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Race/Ethnicity Questions 361-370

THE QUESTION:
R370: I work for an older, wealthy, Jewish woman. She is very bright and enthusiastic. I am taken aback, however, when she walks into our office and begins by criticizing everything, often before knowing what she’s looking at. I’ve been told this trait is typical of Jewish women. If there’s any truth to this, what might be helpful for me to know in order to work better with her? Is this a culture issue? I assumed it was a personality trait. I’d really like some more positive interaction from the get-go, vs. having to work backwards toward it.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Thirty-Year-Old, Southern Protestant Liberal, St. Louis, MO

ANSWER 1:
It’s a personality trait. Less-thoughtful people often find excuses to behave badly; it has nothing to do with genetics. You mentioned she was older and wealthy; these facts may provide the clue you’re looking for. Older people who have (obviously) lived longer and experienced more can be presumed to know a bit more than the rest of us; some feel the need to remind us of that fact. Those with accumulated wealth are often revered by society and gain a false sense of superiority. Less-polite members of that group may try to tell the rest of us how to succeed. Deal with these (rude) people the same – no matter their ethnicity.
POSTED JULY 24, 1998
43-year-old Jewish female, Long Beach, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
She might just have a self-esteem problem. I have worked with many a Jewish person, and they do tend to be aggressive, but as long as you know your stuff and have done what you are supposed to do, everything works out.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
ANABWI, 42, black female <anabwi@aol.com>, Plantation, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I don’t agree with the people who told you it is a Jewish female trait to be critical. My experience has been more the opposite. Although this is a gross generalization, I have to say that the Jewish culture tends to place a higher value on tolerance and respect for diversity than average. Your boss is like she is because that’s her personality – not because she’s Jewish. There are lots of jokes about “Jewish mothers” and “JAPS” that assume Jewish women are whiny, intolerant and self-absorbed, but in my opinion there is no more truth to that than there is to the false but popular assumption that all Jewish men are money-grubbing and wealthy.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Laura W., 36, Jewish female <lauraw@cobalt.cnchost.com>, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I am Jewish and wanted to let you know that part of a powerful personality like that is just that, personality, and some of it (depending on her age) is a survival technique. Let me explain. Throughout history, the Jewish people have been harrassed, persecuted and chased out of more countries than I have space to list. Out of habit, we have become survivalists. If your boss is old enough, she remembers struggling a lot, or the stories from her parents’ lives. She pays extreme attention to detail because as Jews we are used to our decisions having life/death consequences. If you aren’t the best, you are dead or being sold a one-way ticket on a train bound for nowhere. As for dealing with her, have you tried talking to her? If she is friendly and bright, she will surely understand a simple and well-worded request for better staff motivation along with her critique.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Rachel, 24, Jewish female <speedyrae2@aol.com>, Oceanside, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Having grown up with a Jewish mother, I feel it’s probably both a cultural and personality trait. Jewish women tend to be more assertive and critical than women in other groups because (1) they are generally better-educated and aware of feminist issues, (2) the Jewish culture has always emphasized debate, criticism and probing thought (regardless of gender), (3) many older Jews grew up with anti-Semitism and felt they had to develop strong personalities to combat it. Needless to say there are exceptions to every stereotype, though I believe you are correct in finding some truth in this one.
POSTED NOV. 21, 1998
John, 42, Jewish male, Chicago, IL

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I do not believe it is a personality trait of Jewish women. Actually, I have seen people of all cultures, races and genders behave in this manner, both in a work environment and socially. Most of the time, I see this behavior in people who are insecure and feel the need to criticize and change what others have done or said just for the sake of demonstrating their power or superiority. For some reason, it appears this woman is insecure and believes she must control the workforce, and this is her method of doing so.
POSTED NOV. 30, 1998
A., 34, female, Jewish, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I’ve worked for a long time in various non-profit organizations in many volunteer and paid positions. I may be guilty of thinking of people as stereotypes, but I think your description of an “older, wealthy … woman” is very appropriate. The “Jewish” part? Well, that just means she’ll start criticizing things an “older, wealthy, Presbyterian woman” wouldn’t. It’s been my experience that people (of any sex) who have been wealthy their entire lives (no matter what religion) come into many working environments with no idea of what kind of time, man-power or planning it takes to get the lofty goals they set accomplished.
POSTED DEC. 4, 1998
Debra, 44, Norfolk , VA

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
I am familiar with a Jewish/European mentality that thinks/feels that the maximally friendly attitude is to be analytical and offer a positively critical review that improves a situation or person. This attitude views “uncritical approval” as indifference to the person or situation.
POSTED JAN. 27, 1999
P.B., white, Jewish, male, senior, Davis, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Jewish mothers raise their daughters to perpetuate the notion that whatever they think or say or do is correct and is the best. While the little girl’s heart may belong to daddy, the mind belongs to mommy. The Jewish momma dresses the best, cooks the best, observes all the rules the best and knows the answers to queries that the greatest minds have not even thought of. What wondrous creation of humanity for a role model.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
L.H, Jewish male <lphfla@aol.com>, Ft. Lauderdale , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
There is a Yiddish word for what this woman is doing. It’s “kvetching.” Pronounced kveh-ching. She probably doesn’t realize she is being “critical.” She probably thinks she’s sharing what she sees. I bet if you told her you feel criticized, she would make every effort in the world to change what she says.
POSTED JAN. 29, 1999
Bakum, Jewish guy, 28 <bakum@bigfoot.com>, San Francisco , CA
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THE QUESTION:
R369: How universal is the concept of “Black Time”? When my black friends arrive hours late for a luncheon or haven’t finished preparations when I arrive on time at their home, they just say with a smile that they are on “BT.” In 20 years with our mixed group of close friends this hasn’t hurt relationships, but I wonder…
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Beth, white female, 60, Orlando, FL

ANSWER 1:
Everybody who’s black has heard of “CPT” (Colored People’s Time). My grandmother, who’s 103, taught me. CPT, or “BT” as you call it, is only an excuse, but it’s funny! I told my wife about CPT because she is always the last one to get ready to leave the house for, say, a movie. Even though she’s Native American, she still qualifies, so she just falls in line, and laughs with the rest of us. Hey! Grin and bear it!
POSTED JULY 22, 1998
K.R., 51, straight black male, Oxnard, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Funny, in the queer community, people talk about GST (Gay Standard Time). This is to account for the fact that a certain percentage of gay men tend to be late for things because they talk too much or spend too much time fussing with their hair. It’s all in good humor, but I know a lot of queer events, even serious ones, not just dances or parties, are planned with the expectation that about a third of the people will be late by at least five minutes, while a few will come in 20 minutes after, or even later.
POSTED JULY 23, 1998
Wendy D., 23, white bisexual female <wiebke@juno.com>, Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
It’s not only widepsread in this country, but in fact it has its roots in Africa. If you were to travel to the African continent (or perhaps even to other continents), you would discover that Africans have a very different approach to time than we do. Not every culture puts as strong a value on punctuality as ours. The clash can occur when people from two different cultures try to interact.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Sara, Oakland, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I’m black, and I’m a stickler for punctuality. It’s just a matter of respect; also, my dad was a military man and lateness was out of the question. Black time is a slang for us. But make your feelings known; things might change
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
ANABWI, 42, black female <anabwi@aol.com>, Plantation, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I know exactly what you mean. In our Indian communities, we call it Indian Standard Time (IST). I’ve seen that this is pretty common (but doesn’t apply to everyone). Sometimes I find myself being late for different functions and events, not on purpose, but accidentally.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
John G, Indian, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I believe BT is fairly common, but I have no idea why. I’ve also heard it called CP (Colored People) time. I hate it, but I’ve come to expect that if there’s an event held by blacks, it’s OK to arrive very late. If it’s a white event, arrive on time. I’ve had friends tell me they are just not “time conscious.” I know others who were late to pick up their adopted child. How can you be late for something so important? It’s ridiculous. I will tell you that we don’t all operate on BT, thank goodness.
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
Black Female

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I have come across this myself. I think it’s pure selfishness. Perhaps if you did the same thing and simply replied it’s a “White Time” thing, I’m sure at that point your black friends would take offense to it. I guess those who have told you this (about BT) don’t realize the knife cuts both ways.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
J.C., 32, white female <cntybumkin@aol.com >, Wilson, NC

