matter of fact, my wife is wanting to do this to our six-month-old twin boys.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
John, 28, Vietnamese <
jvu@iex.com>, Dallas, TX
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THE QUESTION:
R526: To people of all races: Is it hard for you to get along with people of other races, and if so, which races, and why?
POSTED NOV. 17, 1998
D. Price <
abqteachr@netscape.net>, Albuquerque, NM

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I guess I have some problems with all races (though I prefer to call them "ethnic groups").

With black people: It's a problem of YOMS - "You're Oppressing Me Syndrome." I don't get up in the morning and say, "Well, who can I oppress today?" In fact, I don't even think about black people - I don't care about them at all. I have no black friends, and I have had numerous bad encounters with black people. In general, I'm just not comfortable around them. I think that many whites have what I call the "silent fear," and that is that they are going to be around blacks who might "turn savage" on them. I just don't trust black people, and yes, it is prejudice, but it is based on the majority of my experience, which is all I have to rely upon.

With Jewish people: I'm sick of hearing them whine and complain about being persecuted. My ancestors came to this country as slaves - sold into slavery for crimes against the crown. They had a choice of being executed or coming to America, where they were literally worked to death. Yet you don't hear me bashing the Queen of England about it. A night doesn't pass that I'm not bombarded with "Holocaust News" on TV. I just don't care.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don't really have a problem with Oriental people. I wouldn't date/mate/marry one - but then again, we Scots think we're a rung or two above everyone else, anyway!
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Tim, single white male, 30 <
Fafnir777@hotmail.com>, Jacksonville, FL
(Director's Note: From time to time, Y? posts submissions that push or exceed the envelope of our standards for constructive dialogue, in most cases to give users a sample of the kind of responses we normally reject, but also when they address a direct question seeking such feedback, as in the case of the inflammatory comments above and those posted in ANSWER 1 of R416. As always, we depend on your feedback to help us determine whether such a strategy can serve a constructive or educational purpose by letting users respond to such postings.)

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I'm not really sure there's anything constructive to be gained by posting responses like this. I think we're all painfully aware that attitudes like this exist. Space and time is better devoted to people who want to learn something. The confirmed bigots don't need any encouragement.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Susan, New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Regarding Tim's posting: My first reaction is to wonder if he is late for a KKK meeting. However, it is honest, and until we can all talk openly, even about our prejudices or ugly opinions, will we ever really communicate, or get anywhere? I don't agree with it, but I think people need to know this opinion exists out there, especially white people (like myself) who thought we had come much further than this.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Craig M., Minneapolis, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Why is Tim's response being singled out as inflammatory? We're not going to learn anything about each other if you post 50 responses of people saying (and lying), "I love people of all races." Tim's opinion is at least interesting and honest. Whether you agree with his viewpoints or not, they're still as valid as anyone else's.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
D.M.M., white female <
donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I would like to see all responses - not just the sanitized, politically correct ones.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Michell, white female, 31, Panama City, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
Well, I have to say, this is a nice reality check. I've spent the last month in a long, educational conversation with another poster to this forum, debating the fact that the typical white person is not racist. I should have known better than to maintain that kind of optimism. Tim's post just goes to show that no matter how many white people shove off the tradition of racism, there will always be others to carry the torch. At least he was being honest. I do see the educational value of allowing all points of view, even the offensive ones, to have a place in the discussion. Other responses seem to support that conclusion, so why not modify the forum rules so that only the most blatant and baiting posts get rejected? Saying "I hate all white people!" might be too much, but explaining why you dislike white people is very different. After all, how can you know how other people feel if you are never allowed to hear or read those words?
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
John K., white male, 25, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Tim 1) was being honest, 2) had identified the areas that personally made him uncomfortable with certain ethnic groups, and 3) had also identified another ethnic group with whom he had not had any prior bad experiences and could therefore envision developing interactive relationships with. His answer was not "politically correct." Sorry! I thought that's not what this forum was about. I I think Tim probably has not given himself and others the opportunity to change his uncomfortable experiences to more positive ones. That's because he has shut down, and at this stage probably does not interact at all with the ethnic groups with which he has had problems.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
M.G., white, female, 41, Miami , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
"Inflammatory"? All Tim talked about was real life experience. Perhaps the next question ought to be "Why has Y? become a politically correct bastion for white male bashers?" If Tim had bad experiences, is it any wonder he may feel the way he does?
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Chris <
ferret@ncoonect.net>, WI

