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(Copyright (c) 1998 CBS, Inc. All rights reserved.)
GIL GROSS reporting:
THE OSGOOD FILE, sponsored in part by Snorp. I'm Gil Gross for the vacationing Charles Osgood on the CBS Radio Network.
The president's town hall meetings on race are well-meant. Some say they're politically biased. But one man thinks they're just too highfalutin. Find out how lowfalutin things can get after this word from Charles.
GROSS: On the Internet, where you don't have to ask something to someone's face, there is a running conversation on about all the preconceptions and stereotypes we have about one another based on race, ethnicity, sex and what have you.
Mr. PHILLIP MILANO: Just occurred to me that it would be a--maybe it'd be a good thing if people could ask these kinds of questions in a--sort of a safe environment, and the Web is really perfect for that.
GROSS: And so Jacksonville, Florida, newspaper editor Phillip Milano started Y?, The National Forum On People ' s Differences , where people get to ask what they really wanna know.
Mr. MILANO: One of the--one question I got that what--got a lot of response was, why do--why do white people smell like wet dogs when they come in out of the rain?
GROSS: Milano says that question seemed so bizarre, he wasn't going to post it until he checked with several black friends, who said, `Yeah, Phil, that's something we talk about.'
Mr. MILANO: And tha--and that's just the tip of the i--of the iceberg, Gil. I mean, I've--I've gotten questions--one question I got a big--that got an interesting response was, `Is it--is it more fun kissing larger lips than--than kissing smaller lips?' The question was--implied, you know, to a black person. Well, one person answered, you know, basically, `I'm kind of offended by that. Of course, that's not true.' And then another person who's black said, `Wait a second. It is true. It is funner. There's more lip there to work with.'
GROSS: Milano says about 5 percent of the stuff he gets just stems from hate, another 10 percent from anger, but the rest, he says, are amazingly polite answers to amazingly uncomfortable questions.
Mr. MILANO: No, I'm finding that the question--the question is put out there into the ether or whatever, and I--sometimes I wince even posting some of these things. But inevitably, you know, when the answers come, you--when you look at the an--the total package, you--you see a learning experience there. And I'm--I guess I'm hoping that maybe in some--in--in my little, small way here, I can help to change the ground rules for how people talk about this stuff.
GROSS: Is America really ready for this sort of exchange? Maybe not, but if you are, the address is www.yforum.com.
THE OSGOOD FILE. I'm Gil Gross on the CBS Radio Network.