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
I’ve used the expression “C.P.T.” (colored people’s time) on many an occasion, and I do know many fellow African Americans who seem to be living in this particular time zone. While it is true that many black people seem to be nonchalant about punctuality, there may be just as many who (like myself) are quite religiously on time. I believe the observance of “C.P.T.,” or “black time” as you know it, is definitely not practiced by all black people. It is a humorous generalization, but a generalization nonetheless.
POSTED NOV. 19, 1998
Samuel H., 30, African-American male <samalex67@aol.com>, Chicago, IL

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
I don’t think this is solely a “color” thing. I’m Jewish, and whenever anything (particularly holiday services) start late, people joke that we’re on “Jewish Standard Time.” I suspect that many groups use this as a light joke for something that’s pretty much universal.
POSTED NOV. 30, 1998
Adam, 24, Jewish male, Norman, OK

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
Be assured lateness is not restricted to gay or black people. We Jews often joke among ourselves about our propensity for tardiness.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Michael Z., 27, white Jewish male <Mjick@aol.com,>, Southfield , MI

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
In my family, we’ve always called it “Latin Time.” In my experience, most Latinos show up for any scheduled event up to an hour or two late. My parents have claimed that the lateness comes from generations of living in the hotter climates of Latin America and the Caribbean. Because of the heat, people take their time getting places to avoid overheating. Of course, this is just my family’s explanation for the phenomenon.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Luis A., Cuban-Puerto Rican Male <alonso@andrew.cmu.edu>, San Jose, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
Every ethnicity must have its own way of making up for people who are habitually late. In Hawaii, we call it “Hawaiian Time,” usually 20 to 30 minutes late.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Jonah, Hawaiian male <jonahthewhale@hotmail.com>, Honolulu, HI

FURTHER NOTICE 12:
I work in a typical corporate environment and have planned a lot of meetings. Even in the business environment, I never plan for anything meaningful for the meeting group in the first 10 minutes of the meeting. In fact, I privately plan for the meeting to kick off at least five minutes after the scheduled start time. We could call this CPT (corporate people’s time), BT (being tardy) or GST (gathering stall time). I think this is a human cultural condition, not a racial or sexual one.
POSTED DEC. 15, 1998
Steve T., 49, white male, mobile worker, Rochester , MN

FURTHER NOTICE 13:
Hmmm, been black for 61 years now. Never heard of CPT or BT. I was taught as a youngster to always be prompt and always tried to do just that (as a youngster and as an adult). I wouldn’t think of purposely being late for an event, etc., or intentionally standing someone up.
POSTED DEC. 30, 1998
Milton, 61, black male, San Antonio , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 14:
While living in Tokyo, everyone and everything was on time. It was after we moved to Nagasaki that we first heard of “Nagasaki Time.”
POSTED JAN. 20, 1999
Ron <goze@webgalaxy.com>, Encinitas, CA
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THE QUESTION:
R368: Do black people blush?
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
Javier, 36, white, Madrid, Spain

ANSWER 1:
When I was younger, say 17 to 20, I was caught lots of times blushing. It hasn’t happened lately, though. I am, however, part black and part American Indian. Not as dark-skinned as some of my cousins, but still dark enough to be recognized as “black” to others.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
A. Moore, 29, African American <Moore29@aol.com>, Orlando, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
Yes, black people blush. You can’t tell with darker-skinned blacks, but you can see it with light-skinned blacks.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
AAW, 42, black female <anabwi@aol.com>, Plantation, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Black people do blush, for the same reasons and physical responses as white people. Blood will rush to the skin surface and a noticeable change in color occurs. Of course, if the person is dark in color, it may not be as noticeable, but it nevertheless does occur. My white co-workers were surprised at seeing me blush during an embarrassing moment, and I was pleased to burst a misperception.
POSTED JULY 20, 1998
JayJay, 44, black female <Lady_Jackie@yahoo.com>, Dayton, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I can’t help but laugh at this question, as I was asked the same by an acquaintance. Yes, we do blush; whether others can see it depends on the particular shade of the blusher.
POSTED AUG. 1, 1998
K. Fletch, black, Alexandria, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I had a friend who was very dark, and when he was extremely embarrassed, we could see he was blushing by the redness in his ears.
POSTED AUG. 3, 1998
Shawn, 28 <brerio@hotmail.com>, Chicago, IL

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Yes. The ability for it to show varies depending on the coloring of the individual, but I have known black people, including myself, to show “blood in the face.”
POSTED AUG. 7, 1998
A. Taylor, 34, African American, Newark, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I am a light-skinned black female and blush quite often, but my friend who is also light-complected does not. It’s very difficult to tell if a darker-skinned black person is blushing, but they do.
POSTED AUG. 11, 1998
Shelley, 34, St Louis, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
Yeah (blush), we do!
POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
Ken R., 51, black <robent@WEST.NET>, Oxnard, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Black people with light-colored skin do blush. Using myself as an example (I have light skin), I don’t blush frequently, but when I do it is very evident. My nose and ears also turn red in the cold.
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
Greg, 20, black/white male <december@brigadoon.com>, Olney, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
Yes, we do. Blood rushes to a person’s face (blushing) in certain situations, regardless of how dark the skin is. But the darker the person, the harder you may have to look to notice the difference.
POSTED SEPT. 23, 1998
W. Lotus, 29, dark-skinned American <wlotus@dreamscape.com>, Syracuse, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
Ideally, yes. Can you see the blush is the real question. Of course the darker the skin, the less visible the rosy color. As humans we all experience embarrassment. I have a very light complexion. People can clearly observe the rosy, embarrassed look on me. I do wish I had the beautiful deep brown skin where no one could tell, though.
POSTED OCT. 7, 1998
J3, 36, African American, Tucson, AZ

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
Black people do blush. It’s just that you can see it clearer on the lighter-shaded people of color than the darker. But a blush can also be seen in the eyes, I feel. I am a lighter-shaded black woman, and my husband is darker. I can see him blush through his eyes, and he sees me blush on my skin.
POSTED OCT. 23, 1998
Cheryl, black female <blackcherrie@yahoo.com>, Jacksonville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 12:
As human beings just like all other human beings, yes, black people blush, and for the same reasons as anyone else. I’m a medium-brown-skinned black woman, and once, when I heard a foul comment from a co-worker, I found myself blushing. I know this because the co-worker told me I was. It may not be obvious that someone of very dark skin is blushing, but they will have the same physiological reaction to blush-causing phenomena as any other human being.
POSTED OCT. 28, 1998
E. Daniel, 42, black female, Kansas City, Mo.
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THE QUESTION:
R367: Why do people in the United States put their aging parents in convalescent homes? I come from both an Asian and Latino background, and I know this would be absolutely unacceptable in those cultures and a great source of disrespect.
POSTED JULY 1, 1998
Michela, 23, Latina-Asian female, Los Angeles, CA

