Wisecracks don't help people find answers on askme September 23, 2005 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments
to answers
or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people
find answers. Thanks.
posted by cali to Etiquette/Policy at 11:22 AM (73 comments total)

If the question was "Why are almost all black people thieves?", would you really expect to get answers? The question itself is based on invalid information, so there is no possible answer.
posted by Plutor at 11:27 AM on September 23, 2005


Please limit questions to things that haven't been posted before or aren't retarded.
posted by selfnoise at 11:29 AM on September 23, 2005


You linked to the first answer, which seems relevant to me and not a wisecrack. Were you trying to single something else out?
posted by dobbs at 11:30 AM on September 23, 2005


Dobbs: I assumed cali meant to link to the thread itself, and just right-clicked the wrong link. Could be wrong, though.
posted by Plutor at 11:37 AM on September 23, 2005


If I'm understanding correctly, dobbs, cali is trying to call out the answers that are snide and sarcastic (and for some reason linked to the first answer). I think that "holier than thou" comments that are condescending to the poster really inhibit AskMetafilter. The question was not exactly the most erudite ever posted, but it should be used as a way to correct and inform the poster instead of belittling them with comments. Seeing as how the poster apparently has no intent just to troll I think the question should be taken as is and answered -- even if that answer means distilling the stereotype.
posted by geoff. at 11:37 AM on September 23, 2005


I wasn't trying to single any specific person out actually, I just thought we could all use a reminder that AskMe != MeFi. There is a time and a place for stating your opinion, and AskMe is not it.
posted by cali at 11:40 AM on September 23, 2005


I removed the 8-10 wisecracks.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:41 AM on September 23, 2005


The most surprising thing in that thread is that, as much as us Mefites like to use the phrase "begging the question", no-one used it there, despite it being an almost word-perfect example.
posted by Bugbread at 11:56 AM on September 23, 2005


mathowie: "I removed the 8-10 wisecracks."

Wow, quantum administration in action. I'm impressed/not impressed.
posted by Plutor at 12:04 PM on September 23, 2005


Why do most black people like watermelon and fried chicken?

Why do most Hispanic people have so many darn kids?

Why do most lesbians hate men?

Why do most poor white men beat their wives?

The only "answer" to any of these questions--which are about a stereotype that "most" people with any reasonable amount of exposure to said minority group would dispute (and before you disqualify my first example, hell, most PEOPLE regardless of race like watermelon and fried chicken--they're delicious!)--is to dispute the underlying assumption of the question itself.

Here's MY response that directly answers the question of why MOST gay men talk in that girly campy voice: THEY DON'T.
posted by availablelight at 1:27 PM on September 23, 2005


Why do a majority of homophobes insist on staying in the closet and posting stupid fucking questions to AskMe?

posted by TrollBoy at 6:02 AM PST on September 23.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2005


The most surprising thing in that thread is that...

..it was allowed to stay? I'm just kinda shaking my head over here wondering why its still there. Honestly Matt, I'm having a hard time grasping that. Maybe I need to just step away from the keyboard for a bit, get some sun, something. I guess.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:42 PM on September 23, 2005


Okay, so, things we know about spooksie:

-- Secret identity is TrollBoy
-- Is a homophobe
-- Also gay
-- Posts stupid fucking questions to AskMe

Yes.
posted by jimmy at 1:44 PM on September 23, 2005


I'm tempted to buy myself a nice sockpuppet, and post in AskMeFi "Why is it that most Trekkies have kiddie porn on their PC's?".

or, say, "Why is it that most MeFi users are single overweight white guys with bad credit?"

and, you know, see if those posts stay up. God knows the gays seem to be fair game for stereotyping here (unlike, say, fat people. fat people are a protected species around here -- one only hoped other groups enjoyed the same blessing)

seriously. I may have the 5 dollars to spare.

and of course, what availablelight said above.

in fact, i had posted the watermelon/fried chicken thing in the askme thread, before the dutiful mathowie, always careful to defend quality posts like that, removed it (as it is of course within his rights. hi matt!)

the good thing is, the "why teh gays talk funny" thread manages to be lamer than the tittyfucking thread. one wonders what will beat it, then.


but thank God that the "wisecracks" have been removed -- now we can all be polite, and finally figure out why the gays talk so darn funny and shit.


