On Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, Hasan Minhaj dazzled and delighted a somber Washington crowd, but it was the last leg of his incredible monologue that really highlights the importance of events like this in Washington. Listening to Hasan Minaj talk about being a Muslim immigrant at the WHCD was such a glaring, beautiful, eye-opening example of what has already made America so great, and right now, that's a message we all benefit from hearing — POTUS included.
As a Muslim, I like to watch Fox News for the same reason I like to play Call of Duty: Sometimes, I like to turn my brain off and watch strangers insult my family and my heritage.
He continued later on,
You guys got a lot more experience than me, but I got three decades' experience being brown. So if you wanna survive the age of Trump, you gotta think like a minority. And now that you're a minority — oh man — everybody is gonna expect you to be the mouthpiece for the entire group, so I hate to say it, but somewhere right now, all of you are being represented by Geraldo Rivera. See, now that you're truly a minority, there's a distorted image of you out there — you know, Taco Bell for Mexican culture; Panda Express for Chinese culture; Huffington Post for journalism. And then, when you actually manage to do great work, you get hit with the most condescending line in the English language: 'Hey, you're actually one of the good ones.' Then you have to smile and say, 'Thank you.' Kinda sucks, doesn't it? https://twitter.com/ShadowLeagueTSL/status/858520749866438656
When he talked specifically about the task of being involved with the dinner this year, Minhaj said:
Do I come up and here and, ya know, just try to fit in and not ruffle any feathers? Or do I say how I really feel? Because this event is about celebrating the First Amendment and free speech. Free speech is the foundation to an open and liberal democracy. From college campuses to the White House, only in America can a first-generation Indian-American Muslim kid get on this stage and make fun of the president. The orange man behind the Muslim Ban. And it's a sign to rest of the world — it's an amazing tradition that shows the entire world that even the president is not beyond the reach of the First Amendment.
Minhaj's entire set was bursting with humor and relevance, but it's his final message that leaves an important mark, not just for the media community, but for the United States overall. Say what you will about our many, many failings (and there are a lot), but the United States is one of very few places in the world where a person of color — in Minhaj's case, a "first-generation Indian-American Muslim kid" — can bring an entire room to its knees by making fun of its leader. Whether or not our president is listening, that's saying something, and it's saying something huge.
Yes, our country has a long way to go before all of its citizens are considered equal, protected, and valued in our society, and yes, the United States could be doing better in about a zillion things. But we're a nation in progress, a dream that continues to evolve as its people do. We're changing, and along with it, our policies and practices will eventually catch up.
But tonight's WHCD was a reminder that we're on our way. We're getting there. And we don't need a leader who says bigoted, racist, and often xenophobic things to take us there. We need more voices like Minhaj's.