ANSWER 1:
First of all, the percentage of the population over 65 living in nursing homes is extremely small, despite what we may think. My mother went into a nursing home when I was a teenager. She should have gone in about 10 years earlier. She had a very bad case of multiple sclerosis, and became a quadriplegic, as well as very mentally disturbed, quickly. My father worked days, leaving my older sister and I to care for her. Her own family was estranged from her because of her mental problems, and we could not keep a housekeeper or nurse working with her for any length of time. She only went into the nursing home when my sister left for college. The experience of having one member’s needs dominate the entire family tore us apart. We paid a huge price for trying to care for her ourselves. Seeing the other patients in her nursing home, and how much care they needed, made it obvious to me that few families have the ability to care for a parent as ill as these people. I am now the mother of a Chinese baby girl. I would never want her to sacrifice herself and her family as I did for my mother. It can be very easy to judge when one hasn’t experienced caring for someone with, say, Alzheimer’s disease and/or multiple health problems, and still work or care for a family. Also, American families are often smaller than other families, and there may be fewer adult children to share the work involved.
POSTED JULY 22, 1998
P.J., 38, white <civserv@yahoo.com>, San Jose, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
Having cared for my mother-in-law in our home when she was in fairly advanced Alzhiemers, I can tell you that most families are not equiped to handle these intense and demanding duties. We coped, and only moved her to a care facility when she broke her hip, but the burden was great. After working all day, I would have to fix her meal (separate from the other family, because eating to her was a full-time job for both of us), then take her to the bath and bathe her, and eventually put her in bed. Putting her in bed could take two to three hours, as she would continually get back up and get dressed again. Finally I could sit down and relax. My husband did morning duty to balance the duties. Getting her up in the morning was the reverse ritual of going to bed. When illness is that demanding, it is really best for all concerned to be in the care of people who have the equipment and facility to cope.
POSTED JULY 23, 1998
48-year-old white female, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Actually, only about 5 percent of American old people live in nursing homes. Many of these have no families to take care of them – most of these are childless women, many of whom never married. Most American “seniors” in good health prefer to live alone or with their spouses, by the way, and not with their children – and many who are not in good health prefer to live in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes. This is because of the American cultural tradition of individualism and independence – few people want to be dependent on their children, financially or otherwise. There are, of course, some people who just don’t get along with their children, or who have children who don’t care about them, sometimes for good reason. My widowed mother, by the way, lived with her two single daughters until she was 70, by which point she was bedridden, incontinent and senile, and needed round-the-clock care and special housing, financially impossible for us. She then entered a nursing home.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
K.R.C., 58, white, Boston, MA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It’s my understanding that the majority of older people placed in nursing homes are there because of a disability of some sort, requiring total care for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, the families of most of these individuals do not have the time, or most importantly the knowledge, to care for their loved one. This is not a sign of disrespect, but more of a realization that the person placed in a home needs more care than that which the family can reasonably give. Nursing homes give the patient the stability they need, while allowing them to have a certain measure of independence to which they have become accustomed. Living the rest of your life with your family watching and criticizing every move you make does not, in my opinion, seem like a good way to go.
POSTED AUG. 3, 1998
Kristen, 26, white female, Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Asians and Hispanics extend plenty of respect to their elders, and their families are generally larger and more traditional than most “American” families. They have many more family members to care for elderly relatives and are likely to have female family members who stay home (rather than work outside the home) and are able to care for their families. I think, too, that many Asians feel strongly that they owe their parents a large debt of gratitude (for supporting them through school, for instance) and so would not consider placing their parents in the care of strangers.
POSTED AUG. 13, 1998
Tricia T., 25, Filipino, Richmond, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
My mother had to put her father in a nursing home because he could not walk at all, or even sit up unaided, and she and I and my father could not lift or move him. The nursing home we put him in had attendants who were large, strong and trained in how to lift someone safely. They also had special equipment (beds, lifting slings, etc.) that we could not afford to buy or rent. He was able to get the care he needed, safely, where we might have caused him harm. We knew because we’d tried, and we’re lucky he did not break a bone or two (his or ours). We went to see him at least once a day, and we were allowed to bring pets he loved to see him, too. It wasn’t an easy decision at all to move him there, believe me.
POSTED OCT. 15, 1998
Midori, female <midorichan1@juno.com>, Orlando, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I think it is a personal issue and has a lot to do with the type of family you grew up in. Nowadays people are (or think they are) too busy to care for their aging parents. If they have their own family, most feel it is an added responsibility. People don’t seem to cherish aging parents anymore. The wealth of knowledge and wisdom they can receive from their parents if they just take the time to care for them and talk to them is immense.

From experience, I can tell you that caring for my mother was the best decision our family made. I recently lost her. She had 18 children (11 girls, seven boys). When my mom got too sick to care for herself, it was decided that we (the sisters) would not put her in a nursing home. We loved her just that much to care for her in her home. After all, she took care of us when we couldn’t care for ourselves; surely we could do the same for her. For the most part, she had a caretaker during the day. Each sister stayed one night a week. When one of my sisters retired, she stayed every day, from morning to evening; then one sister would relieve her that evening. The sisters who lived out of town (myself and one other) had their turn when they came in town for one or two weeks straight.

It can be hard (and strenuous) taking care of aging parents. You have to help lift them (from the bed or when you take them on an outing), help dress them, cook for them and sometimes help feed them. I think grown children do not realize that one day they may be in that same situation and will need someone to care enough to take care of them. When my mother died, she was still in her right mind. She still knew our phone numbers and names and could carry on a conversation with us. That was only because we took the time to talk to her every day so she wouldn’t forget. There was probably not a time that someone wasn’t in her house talking to her about something. When she died (at 87 of kidney failure,) it was just her time to go. But we thank God for giving us that time with her. We don’t have any regrets because we took the time to love her and take good care of her.
POSTED OCT. 26, 1998
A. Calloway, 52, black female, Landover, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
I am from Ireland, where there is also a very strong sense of family, so I definitely see your point. One thing I reacted to in your question, though, was the part about “putting old people in homes.” Many older people make this decision themselves. I was very upset when my grandmother decided to move into a “home,” as I imagined her just sitting in a chair and staring at a wall. She made this choice because she was lonely. She lived alone, and many of her old friends were gone. Now she has her own little appartment in a “home” where she has lots of friends that she can socialize with or not as she chooses. There are activities she can be involved in, and she can go on holidays abroad with her new friends without worrying that her house will be burgled while she is away. She has access to medical care if and when she needs it. She has a new lease on life and no n feels lonely or old. I am glad this option exists for those who wish to take it. We shouldn’t underestimate old people by assuming that just because they are older they are unable to make their own choices.
POSTED NOV. 30, 1998
Iteki, 22, Irish, dyke <dt_iteki@hotmail.com>, Stockholm, Sweden

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
I think its because American society has drifted toward a more independent stance with respect to family ties. The main factors seem to be an increase in wealth, an increase in population mobility, an increase in the pursuit of personal freedom and an increase in the pursuit of personal privacy. These forces serve to separate the generations in this country. You can even see it within a single family. The average new home has more than 1,000 square feet more than it did 40 years ago, despite the same or perhaps smaller average family size. I don’t think this is a good thing.
POSTED DEC. 1, 1998
Dario, 33 <ballpeen@mailexcite.com>, San Carlos, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
I would bet there are a number of factors at work: 1) The general high quality of medical care that is available here. People live longer then they used to and in much sicker condition. Caring for them at home may be too difficult. They really require professional nursing. 2) As people marry and have children later, they are more likely to have elderly parents at the same time they have young children, and it may just be too much. 3) Most women work outside the home and don’t have a financial choice about this. There’s nobody home all day to care for an elderly parent.
POSTED DEC. 7, 1998
Susan, New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
I’m not from the United States, but I collaborated with a nursing home for many years there. I have an answer: The average white American is encouraged to leave his or her household as soon as they finish high school (age 19). If they don’t leave, they practically get kicked out by their parents for being “freeloaders” and “bums.” In return, when their parents get old, the sons won’t take care of them, either, because they have other duties to attend to, like their own families. (andAlzheimers cases in nursing homes are far from being the majority). To me, it’s a cultural thing: Latin and Asian families have certain values. The parents take care of sons until or if they marry (whatever the age), and sons in return take care of their parents if they later need it. No nursing homes.
POSTED DEC. 21, 1998
N. Agelvis, 29, white Hispanic male <nelsoneas@hotmail.com>, Caracas, Venezuela

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
As a nursing home administrator, and having had a grandparent in a nursing home as well as an aged parent in my home, I can speak from some bias on the subject. I think the difference is greater than American vs. non-American, but is strongly divided on racial lines. Previous respondents noted that 1) Small family size, 2) desire for the aged to remain independent and 3) presence of available non-working caregivers are important factors. In our business, we see that African Americans who are admitted nearly always come from a large, extended family. Nearly always they are admitted from living with a child, grandchild, godchild, niece or nephew. Nearly all the Caucasians admitted were living in apartments, private homes or condominiums before admission. In all cases, they come to the home because either the labor required to care for them, the cost of caring for them or the toll on the family life is too great. It’s not a shame to put someone in a home; it’s just a shame when you don’t visit.
POSTED DEC. 22, 1998
Anonymous, South Florida
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THE QUESTION:
R366: Why do many white Americans (with the exception of Southerners) seem cold and unfriendly? I find it difficult to make white friends, because I don’t get the same positive responses I do with other ethnic groups. What are some possible reasons?
POSTED JULY 1, 1998
Michela, 23, Latina-Asian female, Los Angeles, CA