(feel free to remove this comment, since it is sadly lacking in ass-kissing toward our administrator/s)

;)
posted by matteo at 1:45 PM on September 23, 2005


KevinSkomsvold writes "The most surprising thing in that thread is that...

"..it was allowed to stay? "


Well, yeah, ok, that too, but I'd say that's the most surprising thing about that thread, not the most surprising thing in it. But I'm anal that way.

matteo writes "but thank God that the 'wisecracks' have been removed -- now we can all be polite, and finally figure out why the gays talk so darn funny and shit."

Er, no, now we can all be polite and point out that the whole question is begging the question and invalid. Being polite does not mean agreeing, and it is possible to disagree and be polite.
posted by Bugbread at 1:50 PM on September 23, 2005


Thank you, availablelight.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:50 PM on September 23, 2005


Thank you for moving the discussion to this thread. It was not my intention to halt the discussion, just to point out that meta (in both senses) discussions are inappropriate to AskMe.
posted by cali at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2005


Bugbread, I respectfully disagree.
posted by johnj at 2:16 PM on September 23, 2005


Seriously, i think the question was an opportunity to disguss the sterotype while pointing out how pervasive it is, without slamming the poster. In a way, it can be just as hateful\stupid to assume a poster's hatefulness\stupidity than it is to state an meaningless sterotype.
posted by johnj at 2:19 PM on September 23, 2005


johnj writes "Bugbread, I respectfully disagree."

Choke on a horse penis, cocksmurf!
posted by Bugbread at 2:25 PM on September 23, 2005


The most surprising thing in that thread is that, as much as us Mefites like to use the phrase "begging the question", no-one used it there, despite it being an almost word-perfect example.
posted by bugbread at 11:56 AM PST on September 23 [!]


For once I agree with you, bugbread. He could have just as well have asked if Metafilter's straight married male users have stopped beating their wives yet. What a really dumb question.
posted by Rothko at 2:25 PM on September 23, 2005


Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa --






There was a tittyfucking thread?
posted by dhoyt at 2:29 PM on September 23, 2005


There is a time and a place for stating your opinion, and AskMe is not it.

Huh? Yes, there are some questions that are strictly factual, but the vast vast majority of questions are asked in an effort to learn the opinions of respected strangers.
posted by bshort at 2:30 PM on September 23, 2005


I understand what you're saying johnj but the question was phrased in such a way that it was assumed all gay men talk that way. The only question left, according to the poster, seemed to be "Why?" The question didn't seem interested in exploring the stereotype itself. To me at least, it appeared to be a thinly veiled verion of the "lol, whats the deal wit fagz and the funny voices, lol11!!!" type of questions you'd see on other forums.

I could be wrong. That shit just rubs me the wrong way I guess.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:30 PM on September 23, 2005


Ditto on the salami hiding thread. Links please!!!!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:31 PM on September 23, 2005


Rothko writes "For once I agree with you, bugbread."

Whoa! And, on top of that, I just saw your newest comment in that thread, and for once I agree with you, too! Well phrased!
posted by Bugbread at 2:33 PM on September 23, 2005


dhoyt, check here.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:50 PM on September 23, 2005


This is one instance where the thread should stay, and stay unedited. Throw spooksie's post to the wolves and be done with it.
posted by caddis at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2005


KevinSkomsvold: I guess everyone is going to hear the question differently. That's cool. I wonder though, how will a person who might have these eronious beliefs ever feel comfotable enough to speak them outloud and hear different ideas, if they are used to being piled on here? How is anyone to know what is 'wrong' without having the kind of open discourse necessary to learn?

I guess I am just saying there is a way to respond without a knee-jerk reaction. Now if I can learn to react that way all the time, I'll post how i did it. :)

Bugbreads wrote: Choke on a horse penis, cocksmurf!

