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Interesting to Have the Tables Turned...

While I'm away, please welcome our NPR colleague, Lynn Neary, to the Tell Me More chair (and the blog). If you're a fan of NPR's Talk of the Nation or Morning Edition, I'm sure you are familiar with her work as occasional guest host on those programs. Take it away, Lynn...

Thanks, Michel.

So, here I am, sitting-in for Michel Martin — a woman whose considerable talents I have admired for many years. And, though I have hosted almost every NPR show, I have to confess that when I was first asked to host Tell Me More, I hesitated.


Here's a simple answer that is also loaded with complexity: the color of my skin. I thought, after all, I am white and isn't TMM an African-American show? I've been told it is not. But, it is a show that is meant to spotlight diversity and, not to put too fine a point on it, there are more black faces at the TMM editorial meeting than anywhere else in the NPR News Department. Thus, my hesitation...

Would I be an outsider? Would I feel uncomfortable?

Interesting to have the tables turned.

But, underneath my hesitance was excitement as well. I happen to be someone who values diversity. I live in a mostly black neighborhood of Washington, D.C. My daughter is Chinese. And I have been following TMM since its beginnings. It was obvious from the early days that this show was committed to finding stories that are not getting as much attention elsewhere, and to explore subjects from a different perspective.

Take today's show for example, Opera great Luciano Pavarotti died. Every other NPR show would have run an obituary on this legendary tenor. And, what could any show say that hasn't already been said? TMM Executive Producer Marie Nelson had the answer. She remembered that another great singer, a very different kind of singer, once stood-in at the last minute for Pavarotti at the Grammys due to illness. So today, TMM closed the program with one of Pavarotti's signature pieces, Nessun Dorma, sung first by the incomparable Aretha Franklin and then by Pavarotti himself, a fitting tribute to the far-reaching influence of this opera super star.

So, in the end do I feel uncomfortable hosting this show? Quite the contrary. Why?

I like to talk about the clash of religion, politics and culture in the public school system.

I want to learn about schools of the future that accommodate everybody, not just the gifted and talented.

I want to hear the stories of Iraq war vets living with devastating injuries.

I want to know who some of the world's most powerful women are...and why.

As it turns out, TMM's issues are really my issues, too, which is as it should be.

Now...I have just one question: Will the Barbershop guys accept me?



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We look forward to finding out if the barbershop guys treat you right. I just came by to say how delighted I am at this show's development. Maybe the best talk show on radio and it still might be if the competition were better.

Sent by Doug | 6:23 PM | 9-6-2007

Black, White, Yellow, Indian.
What are the social ramification of these brandings?
Which group established these brands and why?
Yes it was established by the European Colonial elite, giver their peasant class a psychological lift from the bottom rung of their society.
They then used this peasant class to wage war on the rest of the planet.
I will no longer contribute to stereotypes.
I am a person identifiable only from the region or area to which I was born.
I address myself in that manner, and insist to be referred to as such.
I am neither black white Indian yellow brown pink or other.
Question :What if I carry the genes of a Ghanaian, German, Comanche, Chinese, Indian (Indus valley) Dravidians , am I all of the above....
I definitely cant be classified to the so called (top of the heap).. WHITE
Why not? Because I am not 100% European.
Chinese ? No because I am not 100% Chinese or Japanese
Do you see where this is going.
Therefore If you are not 100% African you can't be black.
Is Black a Nationality? Is it a specie? Is it a less than ?
How do you define a black person?
Or is black a catch all? Liken to the term "Indian" which connotes "All indigenous Nations and their peoples of the Americas are less than us."

Sent by cuniverse | 7:27 PM | 9-6-2007

Glad you were honest about your initial hesitations about hosting TMM. Even if only for a few hours, you wondered how you'd be accepted, whether you'd fit in. Some of us have this experience very frequently and often wonder whether we are going to be prejudged. I think that if more folks had the experience of being 'Other' once in a while, maybe they'd have more empathy for those that are often considered 'Other.'

Sent by KALW Country | 4:43 AM | 9-7-2007

I moved from Washington DC to Montgomery, AL and while I was glad to be close to my sisters, I immediately felt a sense of uneasiness. I thought it might be that even though I am a military veteran, I am still a fairly liberal Democrat and Yankee at heart. Kind of a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court if the King lived in the Deep South.

About 6 month later, after settling in, it hit me while I was driving to work. I could not remember the last meaningful interaction I had with someone who wasn't just like me a white, Christian American. This was the first place I can recall living where I didn't interact with someone who was of a different race, religious creed or an immigrant. I had not significantly changed my lifestyle and assumed that what I had valued would just fall in place here.

This situation has changed somewhat, but only because I've had to seek out opportunities to do so. Strange that in this day age diversity isn't automatic, but none the less is something to be valued.

Sent by liz | 4:48 PM | 9-7-2007

America belongs to everyone, but not one race or color in particular. The terms "majority" and "minority" have inferred that one group has mastered over another... for too long now. America belongs to everyone, but not just one. America belongs to every color, race, size, religion, age, or sexual preference. The time to come together and celebrate diversity is overdue!

Sent by Etta | 11:58 PM | 9-9-2007


It seems like the barbershop guys accepted you well. It was a very good segment and I appreciated your input, Lynn-Rock.

Sent by Jim Trenton | 4:58 PM | 9-10-2007