ANSWER 1:
I think there could be a number of reasons, depending on the person you are trying to talk to. The same thing happens here around New York. I have noticed that it comes down to discomfort based on “race issues.” Sometimes I get uncomfortable speaking with some of the people here at work because I do not want to offend them accidentally. Because of the many possible sources of friction between different ethnic groups and whites, it can get tricky. And unfortunately, some white people simply do not like anyone who is not white, despite the silliness of such an attitude. My suggestion would be to simply continue to be friendly and open. The right kind of people will relax and come around in time. The rest are hardly worth your time. One more piece of advice: Try not to classify one group of whites as friendly and open and another group as unfriendly. That only adds to the stereotype. I think you would find that the open nature of whites in the South is more of a regional thing, and that under that mask they are just like everyone else. Personal experience has proven that to be true.
POSTED JULY 2, 1998
John K., 24, straight Irish-American male, <the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE:
I come from an upper middle-class New England white family. There may be many reasons for the reserve of whites, but there is a strong cultural component: We simply value our privacy, and we are hesitant to invade others’ privacy (from our point of view). We can be as open and friendly as anybody when we get to know you, but until you can cross that barrier, we would rather keep to ourselves. I don’t walk down the street or eat in a restaurant with the idea that I want to chit-chat with anyone who comes up to me. The flipside to your question is that we don’t want to be rude by imposing ourselves on you (from our perspective) too aggressively. It’s not rudeness, it’s just another culture. There are individual, regional and class considerations, so of course you can’t generalize. I should also say that this isn’t just a case of whites treating non-whites like this. We treat other whites this way, too.
POSTED JULY 23, 1998
Martin P., 42 <mpollard@ix.netcom.com>, El Cerrito, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I recently relocated to the South, and I am not only disappointed by the lack of that famous “Southern hospitality” here, but disheartened and appalled by the hateful and ignorant attitude that characterizes the area where I am living. I have lived all over the country and am tired of hearing Northerners accused of being cold and unfriendly, when I think it’s true for the whole United States. But I cannot support notions of a “friendly South.” Everything here is determined by race, sex and ethnicity. If you found the South friendly, please take into account that it’s a very different experience for a white male, and to a lesser degree, a white female. Try living as a black woman here for just one day and see if your opinion changes. It’s still 1900 down here, and it’s downright scary.
POSTED JULY 24, 1998
D.M.M., white female <donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I have no problem making friends with whites or people from any other race, for that matter. However, there are people who are fearful of people who are different. The people I am friends with accept me for me, and my skin color is secondary. Also, I think people in general from the South are friendlier. It’s that Southern hospitality. I know people in the North, regardless of race, who aren’t friendly.
POSTED JULY 28, 1998
K.P., 18, African American <klp113@theglobe.com>, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
If you cannot make friends with white people, I think you have not given them a chance. I feel you are intimidated by them. I am Mexican American and have never had trouble making friends with people of any race, color or religion. It is the stereotype that keeps you from making those “white” friends. Try to quit trying to make friends with white people – just make friends with people who share the same interests as you, and if they happen to be white, well, you made a “white” friend.
POSTED AUG. 5, 1998
L.D., 29, Hispanic <TXWALKER10@AOL.COM>, Amarillo, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Interpersonal misunderstandings are due more to unconscious cultural lifestyles than to personal attitudes. The two worldwide cultural (not national or political) forms are related to following either individualism or collectivism as value orientations. Neither is better than the other, both include the other, individuals vary and elders tend to conform more. Individualists tend to be strongly independent, confrontive, creative and open, and value change and self-reliance, qualities that represent Western societies (Europe, United States, Canada). Collectivists tend to value interdependence, intense and lasting relationships, respect, family, stability, traditions and group consensus, which are more global qualities (Africa, Latin America, Asia, Pacific). When they meet, stereotypes are born: Intense collectivists might see individualists as cool and aloof (even unfriendly), and individualists might see collectivists as reserved (even anti-social). Eye contact means openness among individualists, but means a sign of polite respect for another’s space among collectivists.
POSTED AUG. 5, 1998
Frank M., 69, Latino <fmont@swbell.net>, San Antonio, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I am a white female who has lived her whole life in the North. A few years I was relocated to the deep South, and people are much nicer. In a lot of areas there and whites who are not nice to whites, let alone any other races.
POSTED AUG. 6, 1998
Joni, Tifton, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
I am a 42-year-old white female, born in East Los Angeles. As a child, I thought a colored person was a rainbow-striped silhouette. My ex-husband was military. Needless to say I have traveled around. The rudest people I met were in the South. Believe me, there is “trash” everywhere. Good people are good people and bad are bad. Just be your good self and you will attract those who are like you, no matter their race or background. Happy travels.
POSTED AUG. 7, 1998
J. Hall, white female, Kennewick , WA

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
As an American who is very outgoing and emotionally available, I find this as well. Basically, I think Americans are raised to be more protective of themselves and less emotionally open than people of other cultures. Also, Americans are not as physical as people from Latin cultures, which may make them seem not as friendly.
POSTED AUG. 9, 1998
Marcie B., 29, female, American, Boston , MA