Wow. I think I offended without meaning to. Forgive my idiocy, please. It was sincerely unintended.
posted by johnj at 4:30 PM on September 23, 2005


I think he was joking, ass-ache.
posted by yerfatma at 4:41 PM on September 23, 2005


This is all very sad. Naturally, those of us who have been hurt by prejudice feel the need to lash out at anyone we think is acting unfairly. But when we do so, we aren't HELPING solve the problem. We're making it worse. I guess that's the way it has to be sometimes -- sometimes we need to let off steam. But it really sucks.

It sucks because when someone asks an honest question and gets jumped on for asking it, they will likely just clam up in the future and fall further into prejudicial thinking. MAYBE the question wasn't honest. MAYBE it was an attempt to sneer at gay people. But many people DO believe that gay people talk this way. I do. My best friend is gay. In fact, most of my male friends have been gay. I work in the theatre, surrounded by gay men. And MANY of them have different speech patterns from those of the straight men that I know. Maybe I've fallen prey to stereotyped thinking. If so, then EDUCATE ME -- don't berate me. If you berate me, then I'll just quit asking about stuff like this, and I'll go to my grave with the wrong idea.

Here's the confusing thing: gay is NOT just a sexual preference. It's a subculture. Sure, not all gay men are members of a gay subculture. But many are. Same with black men. They are not all members of a black subculture, but many are. Same with lesbians, Jews, geeks, etc.

Subcultures are DEFINED by their members having certain traits and partaking in certain rituals. If there were no special traits and rituals -- if members of the subculture acted the same way as members outside the subculture -- then there wouldn't be a subculture.

From the outside, it's very confusing. And it's natural to ask, why do members of subculture X do behavior Y? It's natural to wonder whether they behave that way because they are members of a subculute or whether the behavior is due to genes (or some other force). If you wonder about such things, you aren't a bad bad person, you're human.

When AskMe first started, I asked two unpopular questions. One was, "Why do working class people spit?" The other was, "Why do black people talk to themselves?" These were honest questions. I'm not working class. I'm not black. I don't spit. I don't talk to myself. Maybe MOST working class people don't spit. Maybe MOST black people don't talk to themselves. But the working class & black people that I meet DO. So I wondered. I had a questions. So I asked them. I asked them so that I could understand people better -- so that I could interact with them better.

When I asked why black people talk to themselves, I wasn't imply that talking to oneself is a bad thing. I still don't think it's a bad thing. It's NOT a bad thing. So I wasn't sneering at them. I was asking, why do they behave in a way that I don't get? True, I don't like spitting. But I thought if someone gave me a reason for this behavior, I might learn to accept it and have LESS of a knee-jerk prejudicial response than I have now.

It would be SO nice if we had an open environment here. I wish we could say, "This is a place where you can ask those embarrassing questions you've always wanted to ask. Don't worry. No one will be offended. Do you have a question about Christians or republicans or Jews or Arabs, ASK IT HERE. (MANY of the arabic people in my neighborhood have horrible b.o. Why? Don't they believe in bathing?) You won't be mocked. Your question will be answered. We'll answer it, because we believe that knowledge is the best weapon against prejudice."

Finally -- and this is very unpopular to say -- it is unfair to judge people on the basis of skin color, sexual preference or anything they can't choose to change. But it IS fair to judge people on the way they act -- even if their actions come from their cultures. And there have been BAD cultures. Germanic people aren't bad. Nazis are bad. If I hate black people, I'm racist. If I hate rap music, I'm not.
posted by grumblebee at 4:41 PM on September 23, 2005


johnj : "Wow. I think I offended without meaning to. Forgive my idiocy, please. It was sincerely unintended."

