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Race/Ethnicity Questions 1-10

THE QUESTION:
R10: A friend born and raised in Wisconsin tells me that no subjects of an intimate nature (money, affection, etc.) were discussed in her home. That her parents would not allow it. Is this typical in white North American households?
POSTED MARCH 9, 1998
– M. Hernandez, Miami, FL

ANSWER 1:
Yes, from my experiences, Anglo-American families I interacted with were traditionally conservative when it came to issues we considered (or made) very personal, such as relationships, money, religion and politics. I don’t even know if my parents told each other how they voted!

I think things started to change with Baby Boom households, but definitely, the WWII generation and before were very bad about showing affection and being open. I think it goes back to Puritan views regarding modesty, as well as the frontier ethic of self-reliance. I’m 36 and my father’s in his 70s, and I recently asked him what his salary was when we moved to a new town in the early 1960s and he hesitated about telling me!
RECEIVED MARCH 11, 1998
– Steve, Kansas

FURTHER NOTICE:
Yes, indeed. When I was growing up in the South, discussions of money,social position, affection,etc. were considered far too personal to be discussed even inside the family. I assume that my parents talked about these things one-on-one, but I was carefully taught not to answer or initiate such conversations. I suspect there is a lingering Anglo-Saxon habit of reticence at play here. I still feel it is extremely rude to talk about personal matters in public, and cringe when I hear such “let it all hang out” interaction.
RECEIVED MARCH 12, 1998
– Mimi F. , 60, Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I was raised in a white home in Michigan. We were taught from a young age what money was and how to make it work. We were shown investment papers, taught how to understand them, and when we were older we were shown what the family had and where it was. In order for the next generation to better its position, it must know what to do with what it has to start with. Elections were also openly discussed. Both my parents are immigrants, from Australia and England, and are not allowed to vote, so having to power vote was a big deal in our home. I know of many friends who are the same way in their families, most of whom are white. So to say that white families do not discuss financial or political views in the home is wrong.
POSTED MARCH 19, 1998
Greg, 24, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
This certainly was not the case in my home. Growing up, most arguments my parents had were concerning money. In a family where money was scarce, we children were taught about money at an early age, that it did not “grow on trees” (an expression many parents probably relate to their children) and why we could not afford some of the things we wanted to have. My parents made no secret of our financial situation and taught us how a good education could overcome poverty. They were also quite affectionate to one another and their children. I am now 33 and my dad still makes me to sit on his knee and my mother still tucks me in at night when I go home to visit.
POSTED MARCH 20, 1998
Lori C., 33, Bellevue NE
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THE QUESTION:
R9: I would like to know if there is any truth to the stereotype that Native Americans cannot hold alcohol, and if not, where and how did this stereotype start?
POSTED FEB. 28, 1998
R.D., Jacksonville

ANSWER 1:
I have read that historically, the Native American culture did not produce or use alcohol. Therefore, no built-in genetic tolerance to alcohol existed in the Native population, as opposed to the Europeans whose culture had used alcohol for centuries.
RECEIVED MARCH 11, 1998
Pierre M., 56, Phillipsburg, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE:
I’m Euro-American. My information isn’t from experience. A mental health professional, I have considerable interest in substance abuse and in how people respond to grave mental and spiritual injury.

Alcoholism rates on reservations are horrifyingly high: Estimates range in the 50 percent region. I don’t know about statistics for non-reservation Natives. I think the first responder has a good point (alcohol wasn’t a part of Native culture before the European invasion). I also believe that people whose cultures have been decimated by genocide face a great risk of substance abuse. Less than a century has passed since whites finished destroying most of the Native Americans, though the worst damage was done in the 1500s. We demolished their cultures, trampled what they saw as holy, stole their land, and brought about the death (through warfare and disease) of well over 90 percent of their people. What people could endure this kind of horror and remain intact?