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
Most white people you encounter come from an Anglo Saxon background. What you see as cold and unfriendly, to them, is politeness. We are taught that it is rude to display strong emotion in public, to ask or answer personal questions, etc. Also, we walk on tenterhooks waiting for some cultural timebomb to go off. Ethnic terms that were once acceptable are now offensive. We also have difficulty with body language that is foreign to us. Some ethnic groups tend to stand much closer than we are comfortable with, or not make eye contact, which we interpret as shifty or dishonest.
POSTED AUG. 12, 1998
Elaine C. <eoder1@compulinx-net.net>, Columbus, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
I think most people are apprehensive about how other races will react to their attempts at friendship. The best thing to do is always smile. I always smile at everyone, which automatically makes others want to smile – it takes the edge off. Even when in public places, get used to talking to different races by making small talk. Telling someone “Oh, your little girl has beautiful eyes. What’s her name?” may be enough to start a conversation. How about asking someone how to pick a watermelon at the grocery store? Daily interaction will take away the tension inside of you and make others comfortable talking to you. Also, make sure people know you don’t mind talking about racial differences – ask white people around you why it’s hard to make friends with them; maybe they’ll want to talk to you about it over brunch or coffee.
POSTED AUG. 12, 1998
Stacey, white, Minneapolis, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
I came to Minneapolis 18 years ago and have been asking that same question of the people here. There is an outward friendliness, but I have never felt accepted even by locals whom I have known eight or nine years. I think a lot of it has to do with what region you’re in and the dominant culture. I find Northern European people very cold and closed, while Southern Europeans are often much more open. I’m Scot-Irish, and the people in my part of the country tend to be very open until they are somehow betrayed. At that point, they close up like clams. Interracially, I feel like I’m walking into a minefield when I’m talking to American blacks. I know a lot of Somalians, and they are very open and friendly; American blacks in my neighborhood (39 percent African American) are sometimes very friendly and other times filled with obvious hatred for whites. It is tough to know how to open a conversation with someone when you don’t know if you’re going to find a friend or someone who assumes you’re an enemy. I’m sure that’s the way many people of color feel when they have to approach a European, too. Sadly, I think we just have to live with it for another generation.
POSTED AUG. 17, 1998
Dave, 52, Scot-Irish <dadixx@earthlink.net>, Minneapolis, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 12:
I am a native Californian. I have some relatives (also native Californians) who live in Arkansas. On the few occasions I have visited them, I experienced culture shock. Strangers would wave at me as I drove down the street (not once, but dozens of times). I found that buying a sandwich would result in a lengthy conversation about who I was, where I was from, why I was there and how long I was staying. This happened so often that I got over the shock and started acting the same way. I have a theory about this friendliness/curiosity: Almost all the people I talked to were longtime residents of their town. Most were born there. I met a Californian who has lived there more than 20 years, and he is still called “a foreigner.” In California, people seem to be much more mobile. Seeing a stranger is not the exception, it is the rule. Most of the people we see are strangers.
POSTED AUG. 21, 1998
John B., 48, white, <belcherj@inreach.com>, Pixley, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 13:
We have moved around the country, living in several geographic areas, both North and South. We find the opposite. We find that Southerners are less “friendly” than Northerners. Granted, sometimes it takes longer to establish true friendships in the North, but they are more genuine (or at least that is the way my family has perceived it) than those in the South. True, we have a lot of “acquaintances” in the South, but our true friendships have always been maintained North of the Mason-Dixon. By the way, we have lived in the South about 10 years. I’ve been exposed to company relocations now for 30 years and therefore two-thirds of my career has been in the North, while a third has been in the South.
POSTED SEPT. 5, 1998
D.J., 35, straight white male <chevrolet@earthling.net>, Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 14:
As an Asian-American female who is usually mistaken for being Latin American, I haven’t had the same experience with white Americans. I’ve lived in both Northern and Southern California, and Hawaii, where it is predominantly Asian. I have never felt whites did not like me because of my race, nor have I felt blatant racism or discrimination because of my color. I may be way off, but is there any way you may be assuming people don’t like you because of your race rather than for other reasons? You may also be worried that whites may see you as being really different from them because of your race, and in turn have a defensive perception of things. It’s important to also be aware of the vibes you are giving to whites, not just the vibes they are giving you. Usually, it works both ways. By picking out only whites in this manner, it seems that you’re looking at white people not for who they are as individuals, but who they are as a race. If you think this way of others because they are white, you’ll be quick to assume that others think this way about you because you are not white.
POSTED SEPT. 9, 1998
Kel, 23, Cupertino, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 15:
Just a quick word about us Southerners. Don’t always assume that because we’re outwardly warm and friendly, we’re honestly warm and friendly. We are raised to be polite at all costs. It’s only after you leave that we verbally flay the hide from your unsuspecting body. Seriously, I’ve always lived in the South, and I really prefer the way Yankees are more up-front, even if it is abrasive. At least you know where you stand. This is, of course, a generalization. And I love many things about the South. I just wish we were able to be a little more honest with other and ourselves.
POSTED SEPT. 10, 1998
Whitney F., 33, white female <coxconc@1starnet.com>, Mt. Pleasant, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 16:
I can only guess at an answer for my own ethnic group – German Americans of Prussian Protestant origin. I live in a town with a large Dutch population. Compared to them, we German Americans are a light-hearted and outgoing group. Some of the difference seems racial or ethnic, and some sociological. Christianity as practiced in some areas of Northern Europe is particularily oppressive and dark. Normal feelings of openness and friendliness seem lacking. However, if seriously confronted with reality, real warmth and goodness is there. It is though people are afraid of tiny little police judging or watching them. On the other hand, we have almost no violent crime or larceny, but when we do have crime, it can take on an almost satanic face.
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
White male, 50 <gduff48482@aol.com>, Grand Rapids, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 17:
I believe John K. is right. White people, from my experience (I am white, my husband is black) are not comfortable around other races and are not sure how to act, which in turn looks snobby. My family is guilty of that with my husband and his family. They never really know what to say, and, trying to fit in, sound really fake and say really stupid things. My mother in particular is a little scared and definitely cannot relate and thinks she has to act different. I know I used my family and my husband’s family as examples, but I think it may apply to other ethnic backgrounds as well. The South is worse, in my opinion. I had no white friends in the town I lived in because my best friend was Mexican and I was from California.
POSTED SEPT. 25, 1998
Cindy <Cindy@mail.voyager.com>, Los Angeles, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 18:
It’s possible you’re just paranoid. Try to work through you hatred of white people. We’re all just as racist and cold to white people as we perceive them to be towards us.
POSTED OCT. 5, 1998
Mikal, 28, African American, Minneapolic, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 19:
I believe that racial responses are learned behavior. In larger cities many ethnic neighborhoods sprang up as a result of various immigration cycles such as war or famine, which brought large amounts of people from particular areas of the world. These individuals sought security in groups of family, friends and others who spoke the same language or held common customs. In many cases this was essential for economic survival. Generally, immigration means opportunity for both the immigrant and, unfortunately, native predators taking advantage of naive arrivals i.e. the selling of the Brooklyn Bridge. Bonds of trust tightened ethnic neighborhoods and issues of exploitation galvanized barriers between the races. Individuals who crossed racial or ethnic lines in their interactions were often ostracized by their peers. These tribal behaviors became part of the thinking process of all too many Americans, regardless of ethnic origin, and are still practiced in most major cities. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in a neighborhood where whites were the minority. Personal experience with my friends, schoolmates and their families overcame the racist beliefs of my parents, who grew up in various areas where whites didn’t “mix.” Racism in any direction at any level is purely an expression of fear. The best anyone can do is lead by example in hopes that in time race won’t matter.
POSTED OCT. 8, 1998
J. Cook, 43, white male, <evll92a@prodigy.com>, Fillmore, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 20:
I can’t speak for all non-Southern white people, but some of the coldness you have encountered is a polite reserve that seems to be cultural. When I lived in Texas, it was easy to spot my fellow Midwesterners because they weren’t as chatty and inquisitive as my Southern friends. If I had a Band-aid on a cut, the Midwesterners would note it and not say anything, thinking it was nothing serious, nothing to worry about. My Southern friends (including Latina friends) would ask me “Oh my God! What happened?!” and fuss all over me! I found this sweet, but somewhat intrusive. It’s not that I didn’t have warm feelings for them, but I found it sort of unneccssary. I also found the instant friendliness of Southerners confusing because you couldn’t tell if they were just being “friendly” or if they really wanted to be friends. Up here, I know who my friends are!
POSTED OCT. 9, 1998
Rosie, 32 <rosiebelle@yahoo.com>, Dayton, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 21:
In response to John K.’s answer (Answer 1): He commented that whites seemed cold because of their discomfort, but this still doesn’t seem to answer the question. If many whites are just afraid of offending a person of color, then why do they continue to put up a cold and sometimes mean “front?” I can understand why the fear and discomfort exist, but I cannot understand why in covering up their fear they have to come off as unfriendly.
POSTED OCT. 9, 1998
Kisha, Maplewood, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 22:
I am a white male from the Los Angeles suburbs (though long gone from there now) and I believe part of the problem lies in the fact that L.A. is a tough place to live, with its traffic, smog, more traffic, weird weather and certainly, as in any large metro area, a lot of weird folks. I think if you were to find yourself in a less-populated and stressful environment, you might find all people just a bit easier to be around, and just generally warmer toward others. But, what do I know? I know that even for a white person, L.A.’s not so friendly a place to be.
POSTED OCT. 20, 1998
Tony I., white male <iallonardo@oz.net>, WA

FURTHER NOTICE 23:
Contrary to John K.’s answer, I don’t believe this is based on race issues. Take a ride in your car in both the South and the North and you will see a difference in the pace of life. Up North, particularly in areas close to major cities, the pace of life is much more stressful and people in general (both whites and other ethnic groups) rush from one place to another, focusing solely on their own lives. You will find, however, closely knit neighborhoods where everyone watches out for each other. I live in a suburb of Philadelphia and enjoy traveling outside the metropolitan areas because the further you get away from the cities, the slower the pace of life is and the more likely you will encounter people who will take the time to be warm and friendly. I agree with John K.’s suggestion to continue to be friendly and open. The right kind of people will relax and come around in time.
POSTED OCT. 20, 1998
Debbie, 40, white female, West Chester, PA

FURTHER NOTICE 24:
I really believe (especially after having married into a multicultural Northern family) that it is more the hurried pace of life that contributes to this appearance of being unfriendly, along with a larger lack of spiritual values that people in the South tend to have. I feel that if people would slow down and take time to get to know others, people such as you may feel more accepted. Come on, my husband and his family do everything so fast that it’s hard to even notice others, much less develop any rapport!
POSTED OCT. 20, 1998
K. Mazza, 34, white female born and raised in South <KUlti2@aol.com>, Birmingham, AL

FURTHER NOTICE 25:
I think it depends on where you live. You say “with the exception of Southerners.” I’ve had slightly different experiences. I’m from Southern California and spent a week in small-town Michigan last spring. I was amazed at how friendly everyone was. Everywhere I went, people said “hello,” made and kept eye contact and smiled at me. As a Southern Californian, though, it was spooky to me, since I don’t experience it here. I think it’s more of a Southern California thing, rather than something you’d find throughout the country.
POSTED NOV. 24, 1998
David T., 25, male <dtjw@ix.netcom.com>, San Diego, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 26:
It is certainly possible that some people come across cold as unfriendly when they are really just uncomfortable about “race issues.”‘ On the other hand, keep in mind that some people are just by nature reserved and quiet. It would be a shame to miss the chance to get to know another interesting person because we assume they are hung up on race. Don’t assume someone is hostile because they are unfriendly – they may not realize they are giving a bad impression. Dismissing them just adds to the confusion and ill-will of the world. Try approaching them with a smile and outstretched hand and see what happens.
POSTED DEC. 1, 1998
L.P., 30, white male, Richmond, VA
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
R365: Why do we still call people “white” instead of “Anglo Saxon” or “Caucasian,” when politically correct terms are used for other races/ethnicities, such as “African American,” “Asian-Pacific” or “Hispanic”?
POSTED JUNE 28, 1998
Pakal <geoexplorer@geocities.com>, Los Angeles, CA