Nonono, it was a joke ('cuz I was talking about how people should disagree with eachother in a respectful manner, and then you did so, so I was pretendin' to be all angry and disrespectful).
posted by Bugbread at 4:57 PM on September 23, 2005


the mammary thread in question
posted by rdr at 5:03 PM on September 23, 2005


Part of the problem, grumblebee, is in the way the question is framed. "Begging the question" is an oft chewed bone around here, and it may not be getting an adequate explanation. The way you phrased those questions (about black people, poor people and gay men) presented as though you presumed that your observations were truths. That's "begging the question." You would have gotten a better response if you had asked about the origin of the stereotypical pattern and cadence of gay speech, or if you had said, "Are there some cultures where talking to yourself is considered the norm?"

If the metafistas had overlooked the phraseology of the question to answer what (in hindsight) we find out you meant, then it would cement that the original premise may have had validity as phrased. In all three cases, the original question (as phrased) was based on faulty logic.

I do think it's unfortunate, too. I think that an informed discussion amongst the MeFi players on subjects like talking to one's self, the social acceptability of spitting and colloquial speech patterns as a form of self-branding could really generate some good stuff. I'm sorry if you feel unduly persecuted, but if you can't grow past the mistakes made in asking the initial questions, you're probably not really ready for some of the answers.

On preview: Bugbread made me laugh out loud. Thanks!
posted by FYKshun at 5:08 PM on September 23, 2005


Mine got deleted. Sorry for the wisecrack. Bad on me.
posted by klangklangston at 5:18 PM on September 23, 2005


FYKshum, I'm not saying my phraseology should be overlooked. It most certainly SHOULDN'T be overlooked. I should be told that I'm wrong about black people -- they don't all talk to themselves. What I shouldn't be is yelled at. I shouldn't be yelled at for making a mistake. Yelling at me just makes the problem worse.
posted by grumblebee at 5:21 PM on September 23, 2005


Heh. I expect to be yelled at for everything I post to Metafilter. I thought that was part of its charm. I dream of the day that I, too, get to be called a cocksmurf.

Seriously, though, I don't disagree with your sentiment in the abstract, but if they didn't rough you up at the door, it wouldn't be Metafilter. Have you considered Monkeyfilter? They're much nicer. Really.
posted by FYKshun at 5:28 PM on September 23, 2005


Aside from agreeing with grumblebee, I have this to add, partly in response to FYKshun: AskMeFi is largely not a place where people snark in the way that they do in the rest of MetaFilter. People read the question, usually carefully, and give considerate responses that usually help the poster figure out an answer to their question. It's a great site, and the lack of snark is one of the reasons I read it a whole lot more. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. Recently, though, I've been seeing more and more of this style of snarkiness in AskMe, not just in threads about touchy subjects but in general. It's a little disheartening and I'm hoping it won't last.
posted by louigi at 5:44 PM on September 23, 2005


Right. I rarely read MeFi. It's too mean for my tastes. But I love AskMe. MOST of the people there are civil to each other -- most of the time.
posted by grumblebee at 5:51 PM on September 23, 2005


It seemed like a legit, if clueless, question to me. It certainly could have been phrased better but as we've seen in AskMe, it also could have been much worse. The fact that people can pull up links to studies and papers on the topic seems to indicate to me that it's a not uncommon question or area of inquiry. It would have been easy enough for people to just say "Um that hasn't been my experience at all, maybe you have your facts wrong" and leave it there.
posted by jessamyn at 6:52 PM on September 23, 2005


Yeah, but grumblebee--I don't work in the theatre, but still know tons of gay men. These gay men (who are nurses, accountants, lawyers, construction workers, IT guys, policemen, a hairdresser here and there) overwhelmingly do NOT speak in "different speech patterns from those of the straight men that I know." (In fact, some of them wore white tube socks with sandals, listened to bad heavy metal, and had never been to the gym!) So maybe the out guys I meet are just exceptionally butch--or maybe my reaction to the poster might be to inform him that he has a stereotyped view of gays. Or should I not offer an answer that doesn't make the questioner feel "validated," to use that squishy, feel-good word?