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
I firmly believe that virtually all racism is due to ignorance and fear of the unknown. As a white male who grew up in Texas, I was about as racist as anyone until I entered college. Once there, I found myself interacting with blacks and Hispanics, and came to realize that my prejudices were based on suppositions that just didn't hold up in reality. To those people who say they're sick of a minority group "whining" about being oppressed: Are you judging an entire race on your impression of individuals you know? I doubt it. If you interacted more with blacks or Hispanics or Jews, you would likely find that most don't sit around complaining all day; they just get on with their lives, just like you. As an aside, I believe racism works both ways. Blacks and Hispanics and all other minorities often avoid whites for the same reasons we avoid them. We all need to just chill out and talk to each other a little bit more.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
J Wilker, 30, white male, Allentown , PA

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
Not only do my sentiments concur with Craig's and D.M.M's, but I graciously thank the moderater to the ends of the earth for posting a raw, sincere, point-blank response. While I respect the moderator's judgment, I am not really interested in answers watered down with reserved or hidden statements to avoid my feelings being hurt. Give it to me straight instead of beating around the bush, so I don't have to read between the lines to figure out what you're really saying/thinking/feeling/believing.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Alonzo C., 32, African American, Jacksonville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 12:
I can relate very well to Tim's response. Although I have known several black people who I liked and would consider good friends, I have also had very many negative encounters with black people, moreso than whites or any other race. So I would probably consider myself prejudiced. I should not be so blind, you say? But that's the way it is. I have an opinion formed from personal experiences. What does that mean? It means that when I see a black person walking down the street, I think he's snooching around looking for something to steal. It means when I see a news story about a crime, and the perpetrator is black, I think, "Typical." This is wrong, you say, and you're right. It's wrong, racist, stereotyping and counter-productive. But that's the way it is. A lot more white people think the same way I do than you think, probably moreso down here in the South than other parts of the country (for historical reasons). Most people don't like to say it, though. I think this answers the original question fairly well, although many of you may be offended. Too bad. The truth hurts. That's what this forum is for, the truth, and there it is.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
J. Sin, young white male, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 13:
Tim's response confirms what most black people have known for year: White hatred of blacks stems from fear. Turn savage? Does he mean whip him until he bleeds, or maybe lynch him in front of his family? How about set him on fire and then behead him, or perhaps drag him down the street tied to the back of a truck? Savage? Let's talk about savagery.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
R.G., black female, Richmond, VA

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THE QUESTION:
D12: With issues such as anorexia, bulimia and disease-induced weight loss, why don't Americans embrace the overweight population like people in other countries do?
POSTED MAY 14, 1998
C. Butler, 22, African American, Big Beautiful Woman <
Cherylb4u@AOL.com>, Memphis, TN

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Since I was little, I was always the "fat kid" in most of the social groups I hung out with. After puberty, I would go through periods of weight loss and weight gain, all of which were directly related to how much exercise I was receiving. When I turned 23, I finally made the difficult lifestyle changes needed to accommodate my slow metabolism, and started exercising on a regular basis. Three years later, I've now gone from 215 pounds to 165, and I feel and look 100 percent better, but if I still don't run three miles every other day I get fat, regardless of what I eat. While I realize many severely obese individuals have problems beyond sheer lazyness, I can't help but wonder how little overweight people really do exercise.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Steve K., 26 straight white male <
skerr@netcom.com>, Seattle, WA
To respond
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THE QUESTION:
G59: Why do Americans think Mexicans are taking over their jobs?
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
R. Garcia <
abqteachr@netscape.net>, Albuquerque, NM

ANSWER 1:
That perception stems from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which lowered the economic barriers that prevented U.S. companies from diverting their jobs south of the border, where the labor market is much cheaper. At this point, I sense that sentiment is more of a political issue than one of prejudice, although I assume there are some out there who blame the Mexicans, rather than the American politicians who passed the law. There are others, though, who realize that NAFTA is an attempt to improve the lives of all North Americans, not just those living in the United States, and that we cannot in good conscience continue protectionist policies that left our neighbors behind.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Dan, 34 <
dnh6n@virginia.edu>, Charlottesville, VA