When an individual is in despair, s/he is vulnerable to substance abuse. When an individual’s culture and the people who embodied it have been obliterated, despair is hard to avoid.
POSTED MARCH 16, 1998
Will Handy, Dallas, Texas

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
According to the knowledgable internist and addictionologist Dr. Drew Pinsky, one of the hosts of the syndicated radio call-in show “Loveline,” Native Americans have such a high rate of alcoholism because their ethnic group is genetically predisposed to it. This isn’t unique; he gave examples of Scottish and Irish peoples as two groups that also have a higher-than-average tendency toward alcoholism. His explanation was that people who are predisposed tend to be set up for greater reward activation, which on the plus side helps them to stay collected and focused in intense situations such as disaster or combat. In the end, this means that Native Americans, who managed to survive incredible adversity for centuries, were left mostly with those predisposed for survival. Unfortunately, they were also at greater risk for alcoholism and other dependencies.
POSTED MARCH 19, 1998
Aaron, 21, Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It was stated that Native Americans may have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism. I would counter that with a simple fact: Alcohol was “discovered” probably no more than 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Methods of refining products with high alcohol content are even more recent. I therefore suggest that not enough time has passed for the human species to hvae developed genetic tolerance to a foreign substance.

It was also stated that whites stole the Indians’ land. Since we all have 20/20 hindsight, I suggest it is inappropriate to judge the past by our modern standards. By doing so, you pass judgement on people who have long ceased to be able to defend and justify their actions What price would you place on the survival of your own race?
POSTED MARCH 20, 1998
Jim, white, Brooklyn, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
The stereotype of Native Americans not being able to “hold” their alcohol is, in fact, accurate. Native Americans do not make an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps break down alcohol in the bloodstream. Because of this, even a small amount of ingested alcohol can make a person intoxicated if they are lacking this enzyme. The subject of alcoholism in Native Americans, however, involves a number of socioeconomic as well as historical issues, and is much more complicated.
POSTED JUNE 26, 1998
Ron Y., M.D., 36, Houston

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
It is a stereotype that Native Americans can’t hold their alcohol. It began with the creation of reservations. It has been passed down from generation to generation that Natives are nothing but drunks. So the stereotype stayed with the Native race. But each Native person is different in his or her own right. I’m Native American, and I did not drink one taste of beer until I turned 21 two years ago. Needless to say, a white girl said, “I have never met an Indian who didn’t drink.” She knew the stereotype even though it was my first drink for my birthday party. My parents don’t drink, my brother doesn’t drink. As a matter of fact, I think white people consume more alcohol then Natives. The only difference is that when a Native person drinks to have fun, we are looked down upon because of the narrow-minded concept that we can’t hold our alcohol, unlike when a different race drinks and it is accepted as socializing.
POSTED SEPT. 4, 1998
Shon J., 23, Native American <shonj@hotmail.com>, Akron, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Alcohol was a part of some Indian cultures such as the Apache and Aztec. But alcoholism was rare, in part because of an extremely stringent moral code that, for the Aztecs, included execution for drunkenness. Alcoholism among Indians was rare until after Indians were forced onto reservations and denied the practice of their religion. Early European explorers noted that Indians given gifts of alcohol for the first time drank in moderation (read I Love Paul Revere Whether He Rode or Not). I feel that the stereotype of drunken Indians is a projection of whites of their own faults onto others.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
A.C.C., Mexican and American Indian, San Antonio, TX
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THE QUESTION:
R7: I have noticed that a lot of young Chaldean women (high school age) tend toward provocative dress, heavy make-up, hair that is teased out. Is this a sign of sexual availability, or just rebellion? I am quite sure these girls are labeled, not flatteringly, by their peers.
POSTED FEB. 25, 1998
Henry G. Dayton, OH

ANSWER 1:
They do that because they always watched American movies and they think that by dressing like that they are in style. Fashion is very important to them and they don’t want to be out of style. I, however, having been born here, even though I’m of Chaldean descent agree that it is in very bad taste, but they think I have bad taste.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1998
Caroline M. Southfield, Michigan