By the way, I'm also from working class roots and would have told you in no uncertain terms did I *ever* see any man I was related to spit in public--it wasn't considered to be a, well, classy thing to do. Would that have made it a bad answer, that I disagreed with your premise (even though it might be fairly assumed that I might have more anthropological insight on Working Class Man than you)?
posted by availablelight at 7:07 PM on September 23, 2005


When AskMe first started, I asked two unpopular questions. One was, "Why do working class people spit?" The other was, "Why do black people talk to themselves?" These were honest questions. I'm not working class. I'm not black. I don't spit. I don't talk to myself. Maybe MOST working class people don't spit. Maybe MOST black people don't talk to themselves. But the working class & black people that I meet DO. So I wondered.

Wonder no more, friend: you're a racist, classist, sexist piece of shit.
posted by kjh at 7:24 PM on September 23, 2005


availablelight, I am obviously not writing clearly.

If someone makes a mistake, CORRECT them. We agree about that. Askme is about information. If you don't correct them, you're negligent.

I'm complaining about YELLING at them -- making fun of them, humiliating them, chastising them, berating them. That is gratuitous. It is unnecessary to berate when giving info. Furthermore, when you berate people, you risk CLOSING their minds rather then opening them.
posted by grumblebee at 7:26 PM on September 23, 2005


you're a racist, classist, sexist piece of shit.

A racist is a person who judges (generally negatively) other people based on the race. I don't do this. So I'm not racist. Asking "Why do black people talk to themselves?" isn't racist. It's like asking, "Why do black people like hip hop?" I know that NOT all black people like hip hop. And I know plenty of white people like it too. My assumption is that I don't have to qualify my question. It should be obvious I'm that when I say black people, I don't mean every black person in the world. If black people don't talk to themselves, then I'm mistaken, not racist.

I classist is someone who judges people based on their class. I don't do that, so I'm not classist. I don't like it when people spit on the sidewalk. I DO judge people when then spit. I reserve the right to do so. Doing so doesn't make me classist. It makes me judgmental, which sometimes I am. I have noticed that most of the people I see spitting are working class. That is incidental. I don't think negatively about working class people. I think negatively about spitters. I don't assume ALL working class people will necessarily spit. If a rich person spits, I will judge him negatively too.

Oh, and I'm not feces.
posted by grumblebee at 7:34 PM on September 23, 2005


Hey kjh: here are the posts grumblebee was talking about them. Why don't you go read them, and the responses and discussions that follow, then decide whether or not grumblebee deserves that from you.

The alternative, it seems to me, is to assume that if someone asks questions indicating they believe certain groups of people may have behavioral characteristics that are different from their own, it follows that they are horribly prejudiced against that group of people. Which, from my point of view, is pretty intolerant and judgemental itself.
posted by louigi at 7:43 PM on September 23, 2005


Sorry: those groups of people.
posted by louigi at 7:44 PM on September 23, 2005


"These gay men ... overwhelmingly do NOT speak in "'different speech patterns from those of the straight men that I know.'"

availablelight, that's a reasonable statement. On the other hand, how many straight men have you met who speak with the stereotypical "gay lisp"?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:25 PM on September 23, 2005


Grumblebee admits he's sexist! Hah!
posted by jewzilla at 9:10 PM on September 23, 2005


You're right, I am. I would never sleep with a man -- just because he's a man.
posted by grumblebee at 9:14 PM on September 23, 2005


grumblebee: point taken.
mr_crash_davis: honey, you'd be suprised...(I've even DATED it, but that's a whooole different AskMe question).
posted by availablelight at 10:28 PM on September 23, 2005


Metatalk: [D]ream of the day that [you], too, get to be called a cocksmurf.
posted by birdsquared at 10:30 PM on September 23, 2005


So given the wording of this callout, will somebody please explain why this twitticism of mine was rated "best answer"? How helpful was that?

Sometimes Metafilter confuses me.
posted by davy at 10:49 PM on September 23, 2005


MetaTalk: Sometimes Metafilter Confuses Me.
posted by availablelight at 11:22 PM on September 23, 2005


Oh poo. By "Metafilter" I mean Askmetafilter and Metatalk too.