FURTHER NOTICE:
There are two main reasons for this misconception: Corporate relocation and the constant reports of illegal immigration. Corporations discovered it was easier to work in Mexico, under less-strigent environmental regulations and labor laws, than it was to stay in the United States. And while the case is sometimes overstated, there is a constant problem of illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico. This overshadows the fact that once a Mexican legitimately immigrates into the United States, he or she has as much right to a job as any other American. And from my experience, unions do a great job demonizing both sides of the issue and perpetuating this incorrect point of view.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
John K., 25 <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Those of us who think Mexico is taking jobs away are not really being honest with ourselves; we take the easy way out of how to cope with irresponsible legislative loopholes and blame the people of Mexico for our discomfort. Some companies change from supporting the Americans who have supported them for years, and sell off their interests in the United States, go south of our border and take advantage of Mexican workers who may not be as organized and free. Some of us have no experience with organized labor anyhow, and so our perception is even more slanted toward blaming the people we can see "benefitting" from our loss of long-term, well-paying jobs, instead of the true problem of how to even out all of the world economies so that everyone has equal chances to prosper.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Camilla N., 40, white female former union carpenter, Millerton, PA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Maybe you just perceive Americans' resentment of illegal Mexican immigrants coming here to work. Personally, this is the only class of Mexican workers I resent, and rightfully so, I might add.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Mark S., 30, white male, Houston , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
It is simple. This is what happens: Immigrants come into countries and take lower-paying jobs , which is perfectly acceptable. But then Americans think they are too good to work with the immigrants, so they leave those jobs. Then the immigrants slowly turn to higher-paying jobs, and then Americans get out of those jobs because they don't want to be equal to the immigrants. This creates a huge gap where now almost every lawn maintenace guy in Florida is an immigrant, and almost every McDonald's worker is an immigrant. This is the same thing happening in France. The Arabs come in and take the lower-paying jobs, and the French are snobs and won't work with the immigrants. It's kind of sick.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
R.E.M. <
thesiegelfam@prodigy.net>
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THE QUESTION:
GD2: Have the diversity classes currently required in college had any noticeable effect on reducing racism?
POSTED MARCH 11, 1998
N.C., Lawrence, KS

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Racial diversity/multicultural classes in college really came across as a giant snow job to me. No one could ever ask a question that reflected poorly on minorities (such as "Why do I see gay people having sex in rest stops?") without getting yelled at and put down. And yes, for the record I am gay and out, so please don't pull the homophobia card on me. Questions about the academic performance of African Americans were even more stridently attacked. There was a lot of defensiveness, and I don't think people were honest. I respected minorities a lot less afterward because their behavior was bombastic, didactic,and most importantly evasive. Frankly, the only way a minority group can win my respect is by achieving something tangible.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Will H., gay male, New York, NY
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THE QUESTION:
R543: I have heard Italians and Italian Americans call African Americans "Eggplants." Can someone tell me what this term means, and its origin?
POSTED DEC. 2, 1998
African American <
Crizo@hotmail.com>, Chicago, IL

ANSWER 1:
I come from an Italian family, and I believe the eggplant term originated because Italians thought black people's skin resembled the color of an eggplant. In Italian eggplant is pronounced "moo-lin-yan," which you may also have heard. In my opinion, it is somewhat of a slur, but it is a not really a malicious name. I've only heard it used a few times in my life, when my older relatives were joking around.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Jim, male, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am a white Scottish-American female who has had two Italian boyfriends who have used this term. They actually used the word "melanzane" (sp?), which is the Italian word for eggplant, and they seemed to be referring to the similarity of the color of an eggplant to black skin. They seemed to use it in reference to men rather than women. I am not condoning the use of this racist term, just reporting on it.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
M. Malcolm, white female, Boston, MA
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THE QUESTION:
RE118: It seems to me as though the majority of atheists in the United States had a Catholic upbringing. Is this accurate, and if so, why?
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Mike S., 24, male, atheist <
christDenied@yahoo.com>, Philadelphia, PA