ANSWER 1:
I grew up in an area with the largest Arab/American population outside of the Middle East. My belief is that the way these young women dress is born out of rebellion. In my high school days, it was about a 50-50 split between girls who wore the traditional garb and the girls who dressed more contemporary (1985). Back in this era, big hair and heavy makeup was the norm. Some of these girls were ridiculed by their peers and heavily hassled by their traditional parents. There was even a murder of a young girl by her father because she was becoming too Americanized.
POSTED MARCH 25, 1998
Pasquale, 30 <Pasquale@homedics.com>
Dearborn, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R6: I hope this question is taken in the spirit in which it’s delivered, which is out of genuine curiosity: I recently saw a black woman on TV who was upset that she didn’t have enough money for food, but at the same time it appeared that she had had a very expensive nail job. Why would she spend the money on this instead of necessities? Does it have to do with maintaining self-esteem?

POSTED FEB. 25, 1998
– Maxine M., Sun City Center, FL.

ANSWER 1:
Be careful of pre-judging this individual. Rather than assume that this person spent money she didn’t have, why not consider the possibility that her fancy nails were done by a friend or her sister? This person also might have needed to do her nails as part of what she does to prepare for job interviews.

Also, please don’t make a second mistake some people make, which is to assume that because THIS black woman might have spent money on nails when she needed food, that it is a cultural deficiency among all black women (or even poor black women.) I have seen that people of all races can show an inability to make wise choices.
RECEIVED FEB. 28, 1998
– Victor Andino, Jacksonville

FURTHER NOTICE:
Thank you Victor. As an African American female I chose not to answer that question mainly because I don’t expend a lot of time or money on my nails. I thought from your reply that you were a woman and was surprised to see your name. I could not have answered the question better.
RECEIVED MARCH 11, 1998
– Merry , NC

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I would like to add to the previous answer that my mother, a white woman living in a white suburban neighborhood, hasn’t enough money to pay her bills, and has maxed out every credit card she could get her hands on, and will still religiously have her hair and nails done. It drives me nuts, as she will ask to borrow money to pay a bill with freshly painted nails. The cost of her nail job would have paid the minimum payment on the bill. I have come to believe it not to be a cultural thing, but more an ego thing. I think that she is trying to hide the fact that she is struggling, with the attitude that no one needs to know the truth.
RECEIVED MARCH 11,1998
– Loyd B., Westland, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R5: I’m an older white person and have always wanted to ask: How long does it take for a black woman to have her hair braided, how much does it cost and how often does the hair have to be washed?
POSTED FEB. 25, 1998
– Maxine M., Sun City Center, FL.

ANSWER 1:
The time it takes to braid hair depends on two things: First, what type of braids you want, and second, what style you want them in.

The most common braids are called “plaits” (sounds like “plats”), and they are generally the medium-sized braids that you probably see most often. They can be done in various styles, like a short bob, or wrapped up into an ethnic/African style. These are the styles that you will see some women wear that look like African Queens, etc… This form of plaits takes anywhere from two to five hours. The longer you want them, the longer it may take, the shorter you want them, the less time it takes.

However, there are other styles of braids called “micro braids” or “shreds.” These braids are like their name – virtually microscopic in size – and can have the appearance of loose hair. This comes from the fact that they are so small and are left loose at the mid-section and ends (as opposed to braided all the way to the ends, like plaits) that they appear to look like natural hair. Of course, micros take a really long time. I have had them twice before and the first time it took nearly 12 hours, but the second time was much shorter and only lasted for 8 hours.

Depending on where you go to get your hair braided (professional or individual), the prices can vary. If you go to a professional, at a shop, be prepared to pay $75-$150 for their services. Of course, then you’re paying for a certain amount of “professionalism.” However, if you go to someone’s house, you’ll probably pay only around $35-$90, but may have to deal with things like kids, or visitors or phone calls. Again, all prices depend on the type of braids and style you want. But none of these prices includes the actual cost of buying the hair, which itself can cost $3-$25 per bag. And you may need 3-6 bags per style.

In terms of washing the hair, well, that depends on the individual, but most women try to go as long as possible before washing their braids. Anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months.