ANSWER 1:
Good question. Most “white” people haven’t jumped on the politically correct racial bandwagon. Whites have no oppressed past they feel subject to and therefore take no offense to being called “white.” I believe that to be called a politically correct term, e.g., “African American” and then take offense to prior racial references, e.g., “colored/black-only” contributes to racial unrest. Most “black, Latino or Oriental” people I associate with have names: Greg, Marcellino or Ray. These are the names I usually use when referring to them. Neither do they seem to take offense for being referred to as black, Latino, or Oriental. We are what we are; if one realizes this and is secure with it, being called “black” or “African American” will not matter.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
Rick, 32, white male <Rikratt@aol.com>, Las Vegas, NV

FURTHER NOTICE:
White folks don’t seem to mind the expression when used in a friendly manner. Now say “whitey” and that’s another story. Black coming from a white man seems disrespectful because whites coined the name for us.
POSTED JULY 16, 1998
Nat G., 24, African American <Greers05667@AOL.com>, Thomasville, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
This may be due to others looking at “whites” as being a heterogeneous group. This is not the case. This term is considered offensive to may European-Americans because it focuses on only one aspect of the individual – his/her skin color – which is not really desirable and denies their specific cultural identities: English, Irish, German, Italian etc., which have unique languages and customs. It also seems disingenuous to them, as they have been encouraged not to notice or highlight the skin color of others. Also, the terms African-American, Hispanic-American or Latino-American and Asian-American may have a unifying effect for minorities in America, but European-Americans have not found it necessary due to the size and influence of their various ethnic communities. Appreciation of an individual’s ethnic/racial/cultural background is important and healthy, but focusing too much on color or this “hyphenating” of Americans can be detrimental. Let’s remember that we all have the same “last name” in these hyphens: American.
POSTED JULY 29, 1998
R. Brining, 45, European-American, Wenonah, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Conjecture: White people have been in the majority and dominant position since we occupied this country. If the presumption is that white people are the majority and dominant, it then becomes necessary (in the minds of whites) to distinguish only those groups that are not-white.
POSTED AUG. 9, 1998
Al, white <alarose@ncwc.edu>, Rocky Mount, NC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I find it somewhat offensive when filling out forms when there will be a whole list of “politically correct” ethnic terms to choose from, then a box for “white.” I certainly don’t begrudge other ethnicities their more respectful titles, I just wish my race were also referred to by something other than a color. If it’s important to refer to ethnicity (and I’m not sure it is) maybe we should use the continent of origin, as is already done for many ethnicities, and there should be a category for European American to add to those for Asian American, African American, Latin American, etc.
POSTED AUG. 31, 1998
Cynthia, 37, white female, Scottish/Irish/German/Welsh/? descent , Pasadena, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
The new “politically correct” terms are popular because they refer to heritage and cultural differences rather than appearance. The term “European American” is gaining use for just that reason and is more inclusive than the specific “Anglo-Saxon” and “Caucasian” terms.
POSTED OCT. 20, 1998
David, Columbia, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I think it’s very simple: There is still a residual resentment of white people in this country for the way in which they historically have treated minorities. From slavery to the Japanese “spy” camps of World War II, whites have historically used their superior political power to make life on all other ethnic groups difficult. Any minority is allowed to have pride – Asian Pride, Black Power, etc.- all are acceptable. However, for a white person to have pride is unquestionably prejudiced. For this reason, it is generally accepted that we can refer to white people as white instead of in a politically correct fashion. Talk about racism in America.
POSTED OCT. 26, 1998
Jason C., 16, male <stoical16m@aol.com>, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
As a white female, I really don’t care how my race is referred to. I understand (at least I think I do) that it is very important for people of other races to have a group name that they feel correctly identifies them. I understand that both “Caucasian” and “Anglo Saxon” are incorrect in terms of where white people really originated. They are also very hard words to spell, a major consideration for my people. The term “white” I feel is perfectly acceptable. I think it gets the idea of my racial group across. I feel that it’s just silly to make a big deal about the word, especially since the white culture has dominated society. However, after saying that, I also must say that I don’t like being referred to as “European,” as I noticed is common in Australia.
POSTED NOV. 13, 1998
P.J., 38, white female <civserv@yahoo.com>, San Jose, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
Two points: First, the terms you use for whites are problematic. The term Anglo or Anglo-Saxon is not used to refer to whites because Anglos represent just a small fraction of the white population. Caucasian, furthermore, would be the term that corresponds with Mongol or Asiatic (for Asians) and Negroid (for Africans). So the politically correct term, if it were used, would be “European-American.” The second point is that most European Americans don’t consider themselves at all European. Being American is enough. That leaves the skin tone as a descriptor.
POSTED DEC. 30, 1998
thsmith, 28, white, LA , CA
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
R364: Why do some blacks such as Louis Farrahkan, Marion Barry and Don King gain the limelight, while others, like Colin Powell, James Earl Jones and Bill Cosby, are rarely heard from?
POSTED JUNE 28, 1998
Mark S. <elistormfield@yahoo.com>, Baltimore, MD

ANSWER 1:
It has been a general feeling in the African-American community that insofar as the media is concerned, many of the uneducated and more embarrassing of our peoples gain much media attention, which we ourselves never give. O.J. Simpson is a good example, as well as Mr. Berry. Minister Farrakhan, however, is a different case, as he is rather intelligent and outspoken.
POSTED JULY 29, 1998
Ernest, African American, CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
The reason is that the media elects to promote stories that grab the viewer, reader or listener. This is endemic of the media, print and broadcast. The system is based on ratings, and with ratings come profits. As a result, we continue to see more stories that are 1) confrontational , and 2) threatening to the viewer’s safety or sense of safety. So you don’t get to read about Colin Powell saying something that is reasonable or insightful, and you do get someone saying anything shocking or controversial.
POSTED AUG. 3, 1998
Jean <jgagnier@efortress.com>

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Your question could be answered by the question, Why do black people think the media is biased? In other words, you hear only of those blacks who are controversial or criminal. It is rarely considered newsworthy to report on the vast majority of hard-working, honest blacks and other minorities in this country.
POSTED AUG. 10, 1998
Sanford F., black <sfinley@earthlink.net>, Naperville, IL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
What I have determined is that Farrahkan, Barry and King are much more controversial and newsworthy than Colin Powell and Bill Cosby. These three constantly skirt the law and in some cases have have been found to be in direct violation of it. Each one, and you could haved added Al Sharpton, generates strong feelings and opinions that may be perceived to be along racial lines. For these reasons, their actions, utterances and deeds are great fodder for the media. For better or worse, they grab our attention. On a similiar note, the media has been quick to dub Farrahkan, Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, among others, as black leaders. Quite a few black people take issue with that, as our views and opinions are as varied as any group. We realize the part that the media has played in these gentlemen’s prominence – just as they do.
POSTED AUG. 11, 1998
Mike W., black male <Sfa2z@aol.com>, San Francisco, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I think Colin Powell, Bill Cosby and James Earl Jones receive plenty of recognition. They simply do not receive negative recognition, as do Louis Farrakhan, Don King and Marion Barry. Unfortunately, I think the media and public are all too eager to jump all over anything negative about anyone and magnify it to tremendous proportions. Honesty, integrity and excellence are just not as interesting or exciting as extremism, eccentricity and deceit.
POSTED AUG. 13, 1998
Tricia T., 25, Richmond, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Your question answers itself. Barry, Farrakhan et.al. gain fame and notoriety because they put themselves in the public eye, and if you say something loud enough, people will listen. The others you mentioned (Cosby, Powell) are more reserved publicly.
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
Greg, 20, black/white male <december@brigadoon.com>, Olney, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
There may be two intertwined causes. The first and more obvious cause is that we perceive all of these public figures through their mass media image. The media, in order to sell themselves and appease their corporate sponsors, are obligated to show and tell us what they believe we want to see and hear. Therefore, the more sensational or visceral the subject, the more likely it is to draw our attention. While people like Bill Cosby and Colin Powell may seem closer to the Jesus Christ archetype that our pseudo-Christian Western culture allegedly promotes, their apparent morality and steadiness of character makes them less “newsworthy” than those public figures (i.e. Don King, O.J. Simpson) whose actions apparently better reflect the more animalistic and Darwinian attributes that seem to be the more dominant driving forces behind our capitalistic, me-first society. The second cause is less quantifiable: Race. The United States has, since its infancy, struggled with the contradictory issues of “equality for all” vs. white supremacy. In a white majority nation that, perhaps subconsciously, seeks to maintain the status quo, the depiction of black “devils” is far more useful and acceptable than the promotion of black “angels.”
POSTED NOV. 19, 1998
Samuel H., African-American male <samalex67@aol.com>, Chicago, Il
To respond
BACK TO TOP