Do you have any available light to shed on my question?
posted by davy at 11:28 PM on September 23, 2005


How fucking retarded do you have to be to see a person of a particular race or class or status take a particular action and assume it's generalized to every member? What year is this again?
posted by kjh at 12:36 AM on September 24, 2005


How fucking retarded do you have to be to see a person of a particular race or class or status take a particular action and assume it's generalized to every member?

Probably about as fucking retarded as you'd have to be in order to read two statements by a person and come to the conclusions you did.
posted by jaysus chris at 1:14 AM on September 24, 2005


davy: If you're serious....it's the question's author that chooses/marks the "best" answer(s) to their AskMe post, so you'd have to ask them why it was so, um, helpful.
posted by availablelight at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2005


When did you stop beating your wife?
posted by OmieWise at 8:28 AM on September 24, 2005


How fucking retarded do you have to be to see a person of a particular race or class or status take a particular action and assume it's generalized to every member?

I don't. But I DO use figures of speech. If I ask, "Why do stars twinkle?", I don't mean that I've checked out EVERY star. I mean that I've seen a bunch of stars twinkling and I wonder why they do that.

I supposed I could have said, "I've noticed a many black people talking to themselves. I haven't noticed many white people talking to themselves. Is talking-to-oneself a trait of black culture? If so, why? Or is my sampling of people (or are my powers of observation) skewed?"

I didn't do this, because it seemed needlessly verbose. A responder was free to say, "What you've noticed is not typical of most black people."

kjh, is it okay to ask, "Why do the British say 'tube' instead of 'subway'?" Because I'm SURE that not ALL British people say tube. This seems to be a trend, but it's probably not universal.

kjh, I tried to email you about this stuff, as I feel you've made this personal. But you don't list an email address. If you want to contact me, my email is in my profile.
posted by grumblebee at 8:44 AM on September 24, 2005


kjh : "How fucking retarded do you have to be to see a person of a particular race or class or status take a particular action and assume it's generalized to every member? What year is this again?"

Just about as fucking stupid as you would have to be to read about (someone whose experience with multiple members of a particular race or class or status taking particular actions and making the assumption that it was common for that particular race or class or status) and misinterpreting it as (seeing a person of a particular race or class or status take a particular action and assume it's generalized to every member).

Basically, as stupid as it would be for me to say "Every Indian restaurant I've been to has a bowl of spices like anise near the cash register. Why do Indian restaurants have those bowls of spice?" and for you to interpret it as "I've been to a single Indian restaurant in my life, and it had a bowl of spices like anise near the register. Why does every Indian restaurant in the entire universe have those bowls of spices?"

And it's 2005.

grumblebee : "I supposed I could have said, 'I've noticed a many black people talking to themselves. I haven't noticed many white people talking to themselves. Is talking-to-oneself a trait of black culture? If so, why? Or is my sampling of people (or are my powers of observation) skewed?'

"I didn't do this, because it seemed needlessly verbose. A responder was free to say, 'What you've noticed is not typical of most black people.'"


Grumblebee, I respect what you're saying, and god knows I'm not one for conciseness, but you may want to reconsider your approach about this (the verbosity issue). That is, if your topic deals with sensitive issues (sexuality, race, class, etc.), it would be better for you, and better for your quest for answers to your questions, to be as precise as possible. After all, your goal is to get your question answered, so if the verbosity decreases noise responses and increases useful responses, it's not needless verbosity, but necessary verbosity.
posted by Bugbread at 9:10 AM on September 24, 2005


I supposed I could have said, "I've noticed a many black people talking to themselves. I haven't noticed many white people talking to themselves. Is talking-to-oneself a trait of black culture? If so, why? Or is my sampling of people (or are my powers of observation) skewed?

I think that question would get under people's skin, too. I think (though I don't want to put words in your mouth) that the question that you want answered is "Is talking to yourself statistically more prevalent in black culture than it is in white culture?" Because you notice it alot more in black culture when compared to white culture.

