CBS This Morning
June 29, 1998

Interview: Phillip Milano, Y?, The National Forum On People ' s Differences , discusses his new Web site where people can ask ethnic questions that they're too uncomfortable to ask in person.

CBS This Morning
CBS, Inc. Burrelle's Information Services
(Copyright (c) 1998 CBS, Inc. All rights reserved.)

RUSS MITCHELL, CO-HOST: President Clinton's series of discussions aimed at improving race relations in America has drawn a lot of praise and some criticism that the participants are not always as candid as they could be. But now there's a new Web site called The National Forum On People ' s Differences located at You can use the site anonymously to ask questions about race, cultural differences, sexual orientation or disabilities that you may be too embarrassed or uncomfortable to ask in person. Phillip Milano runs the Web site, and he joins us this morning. Good morning, Phil.

Mr. PHILLIP MILANO (Y?, The National Forum On People ' s Differences): Hi. Thanks for having me.

MITCHELL: What made--what made you come up with this idea?

Mr. MILANO: Well, I--I guess I have--I guess I want to believe that--that people in this country want to have this kind of conversation but there's not really a vehicle to do it. I--I work in the media and I just--I don't feel that while the media covers the larger issues like affirmative action and abortion and war and such like that, there's not necessarily a way for them to fly under the radar and cover this kind of conversation, which, to me, I feel--I feel is--is actually--if we can get beyond these more basic sort of mundane issues about customs and behavior, then maybe we can have a better conversation about affirmative action or welfare or things of that nature.

MITCHELL: Let's talk about some of the questions that you find on the Web site. He--here's one. What's the significance of the dot on the forehead of Indian women. Typical question?

Mr. MILANO: Yeah, that--that's typical. Some questions are--are more weighty tha--than others and--and some are--are just very basic sorts of questions. I don't think I've gotten--actually gotten an answer for that yet.

MITCHELL: Is that right?

Mr. MILANO: Yeah.

MITCHELL: But now--now race also a big topic on the Web site.

Mr. MILANO: Mm-hmm.

MITCHELL: I understand two of three hits actually gets some questions on race.

Mr. MILANO: Yeah.

MITCHELL: Let me read one here. Why do blacks have larger than average lips? That's one that came over the Web site. Now are--are you surprised because you see a lot of these questions that blacks and whites still don't know a lot about each other?

Mr. MILANO: Yeah, probably a little bit more--more surprised than I--than I thought I would be. I guess I--I didn't realize that--that people were--were so sort of uninformed about each other as they are. But it's--it's also real encouraging to see people wanting--you know, asking us questions and not getting hammered for them, you know, on the Web site. Because most of the stuff that has come in has been fairly civil. I mean...

MITCHELL: You do get hateful--hateful po--postings on there.

Mr. MILANO: Yeah. But, I mean, probably like...

MITCHELL: And--and how do you weed these out, short of something just being totally offensive? What's the litmus test?

Mr. MILANO: Well, yo--the litmus test is, is it gonna encourage the dialogue or is it just--you know, is it just so hostile that a--the person is just trying to moralize or make a political statement? And I just--you know, I just don't feel that that stuff has a place on--on this Web site.

MITCHELL: I've got just a few seconds left.

Mr. MILANO: Sure.

MITCHELL: Let me ask--here's another question people ask a--not a question, more of an opinion. Why do younger blacks have less respect for whites than older blacks who lived through segregation? That's an opinion. Do you encourage opinions on the Web site?

Mr. MILANO: Sure. I mean, that's the--the whole--the whole thing is an exercise and it's--it's totally subjective. I mean, there's no--there's no necessarily correct answer to any of this. It's just people trying to--to learn about people.

MITCHELL: Phillip Milano, thank you so much and good luck to you.

Mr. MILANO: Thank you.