So, as you can see, it all depends on the type of braids, the style and the individual getting them.
RECEIVED FEB. 25, 1998
Zandria C. Jacobs, Jacksonville

FURTHER NOTICE:
Another factor is the type of hair used in braiding. If you use synthetic hair, it’s cheaper, and you get can longer lengths relatively easily. If you buy human hair for weaving (which my wife does, because she’s allergic to synthetic hair), it’s more expensive – often much more expensive, because the longer lengths of human hair are really pricey. For example, a ‘pack’ of loose hair (synthetic) costs around $15 -a similar pack of human hair costs around $45. My wife gets the micro braids, and it can take 12-20 hours (over a period of several days) to get done.

“Dookie” braids – so-called because they look big and thick – take a lot less time (only a couple of hours.)
POSTED MARCH 16, 1998
Alex L., 38, Lawrenceville, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Generally, black women and men do not wash their hair as often as others because we do not have the oily hair problem others do. So it doesn’t need washing as often.
POSTED MARCH 20, 1998
Rose, Dallas

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I disagree with Rose. If your hair is dirty, it’s dirty. Black, white or whatever. The frequency with which one washes his or her hair has nothing to do with one’s race; it has more to do with the type of hair one has. And, as any black person knows, black people have all types of hair. I happen to wash my hair quite often.
POSTED APRIL 21, 1998
M, Johnson, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I agree with M. Johnson. It depends on the individual and the hair type. I will not go a day without washing my hair.
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
Stephanie T., black, Tempe, AZ
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THE QUESTION:
R4: I’ve always wondered if or how a black household differs from a white household. I grew up in a primarily white area, so unfortunately, I was not exposed to many cultures, which of course leaves me wondering. For example, what would take place during a typical weeknight in a black family?

POSTED FEB. 24, 1998
– Ellen S. N.J.

ANSWER 1:
Black households don’t differ from white households when you’re comparing families of the same socio-economic status. The home of a middle-class black family looks just like the home of a middle-class white family. We go home every night, eat dinner together, watch television, rent movies from Blockbuster just like everyone else. We read to our kids and listen to music. The music may be different, but not necessarily. We’re just as diverse as white people in that we may prefer classical or reggae or country or R&B or rap or easy-listening of classic rock or whatever. We cook the same variety of foods that white people do. We don’t eat “soul food” every day any more than an Italian person eats spaghetti every day.

In my family home, most of our artwork is of black people, just as most white people have pictures of white people on their walls. Most of my child’s dolls and books are black, etc.

But if I were to blindfold you and sit you in a corner of our den one evening, I think you’d hear the same family sounds and activity you’d here at a white person’s house.
RECEIVED MARCH 5, 1998
– Nicole M., Jacksonville, Fla.

FURTHER NOTICE:
Good answer, and I’d also ask, What do “typical” white families do? As a Caucasian, I believe what we do in our homes is probably as diverse as any other culture.
RECEIVED MARCH 9, 1998
– Cindy A., Richmond, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
In this black household (single female, 29 and graduate student), an average evening revolves around reading until my eyes hurt, grabbing whatever food is nearby (and quick) and collapsing somewhere around 2 a.m. Seriously, I come from a lower-income background and grew up in public housing. My parents have been married 45 years, and I have eight brothers and sisters (all older). Growing up, an average evening involved having dinner together (which we still do every Sunday), watching television together or, if we were in school, completing homework and then preparing for the next day. Fairly mundane stuff.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1998
Cecily W., Atlanta, GA
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THE QUESTION:
R3: About 10 years ago, I was playing basketball at a college recreation center. A black guy I was playing with had the Nike tag hanging from what appeared to be a brand new pair of shoes. Trying to be helpful, I told him he forgot to cut off his tags – to which he replied somewhat nastily, “It’s a black thing – you wouldn’t understand.” My question is, Why didn’t he cut off his tag, and why did he feel the need to tell me I wouldn’t understand?
POSTED MARCH 9, 1998
Joe V., Arizona

ANSWER 1:
It’s not so much a “black” thing as it is a “fashion” thing. One way (not the only way) in which blacks express themselves is through the clothes and footwear they wear. If you have purchased clothes that are the latest fashion, then you want everyone to know this fact when you wear them. Today, you might see expensive, brand-name clothes such as Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica or Polo, etc. with the name of the brand prominently and largely displayed on the clothing for all to see. This is so people will know the clothes-wearer has fashion-sense and also that he/she can afford these expensive brands.