The problems with most answers you will get to a question like this are: 1) most people will try and discredit your sample with their own sample, and really, no anecdotal sample will ever be large enough, and 2) when talking about shared cultural behavior, it's important to remember that not everyone who is X is part of X culture, and 3) when talking about shared cultural behavior, it's important to remember that everyone belongs to more than one culture. The culture of race shapes some behaviors, but so does the culture of economic class, and the culture of age.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:27 AM on September 24, 2005


I take your point, bugbread. You're right. But I think we should meet halfway. I should be more explicit. And responders should be less rude and -- as the instructions on the site say -- just answer the question.

Let's say I know you have a violent temper. Yet I make fun of you, and you hit me. Who is to blame for me getting hit? I say BOTH of us. I'm to blame for inciting you. You're to blame for taking the bait.

I think it's really important that we not ignore the existence of culture. Culture is responsible for much of what's beautiful about the world (and much of what's terrible about it, too.) When people say "black" or "Jewish" or "Indian," it's important to remember that they may be talking about a CULTURE and not a race. In order to talk about culture, we need a term for members of that culture. Alas, often those terms are the same terms we use for races.

When people say, "Why do Jews refuse to eat pork?" I don't get offended, even though I'm a Jew who DOES eat pork. I know they're not talking about me. They're talking about members of (standard) Jewish culture, which doesn't include me.
posted by grumblebee at 9:28 AM on September 24, 2005


23skidoo, my question was REALLY simple: I've noticed many black people talking to themselves. Why do they do it?

That's all there was to it. Here are some answers that would have interested me:

-- I think you've experienced a coincidence. I know many many black people, and none of them talk to themselves.

-- I'm black and, you're right, I (and many members of my family) talk to themselves. We're brought up listening to family members talk to themselves, so we wind up doing it too.

-- Only black people in region X do this.

-- They're not talking to themselves. In black families, people don't always look at each other when they speak.
posted by grumblebee at 9:33 AM on September 24, 2005


grumblebee : "But I think we should meet halfway. I should be more explicit. And responders should be less rude and -- as the instructions on the site say -- just answer the question."

Fully agreed. In fact, it's not meeting halfway, because that part I've been in agreement from the start (I guess I have a habit of discussing points I disagree with but not mentioning points I agree with, which leaves people with the wrong impression).
posted by Bugbread at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2005


"I supposed I could have said, 'I've noticed a many black people talking to themselves. I haven't noticed many white people talking to themselves. Is talking-to-oneself a trait of black culture? If so, why? Or is my sampling of people (or are my powers of observation) skewed?'"

You must know some very strange white people: I, the standard by whom I judge everything, talk, mutter and sing to myself all the time, and I'm as pale as Casper. As far as I'm concerned talking to oneself is a universal human trait, though it's not a necessary part of the definition. So while I haven't been all over the world and thoroughly observed everybody, I'd be more surprised to find a Turk, a Tamil or a Dane who never talks to himself than to find the opposite. Maybe the white people you know don't talk to themelves when you're around?

And my understanding was that it's not so much that "standard" Jews refuse to eat pork as that they choose not to: I'm pretty sure it's easy to find rabbinic responsa or Talmudic excerpts that say something like "if there's nothing to eat but pork there's no need to starve to death" -- or "if there's an antisemite pointing a gun at your kid and demanding you eat pork then go ahead and choke it down". I have heard stories about Jews during pogroms who killed themselves and their families rather tha defile themselves with pig flesh, but the Jews I've asked thought that was a bit much. If exceptions to the rules were never allowed there would not still be so many "standard" Jews.

By the way, when I was kid Jews were not generally considered "really white" by many white people I knew; was that general or just in certain kinds of neighborhoods, and has that changed since? (I remember being surprised to learn circa age 10 that the black people I was getting to know considered Jews white; I had learned they were another kind of "minority".)

Anyway. Generally speaking people don't generally get so upset when you qualify your generalizations carefully: "Why have I seen so many...?" seems more acceptable.
posted by davy at 1:00 PM on September 24, 2005


"Why is it that most MeFi users are single overweight white guys with bad credit?"