ANSWER 1:
When I left the Catholic Church, I became an atheist. In retrospect, I believe I found so much wrong with the church that I even doubted the existence of God. Now I am agnostic.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Nancy S., 44, ex-Catholic <
ranebow@iname.com>, Butler, PA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Roman Catholics are the largest single religious group in the United States. Since most atheists were brought up in some religion, a large percentage (though not the majority, by any means) are bound to have been raised Catholic. I do not believe a disproportionate number of atheists are ex-Catholics, but I do believe a disproportionate percentage of the outspoken, vocal atheists are ex-Catholics. Why? Because a child raised in a liberal Protestant Church or in a Reform Jewish community had far less to rebel against. If a teenage Reform Jew or Unitarian suddenly concludes there is no God, he'll simply drop out of his religion and forget about it, because it never made a deep impression on him, and never made any "oppressive" demands of him. But the Catholic Church (and the fundamentalist Protestant churches) make many demands of their followers, and make a huge impression on their members, both positively and negatively. Thus, an ex-Catholic atheist or an ex-Baptist atheist has much more resentment and anger against his former religion. An atheist ex-Catholic will continue ranting and raving against the Church decades after leaving, while an atheist ex-Episcoplian doesn't even think about the church he left behind. That may give the impression there are more ex-Catholic atheists than there really are.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Astorian, Irish-American Catholic male, 37 <
Astorian@aol.com>, Austin , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I am an athiest and don't believe most were brought up Christian. I feel that most were kids who were either forced into the church setting and did not like it, or were kids who educated themselves about other religions and theories and chose what was most factual to them, not just because they were brought up Christian
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Rachel K., Daytona Beach , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I don't know if the majority of atheists had a Catholic upbringing, but certainly their are many adults who were raised in Catholic households who now reject religion. I think the strictness of the Catholic faith often turns people off. I find it to be a religion that mandates a person to feel guilty for being human. I was sent to 12 years of Catholic school which I think made me resent organized religion. I do believe in God but I think religion is a private and personal matter between you and your God.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Nicole, 22 <
ngebhart@hotmail.com>, N.J.

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
While Catholicism certainly has its fair share of defectors, I can't say that my experience as an athiest has been the same. Most of my athiest friends are either ex-Christian or ex-Jew. I think the key factor in relating the number of people rejecting a religion is how rigid and controlling the religion can become. It is not surprising that the autocratic control and hierarchal nature of the Catholic church would turn off more independent thinkers.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
J. Smith, 36, Caucasian, Louisville, KY

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
It is true for me. Maybe because I feel Catholicism is the least plausible of the religions floating around, and being forced into such a rigid, authoritarian system makes one reflect on it a little more than a looser, more welcoming faith.
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Lynda, 29, CT

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THE QUESTION:
R548: Why does it seem that professional mens sports teams (football, basketball) are becoming more and more dominated by black players?
POSTED DEC. 4, 1998
Maria K., female, Rowley, MA

ANSWER 1:
I feel it's because black people are adapted to physical activites due to their traditional ancestory. Genetics and evolution are most likely involved. For instance, most black people have broader and flatter noses, to allow more air into their lungs. This is due to the hot climates black people have lived in for thousands of years in Africa. In contrast, most white people have smaller noses, due to living in colder climates, so they restrict the cold air entering their body. One could also argue that it's because most black people are at a disadvantage when they grow up due to poorer schools, unequal education, etc., and that sports is a good way for the disadvantaged to succeed. And unfortunately, there is a large percentage of disadvantaged black people in the United States.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
J. Sin , white male who can't jump, GA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am sure there are various explanations why it appears some professional sports are dominated by African Americans. Some may be based on solid research, while others may be based on myth. However, there is one important factor I would like for you to keep in mind: The people who select these fine athletes are for the most part non-minorities, i.e. Caucasians. The question therefore should be directed to them - Why do they place such large numbers of African Americans on their teams?
POSTED DEC. 9, 1998
Joe P., old geezer, black male, Tallahassee, Fl

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I come from an African-American family and we seem to have little athletic ability, despite our genetic heritage. I can't sing well, either. Maybe what you are seeing is a lack of opportunity in the African-American community for other career possibilities, or more media exposure for celebrities vs. people in other fields. I couldn't compete in these careers. I became a physician instead.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Susan, black female, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
To J.Sin: The overwhelming majority of black Americans are not disadvantaged. In terms of poverty, the last numbers I saw on black impoverished people was somewhere around 25 percent, which means 75 percent are above the poverty level. Also, is there any documentation of a correlation of airflow into the lungs and attainment of a professional athletic career? Let's be careful.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Black female, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Why would the size of one's nose have anything to do with professional sports ability? I'm confused.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Jen, white female, 21 <
Jravani123@aol.com>, Lansing, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Most people don't want to hear it, but there is much truth in what Jimmy the Greek once said and was subsequently fired for. The majority of blacks in this country came from plantation slaves and were literally "bred" for better performance in their tasks. Just like livestock were and are still selectively bred. It's not a dispersion on the race, just the facts.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Griz <
grizzly800@aol.com>, West Palm Beach , Fl