The reason the man you talked to kept the Nike tag on his sneakers was to call more attention to his new pair of “kicks.” It was as if he were saying, “Look everyone! Look! Look! I got a new pair of sneakers and they’re those new Nikes that just came out! See the tag?” He wanted people to notice them, and judging by your reaction, he succeeded.

Your comment caught him off guard. It was probably a little embarrassing and a slight blow to his ego. That’s why he reacted “nastily” with that trite cliche, “It’s a black thing.” I’m sure it was nothing personal. In the heat of a game, he probably just didn’t want to take the time to explain his reasoning to you the way I just did.
RECEIVED MARCH 9, 1998
R.C., 28, Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE:
As I understand it, wearing a price tag on your clothes is symbolic of belonging to a street gang. There was a time when initiation into a gang involved stealing a piece of clothing. The finer stores would remove the tag from clothes they sold to control their inventory. Thus, if someone still had the tags on their hat or shoes, they were supposed to be “stolen.” Thus this would signify that the individual belonged to some gang.
POSTED JUNE 30, 1998
R. Southers <NeedmoCash@AOL.com>, Durham, NC
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THE QUESTION:
R2: I’m a Latin American woman and I always wondered about Latin men being labeled “Latin lovers”… Where does it come from? What does it mean? I think it is a negative stereotype and all men from Latin countries are NOT “Latin lovers”.
POSTED FEB. 4, 1998
L. Soto-Barra, Jacksonvill

ANSWER 1:
I believe the title “Latin Lover” came from the actor Rodolfo Valentino. In my experience, it has always been used as a compliment. Most frequently it refers to a charming, thoughtful and gentlemanly behavior rather then sexual prowess.
RECEIVED MARCH 11, 1998
U. Schoeps, Olivebridge, NY

FURTHER NOTICE:
I agree with the first reply – I have always thought of the term as a compliment. Though, nowadays, it is usually used to describe looks rather than their method of chatting people up.
POSTED MARCH 28, 1998
Beth, white, Edinburgh, England

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
The Latin lover stereotype probably came from the custom of “piropos,” flirtatious comments. In conservative Latin countries, often the only way to meet women is by flirting on the street. The comments are supposed to be as poetic as possible. Unfortunately, this has led to the image of Latinos as part of a machismo culture repressive to women. But machismo exists in most if not all cultures.
POSTED DEC. 18, 1998
A.C.C., Mexican, San Antonio, TX
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THE QUESTION:
R1: Why do so many black football players wear bandanas on their heads underneath their football helmets?
POSTED JAN. 25, 1998
Pete D., Jacksonville

ANSWER 1:
I am no athlete, but when I was in the military we used to wear them under our combat helmets. There are a couple of reasons: One is to lessen the direct friction from the helmet strapping to our foreheads, and hair (any precaution against balding.); the other is to absorb some of the sweat, which is also a little bit cooler.

I am white, but I feel that the same sort of reasoning is involved, especially with blacks wearing their hair so short; those whiskers on top of your head can rub you raw. I would think that it started to be popular in the ’80s when Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon wore his controversial headbands. I believe black athletes have taken a practical idea and added their own flair to it.
RECEIVED MARCH 11, 1998
– Loyd B., Westland, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
I believe that has a lot to do with the increasing number of black men who are wearing bald heads. The bandanas help stop some of the sweat from running down the scalp into the face/eyes while they are playing. It also cuts back on the friction of the helmet padding directly on the sensitive bald skin.
POSTED MARCH 15, 1998
R. Frelow, 32, black (and bald), Houston, Texas

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