As a (more or less) married white guy with bad credit I take umbrage.

Why do most black people like watermelon and fried chicken?

Because it tastes good.

Why do most Hispanic people have so many darn kids?


Beacuse a majority of them are devout Catholics.


Why do most lesbians hate men?


Because they're sick of men giving them a hard time.

Why do most poor white men beat their wives?

Because they're frustrated by their circumstances and take those frustrations out on those closest to them.

I'm exaggerating to make a point, but isn't this a form of honest dialogue on these subjects? Lay stereotypes on the table and either refute or explain them?
posted by jonmc at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2005


Yeah--exactly. My response (using these examples) and the response of others to this MeTa callout is concerning having the RIGHT to "refute" stereotypes, as opposed validate them by "explaining" why they're true if they're actually bullshit (i.e. the complaint seemed to be, "Wah, you're not answering the question [that begs a question], you're just telling him the question is wrong!"). I don't disagree with those who say it should be done without yelling or sweary words or open ridicule.

(BTW, I mentioned the "tastes good"--but to everyone!--aspect of the watermelon/chicken query, and methinks you may not know many hispanics, lesbians, or poor white men if you're tacitly agreeing that "most" of these groups can be properly stereotyped in the way they are in these mock "questions." Maybe I should have tried to include ones that would include/offend every last possible MeFi constituency like, "Why are most white-collar men of Irish descent drunkards with small penises," etc. )
posted by availablelight at 1:59 PM on September 24, 2005


"Why are most white-collar men of Irish descent drunkards with small penises,"

Hey, the Irish culture centers around the pub, so we like to drink, and the Italian half of me takes care of the penis thing...
posted by jonmc at 2:01 PM on September 24, 2005


Nice parry. (And a fine example of what an evolutionary biologist I know would term, "hybrid vigor"?)
posted by availablelight at 2:12 PM on September 24, 2005


"Why is it that most MeFi users are single overweight white guys with bad credit?"

As a (more or less) married white guy with bad credit I take umbrage.


"More or less" married? Me & her ain't legally married and haven't made any major long-term commitment, though we've been together five and a half years, just got a puppy together, and have no plans to split up anytime soon (at least I know I don't), so I'm not sure whether I should consider myself single or not. Is it like that with you too?

Anyhow, I can say that I am an overweight white guy with NO credit -- the only thing to my credit report is a record that an apartment rental place looked me up (at my $25 expense) to find that my credit rating was (as I said) not bad but non-existent. But of couse, unlike the image I have of most Mefites, I'm not a suburban-raised college graduate.
posted by davy at 2:20 PM on September 24, 2005


jonmc, is it that a lot of Irish like to drink because the culture centers around the pub or is Irish culture culture pubby because they like to drink?

I'd rather drink socially on people's porches in good weather. It's much cheaper that way.
posted by davy at 2:26 PM on September 24, 2005


jonmc, is it that a lot of Irish like to drink because the culture centers around the pub or is Irish culture culture pubby because they like to drink?

Who knows? I recently read a book that billed itself as a "cultural history of intoxication," that said that every European nation, at one time or another, has borne the stereotype of being anation of drunken sots. In America, the stereotype stuck most closely to the Irish mainly since they were the first Immigrant group to comprise a "foreign" working class. But as someone whose Irish grandparents were both dead of cirrhosis before age 60, I wont argue.

"More or less" married?

We've been living together for a decade, I think of her as my wife, ring or no ring. And for what it's worth, I'm a good twenty founds underweight. The only time I beefed up was when I quit smoking for 8 months. I gained 30 pounds.
posted by jonmc at 4:08 PM on September 24, 2005


23skidoo, my question was REALLY simple: I've noticed many black people talking to themselves. Why do they do it?

That's all there was to it.


Oh, I know. I can appreciate and understand the question that you want answered. I just think that if you ask it like that, then you'll get alot of people saying "Some black people talk to themselves, just like some people of every race talk to themselves," which I think doesn't really answer your question.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:24 PM on September 25, 2005


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