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
In certain competitive sports, very small differences (a tenth of a second over 40 yards, for example) separate the top pros from the also-rans. Genetic differences can be critically important. I have seen reputable articles, one in Sports Illustrated, descibing the positive mechanical impact of leg structures more common to blacks than whites - one dealt with the shape of the heel bone, and one the ratio of the length of the femur to the lower leg. These are contributing factors to the success of blacks in sprints, jumps and sports that emphasize sprints and jumps. Athletics emphasizing arms aren't as dominated by blacks - pitching in baseball, quarterbacking in football, throwing events in track and field. Tennis and swimming may also fit this hypothesis, although cultural and facility access issues may be at play as well.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
B. Hale, white <
halehart@aol>, Hartford, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
To J. Sin: I work in a health care enviroment and see just as many black Americans with breathing problems as whites. The one area I see more role models for black Americans is in sports. Where you have role models, you have people striving for that field. Gee, I wonder why. Could it be that when a qualified black applies for a computer programmer job, it's easier to say the white person is better qualified? If I can jump higher and shoot baskets better than the person next to me because I've worked my butt off, it's kind of hard to say the other person is better qualified.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Alma, lesbian who cant even jump <
pridewks@seacove.net>, Kempner, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
The first answer was questionable at best. How does a broad nose allow more air? Besides, people usually breathe through their mouths when exercising. Genetics may be the answer, but most likely for reasons other than those the answerer gave, in my opinion.
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Mark S., 30, white male, Houston , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
The differences in black and white physiology are more easily explained by slavery. In a short period of time (geologically speaking) the weaker blacks in this country were rooted out. The ultimate Darwinism was in effect that if you couldn't haul a bail of cotton or pick half a field, you were killed because you were weak. True blacks may have developed traits while in Africa, but that theory crumbles when applied to "African" Americans because of mixed ancestry. Most "African" Americans are mixed, giving them features similar to many whites (skin color is the distinguishing characteristic).
POSTED DEC. 11, 1998
Nigel <
nkwate@home.com>
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THE QUESTION:
R551: I've noticed that Asian-American women tend to be over-represented in symphony orchestras and musical groups such as high school bands. Why is this? Is it because of some inherent skill in music, better training, etc.?
POSTED DEC. 4, 1998
J.C., white male, 40s, New London , NH

ANSWER 1:
It is not a question of inherent ability but one of family environment. In my high school on the East Coast, which was about 50 percent Asian, I could literally count on one hand the number of friends I had who had not taken piano lessons as a child. Most quit due to lack of talent, but an early introduction to music does foster an interest. In my high school orchestra, most of us had started with piano and then went on to other instuments. I don't know about symphony orchestras, but I think it's safe to say that if a higher percentage of Asian kids take music lessons than non-Asian kids, then Asians will "appear" to be over-represented in symphony orchestras in the long run. But it is a matter of identifying and nurturing talent, not one of raw talent within a given racial group. I've never noticed the gender difference you point out. In the two orchestras I took part in while in high school, there wasn't any Asian male/female gender imbalance to speak of.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Kae L., 25, Asian American <
kaelakim@hotmail.com>, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I am no expert in this subject, but I can share with you what I observed as an Asian. Although there are many possible explanations to your question, such as social prestige and cultural values, I think the major reason Asians have a disproportionate representation in music groups can be largely attributed to parental encouragement. I grew up in a mixed racial environment: I had and still have friends of different races. But I don't recall my white or Hispanic friends' parents had the same degree of zealousness in regard to pushing their child to learn musical instruments as the Asian parents do. I actually can't find a single Asian female friend I know who has not played the piano or violin sometime in their life.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
J.C. <
jimmychou@bigfoot.com>, South Pasadena , CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Generally speaking, Asian parents place a great emphasis on learning a musical instrument as part of the education process. Violin, piano and cello are at the top of the list. "Lighter" sounding brass instruments such as an oboe or flute are next. Guitar or any rock instruments are not really accepted as part of bettering oneself. However, unless they're a true militant parent, they'll accept that as an honest effort (as long as they realize it's a hobby and never a career - but hey, that's another question).
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Gary Z., Asian male <
mediaxing@excite.com>, Danville, CA
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