THE QUESTION:
R363: What are black people’s opinions about why eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are not very prominent in their culture? It seems to me that even in two middle-class families, one black and one white, the girls in the white family are much more concerned about their weight and are into dieting than are the girls in the black family.
POSTED JUNE 28, 1998
Charlotte, 16, white, <fleure_@hotmail.com>, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

ANSWER 1:
Throughout my life, I have watched many of the women in my family jump from diet to diet (and spending quite a few dollars) with little or no success. Some women in my family are just naturally thin, just like any other. I have heard studies that conclude that black people are on average heavier than others, which I believe is a cultural thing – much of traditional “soul food” is very fattening. You will find a lot of pork and fried foods, which may have a lot to do with the high incidence of heart disease and the like within the race. Furthermore, sitting down to a big meal with family always had a significant value, and as a child, we were always encouraged to eat plenty.
POSTED JULY 17, 1998
A. Moore, 29, African American <Moore29@aol.com>, Orlando, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
Anorexia and bulimia occur in the black culture, though at a far lower rate, the reason being the extra weight is not unacceptable in body consciousness. Many foreign black societies value women with more weight as a sign of beauty and fertility, and some of that may still linger in current black culture.
POSTED JULY 20, 1998
JayJay, 44, black female, <Lady_Jackie@yahoo.com>, Dayton, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Three of my students in my high school psychology class did research on this topic, and also followed up with a survey of whites and blacks. Although this is not, certainly, the best scientific data, what they found was: 1) African-American magazines used models with more positive, realistic body images than did the typical “general public” or perhaps “white-oriented” magazines, giving black girls a more realistic role model. 2) Black girls, in their survey, were not concerned with body image the way white girls were. Most of my students, upon hearing this, felt it is time to stop bowing down to what Madison Avenue says whites should be. Maybe the youth of our country are catching on, and black high self-esteem will start to carry over to whites in America.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Sue O., white high school psychology teacher <obriens@vcss.k12.ca.us>, Thousand Oaks, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
It is a well-established fact that African-American little girls and young women have a much healthier body image than their white counterparts. Differences in cultural standards and definitions of beauty account for a far healthier and more confident self-perception among African-American women. There’s been a huge study on this based on the disparities between black and white girl statistics on eating disorders.
POSTED JULY 27, 1998
Donika, white female <donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I think some of it has to do with the racist past of the United States. First, the very nature of racism places a great deal of emphasis on what one looks like. Women go to great lengths to look a certain way. Kids imitate this. Second, the racist past of this country has influenced many black parents to teach self-respect first and foremost and to emphasize education and self-reliance. What you look like is rather immaterial.
POSTED AUG. 5, 1998
Christopher T. <HeJeeps2@aol.com>, St. Louis, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
Black women have a naturally denser build than whites or Asians. Even very thin black women will appear to be heavier than a thin white woman. We are hippier, with larger buttocks and thighs. Most black women know they will never look like supermodels no matter how thin they can get, so we are more accepting of our body structures. It’s also more acceptable to be heavier in the black community. Black men don’t reject women for a few extra pounds. Black children who are overweight are teased like in other cultures, and the grossly overweight are still frowned upon, but a young girl 30 or 40 pounds overweeght could still be thought of as very attractive.
POSTED AUG. 5, 1998
Kelli, 42, black <Kelli98070@AOL.com>, Baltimore, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Being raised in a house full of women who cooked and literally slept in the kitchen, over a hot stove, I can say that anorexia and bulimia were never discussed. My mother and aunts stressed the importance of eating three square meals a day. There was a mentality of “you need meat on those bones” to be healthy. I’ve had white girlfriends who were slimmer than me (5’3, 108 lbs), but who often felt they needed to lose weight because their hips were too big or they hated their legs. Lest we forget, in society, throughout the media – TV, magazines, etc. – it’s all about being 5’9 and 98lbs. That’s a lot of pressure on a young girl. I am a 26-year-old black female and feel good about being slim. These are serious conditions that parents need to talk with their children about. Being thin is not always in. But then, neither is obesity.
POSTED AUG. 7, 1998
Slim-black-female <a_veal@hotmail.com>, Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
What bothers me the most is the obvious eating habits of many black women who are terribly overweight. The term “booty” to me seems to be a badge of honor for too many black women. Black men don’t seem to have the same problem. Being overweight is a univeral American problem but is disproportionate in black females in my opinion. Therefore, it would seem that anorexia is not as much a problem as with their white counterparts. At any rate, obesity and anorexia indicate severe emotional problems.
POSTED AUG. 21, 1998
Paul W., 59, white male, <amerimed@west.net>, Santa Barbara, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
I have always thought black females were less concerned with being model thin because there were few models in our culture of black women at all. When I was a teenager, all the suntan oil commercials and movies stars were thin, white women. They gave a picture of what white women should look like, but I did not apply their standard to myself any more than I identified with their blonde hair and blue eyes. I think as more black models like Tyra Banks show up, there will be more of an increase in black girls wanting to be too thin. I doubt the statistics will ever even out, though.
POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
M.J., black female, Austin, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
There has been a proven difference in the self-image that black females have vs. white females. Most black females accept who they are and are happy with that; they look for a man who accepts them as they are, not as the media says they should be. It has been noticed that white females always try to achieve that “Cosmopolitan” body type, and become stressed because they cannot reach that mythical goal. They think their men want that. That is a fantasy, something to sell magazines, not to dictate your life. Be yourself, and others will love you; be someone else and others will not know you.
POSTED SEPT. 7, 1998
Charles, 27, African American <cjames71@yahoo.com>, Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
The standard American ideal of beauty is a thin, white girl. White girls therefore feel pressure to conform to this image, which is reinforced by TV, magazines, etc. Black girls, on the other hand, can never be white to begin with, so they’re already out a step. They feel no such pressure to conform to the American standard. Additionally, many black men prefer women with a little more meat on their bones, so black women don’t feel they have to be skinny to get a man.
POSTED SEPT. 22, 1998
Greg, 20, black/white male <december@brigadoon.com>, Olney, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
I think anorexia/bulimia is not so prominent in the black community because, as little girls growing up, we accepted and embraced the fact that our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, etc. (our greatest influences) were full-figured women. Also, not having been affected by the “Barbie syndrome,” I never equated an unattainable body style to personal and professional success. And on a lighter note, if you’ve ever been to a black family reunion, you know you don’t get (or stay) skinny on all that “good ole down-home cooking.”
POSTED SEPT. 29, 1998
Nelda L., 45, African-American female <BrnSugr510@aol.com>, Randallstown, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 12:
I feel whites are more prone to eating disorders because they are trying to attain a false sense of beauty – the “Barbie Doll” look. As a black woman, I will never be able to look like her. The so-called “beautiful ” models are paper-thin, with no curves whatsoever. The majority of black women are naturally curvy, with hips, breasts and a behind. We will never become Kate Moss, so why bother? Besides, the black men I’ve encountered love curves. Remember, nobody likes bones but a dog, and even it will bury it!
POSTED OCT. 7, 1998
T. Allen <Tarllen@worldnet.att.net>, Newport News, Va

