Below is an excerpt from The Collective, Poynter’s newsletter by journalists of color for journalists of color and our allies. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox the last Wednesday of every month.
“Your English is so good!”
“Where are you really from?”
“This calculator was made in China. Just like you!”
Growing up Chinese American in Western Colorado in the ’80s meant being The Only. The only person with immigrant parents. The only person required to prove English fluency despite being born in California. The only person who felt ashamed to be anything but “all-American” at all times.
It wasn’t until college, when I first attended a convention hosted by the Asian American Journalists Association, that I found what I had been craving my whole life: a community of people who understood me without preamble or judgment. Part of that sense of belonging was the relief at not having anyone regard me as a curiosity. Instead, we shared a common passion for journalism and a cultural kinship. Anytime we gathered in someone’s hotel room, a pile of shoes would inevitably form near the door — a show of unspoken respect carried over from our home lives.
Since that welcome discovery of AAJA, I’ve navigated spaces led by Black, Hispanic and Native American journalists. And I’ve seen that same sense of belonging — and delight in found family — as each community gathers for its conventions. Even amid a global pandemic in 2020, journalists of color connected with one another. Our virtual reunions were bittersweet but also profoundly necessary as a nationwide racial reckoning empowered more of us to speak up in our newsrooms.
The Collective aims to provide the space for us to share our experiences beyond our newsrooms and in ways that will uplift one another. Something Korva Coleman told me is “your choices are going to be worth it — you just don’t know it yet.”
Korva’s a badass who subverts people’s expectations every day. Listeners might not realize she’s Black even though she is a preeminent voice on NPR. She knows how to wield her influence. The choice of which story to promote at the top of the broadcast is intentional. If Korva thinks it’s important, she telegraphs that by leading the broadcast with it.
Korva’s also a leader in ways listeners might never know. When she’s asked to speak, she will decline the honorarium, requesting instead that the funds support an upcoming journalist of color. Her request of the radio station KMUW in Wichita, Kansas, created an opening for an internship where one previously didn’t exist. And that intern, Hafsa Quraishi, now is a newsroom fellow for WBUR in Boston.
It’s in Korva’s spirit of elevating people that The Collective launches. I’m opening this space to you — my fellow journalists of color. When my colleague Samantha Ragland and I first envisioned a newsletter by and for JOC, we wanted to create a space where JOC can share candidly about our successes (and our frustrations).
You are empowered to tell it as it is. How have white colleagues failed us? How have our fellow JOC sometimes been complicit? And what can we do to elevate one another in journalism?
We want you to share your stories in the ways that are most authentic to you. Perhaps your story is best told in a song, a dance or a series of illustrations. Maybe English is too much of a limitation; we’ll work with you to showcase your work in your preferred language with translation.
The mic is yours. Let’s widen the path to equity together.
P.S. Confidential to our allies: We appreciate your being here. You might feel uncomfortable. Learn to sit with that feeling. Work through those emotions. This is a platform in which you might have the sensation of being The Other. And that is an experience many JOC live with every day. It’s important you understand your role in sharing power and privilege to create equitable spaces. Ask your questions, listen, learn and have our backs.
The Collective is supported by the TEGNA Foundation.