By: Kevin Chiucchini, @kevincushing
Normally, I reserve my blog for Thursday’s show, but I was so moved by Friday’s open mic that I felt a duty to the listeners and the callers to repeat our message of brotherhood that rises above color and creed. We listened to each other as men and women, agreed and disagreed about our opinions, but in the end we all had a spiritual and emotional connection that only a person seeking virtue could experience. Breaking with tradition, Armstrong started off with the controversial question, “What does it mean to be white in America”? He cited a growing presence of whites expressing their concern of losing their cultural identity, especially in the form of public protests and online forums. As expected, the phonelines erupted with callers patiently waiting to share their insight and experience.
When we flipped the question on the callers, many of the issues that African-Americans face could be repeated when we replaced African-American with white or Hispanic. Everyone seemed to agree that there is a perceived notion that to be American means to be white. One caller suggested he’s fine with someone living across the street that won’t interact with him because of the color of his skin. I don’t want to single out the caller and say shame on him, but the apathy to racism is disturbing and truthfully should never be tolerated. The fear that whites supposedly feel comes from the fear of losing their status as a majority, and the benefits that come with it. What does fair representation mean in a melting-pot culture? Do we have to allow a minority of people dictate what is culturally appropriate or proportionate?
Fresh off the plane from my much-needed vacation, I had the pleasure of describing my travels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I don’t like using social analogies comparing us to other countries while trying to justify a perceived radical policy, but it’s hard not to see the parallels after observing a country or city as a complete outsider. As an outsider, I mean a human with no feeling about race or ethnicity, but only the improvement of humankind and global standards. A former Dutch and British colony with upcoming elections, an obsession with being light-skinned or appearing “white”, a native population living in reserved and government assisted territory, multi-cultural cities with a diverse population and religious freedom. It may sound like America, but I just described a very basic impression of Malaysia. While I see the similarities in our social construct, I also see and hear the same issues there that people feel strongly about here. Concerns about illegal immigration, cultural understanding and constructive debate, role of religion and government, and most importantly, what does it mean to be Malaysian?
While they have time to figure it out as their economy develops and grows, we need to agree on what it means to be American quickly. Our future depends on it, and the survival of this great nation will be based on it. Some callers feel the need to attack Armstrong when he talks about race or the lack of importance it plays in his success. Armstrong doesn’t allow the color of his skin to be an issue because he is well-educated, well-read, well-informed, and treats all people with respect. So, next time before you call in angry, remember that he means you shouldn’t allow it to be a problem. We all have legitimate reasons and excuses to give when it comes to moving forward, but we have no excuses when it comes to improving the lives of ourselves, family, friends, and thy neighbor.