FURTHER NOTICE 13:
I am the middle-class mother of a teenager. In traditional Afro-American culture (Southern especially), a family getting together around a well-prepared meal can be a source of our strength, a way to fellowship, an avenue to share and a time to appreciate the abundance that had at one time been lacking. Also, I see the media placing a very big burden on young white females. You are constantly given a measuring stick of what is beautiful; tall, sickly skinny, etc. This has been done to you, your mother and your grandmother. The media shows very little of Afro-American everyday living, and everyday-looking women. The standard of beauty you have been taught has also taught you to be thin at all cost, even unto “death.” My 14-year-old daughter knows that by heritage, she will never be tall, nor will she be ultra-thin. Hips, butts and breasts are genetic in her makeup. She can’t puke them away, starve them away or wish them away.
POSTED OCT. 7, 1998
S.M., black female <yaz04@yahoo.com>, Rocky Mount, NC

FURTHER NOTICE 14:
I think the answer is probably that being thin is more of a preoccupation of Caucasian culture than that of blacks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in my particular part of the world black men don’t like thin women, so black women don’t have to starve themselves. In many cases, black women who would be described as fat in white culture are still seen as “fine” or just “thick” in black culture.
POSTED OCT. 9, 1998
Soulstice, 25, black, Houston, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 14:
I have heard from a number of sources that, on average, blacks have a higher “self-esteem” value (or whatever it’s called) than whites, especially at a younger age. That could possibly have something to do with it.
POSTED NOV. 29, 1998
Jade, 17, white, Kansas City, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 15:
In the African-American community it is possible to be overweight and still be seen as beautiful. One’s self-esteem is not always tied to one’s weight or looks.
POSTED DEC. 22, 1998
Black Berry, New York, NY
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THE QUESTION:
R362: I see people from southern India who have African features and color. I don’t understand how they got that way. Was there once an invasion of India by African warriors? Or did they develop these features separately?
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
Ilya, 22, Eastern European, Redwood Shores, CA

ANSWER 1:
If you take a glance at a map of the world, you will see that India and Africa fit almost like a jigsaw puzzle (if you take into account many thousands of years of erosion and other natural events that reshaped the beachfronts). They were once connected. Also, the climates of northern Africa and southern India are almost identical, which facilitates similar evolution of people, flaura and fauna. As an aside, people in Africa are not like what is depicted in Tarzan movies and the like. Northern Africa contains many a metropolis: Alexandria and Cairo are only two. Your term “warriors” suggests you have been hoodwinked by the stereotypical propaganda the media tends to perpetuate. The more likely incursion of India by Africans is a sojourn or vacation.
POSTED JULY 26, 1998
Jennifer G., 30, black <ibvanity@aol.com>, St. Petersburg, FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
There are two major racial groups in India, as far as I know. One is the Aryans, or descendants of the Aryans, who may have entered the subcontinent from the northwest (around the Khyber pass), and the other is the Dravidians. The Dravidians are said to be the original inhabitants of India and resided mainly in the south. Their features tend to be darker, and perhaps, as you have said, more African. Residents of Sri Lanka are probably as close to what Dravidians in India may have been like at one time, as mixing between the north and south has undoubtedly softened some of the distinctions over time.
POSTED OCT. 7, 1998
G.B., 33, East Indian, Clinton, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
It’s actually a combination of both: India and Africa were connected at one time; when the continents split, the people who inhabited them “became” the Africans and Dravidians. The Ayrian invasion took place around the time of Ancient Greece, with Alexander the Great’s invasion. This paved the way for other invaders. As a result, North and Central India have a wide range of “ethnic” features and customs, whereas the South, where many Dravidians fled, remained “purer.”
POSTED OCT. 10, 1998
J. Ravani <jravani123@aol.com>, Lansing, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Ilya, The people of India you’ve seen are the indigenous people. Another word for this is aboriginal or original. India was not invaded by African warriors. Anthropologists and archeologists have concluded that the human species as we know it originated in Africa, then traveled out to populate the rest of the world. So it stands to reason that the aboriginal people of India would resemble the “African type.” Just like the ones in Australia, New Guinea and Fiji, to name a few. Here’s a quote from a book on India: “The Indian sub-continent was sparsely populated by a race of Negroid people possessing a primitive culture and probably related to aboriginal tribes.”
POSTED OCT. 15, 1998
G.T.C. <iokts@erols.com>, Takoma Park, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
The history of arrival of various races in India is convoluted and full of controversy. Of course the relatively recent events (i.e. the last 500 years or so ) are reasonably well-documented and accepted nearly universally. But the racial differences between North and South Indians are of prehistoric origin, and although various theories have been propounded, none enjoy universal acceptance. If you are genuinely interested, you might do well to visit your local library and pick up at least two books on the subject. I suggest two because you will almost certainly find them contradicting each other on many different points. After reading these, you are free to arrive at your own conclusions.
POSTED NOV. 24, 1998
Chetan, North Indian <p2k4@hotmail.com>, MI
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THE QUESTION:
R361: The adults in all three Asian-American families in my neighborhood seem very anti-social. Their very-Americanized kids seem “normal,” but the parents won’t even make eye contact. Is there some social rule I’m not aware of?
POSTED JUNE 27, 1998
S.B., 38, white, Richmond, CA

ANSWER 1:
I had the same problem until I learned that for certain cultures (such as the Japanese) the much praised “looking straight in the eye” is considered rude and aggressive behavior. Oops. Since then I’ve tried hard not to stare, but boy, is it hard.
POSTED JULY 15, 1998
M. Young <Pilvikki@ivillage.com>, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE:
I think they are just afraid. Asian (especially Chinese) immigrants coming to the United States in the last decade or so have always isolated themselves because they feel white people discriminate against them. It is also cultural. Unlike Americans, they are more reserved and may not feel comfortable expressing their thoughts so openly to people outside their families. On top of that, they may also have a language problem, which makes it worse. A loud, friendly typical American may intimidate them a bit. So avoidance and isolation is the best choice. That’s why there are so many Chinatowns in the United States. They may appear to be unfriendly on the surface, but they may be different on the inside.
POSTED AUG. 10, 1998
New Yorker, New York, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
My sister, who works in Japan, has told me that in Asian cultures it is considered impolite to make eye contact.
POSTED AUG. 12, 1998
Graeme, 30 <claymore@iname.com>, Johannesburg, South Africa

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
There is a difference in the way the “older” ethnic groups respond to other groups. Believe me, it isn’t confined to so-called Asian Americans. Sure, they won’t look you in the eye, or touch you (as in shaking hands) or even display public affection. But there is nothing wrong with this, just as there is nothing wrong with hugging friends and family (or teammates) in public, or kissing same gender persons in the face. All of these are cultural things, and the more we all realize that, the better off we’ll all be in the context of your question.
POSTED AUG. 28, 1998
Ken R., 51, black, Oxnard, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
In most cultures, with the exception of those with historically European antecedents, looking a person directly in the eye is considered to be a threatening gesture. A number of studies have shown that in all cultures, looking a person in the eye requires an act of personal discipline. This leads to the conjecture that not looking a person in the eye is the non-threatening instinctive response.
POSTED SEPT. 11, 1998
L.S.C., 57 <scorp@sinbad.net>, Anchorage, AK

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
My maternal great-grandfather was Japanese, and my family has lived in Japan quite a long time. I have noticed the same non-eye contact you mentioned, as it is part of the concept of politeness in Japan. It is considered impolite and aggressive to make eye contact with someone, unless that person is a family member, a close friend or of lower status than you. So if anything, the neighbors may simply be trying to be polite rather than making an anti-social, anti-American statement. Try talking to them and getting to know them better. It’s probably not that they don’t want to be friendly.
POSTED OCT. 23, 1998
A.Goode 20, white deaf female, Osaka, Japan

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Many adult Asian immigrants don’t speak English very well, and therefore seem anti-social. My grandmother, for example, is very self-concious about her English and would feel very strange in the presence of people who don’t speak Cantonese. Therefore, she would rather stay at home or keep quiet than ‘”embarrass herself” by saying the wrong thing. Let’s say that you know very little German and you were visiting in Germany with your spouse (who speaks German). You are invited to a dinner and everyone is talking about the latest news, etc.Wouldn’t you feel uncomfortable giving input about what you know?
POSTED JAN. 21, 1999
Cynthia, 19, female, Chinese, Toronto, Canada
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