getting real. sorta.

through a lens
August 21, 2010, 3:24 am
Filed under: the east coaster, the girl growing up, the underling

I KNOW I’M A FEW WEEKS AWAY FROM BEING DONE with this fabulous experience i’ve had as an intern, but i wrote this as part of one one my papers. most of you are probably very aware of which papers i’m talking about here. so i’m sharing it with all of you so you can get into a little more of what i experienced with this internship.

THROUGH A DIFFERENT LENS: Learning how to approach bias and preconceived notions in the world of journalism

I have lived my whole life in a sea of white. I’ve moved around quite a bit – especially for someone whose father isn’t in the military of any sort – and everywhere I’ve lived I’ve been surrounded by predominately one skin tone. My parents and teachers raised me to try to be aware of differences, yet to ignore one of the most visible physical differences between people: The color of one’s skin; the tone of their face; the hue of their reflection. I found that task an easy one to perform. In my high school of nearly 2,000 students, less than five of my peers were black. It’s pretty easy to look past someone’s outer appearance when you are faced with an individual. But what if you’re faced with living where the minority is the majority? Things change when you live outside of that white world. It’s easy to be progressive and above it all when you’re not thrown in the middle of it: “it” being racism. Not the evil kind of racism where people torment others and publicly humiliate them based on differences in skin color, no, not that kind. I’m talking about the day-to-day racism. The one where you enter a room and sit down before you look up from your book and realize you’re sitting next to the three other white people in the room. The one where you watch movies and realize the only time the heroes are black is when you’re watching a black comedy film or a white movie with cheerleaders or dancers from “the hood.” The kind of racism where one is purely just aware of the difference of skin color, an act so taboo in the land of white it’s never talked about openly other than in discussing the vicious acts against people of color during historical events.

I lived in a world of white. A white world where color exists only in history books, documentaries and a few faces passing by on the street.

I moved to Virginia to chase a dream of mine. When I got here, I realized I had overlooked the fact that I was moving to the South. For some reason, in my mind, Virginia didn’t stand out as a place with a rich history steeped in desegregation acts of the civil rights movement. I remember learning about a type of Virginia in elementary school, but after leaving those white-washed walls I’d easily forgotten about Virginia’s role in the history of removing oppression of black people. Until I got here and realized what I see everyday shows that people have a lot more left to do with handling racism than I was led to believe in school.

My experience in moving to Virginia has been one as much about learning how to work at a major metropolitan newspaper as it has been about learning to live in a Navy town, on the east coast, in the South and out of the world of the white. Even as I type these words at a computer in the local library, I look around and people who share a skin tone similar to mine comprise probably less than a third of the individuals with whom I am sitting. I’m earning my degree in Anthropology. Anthropology, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “the science of human beings; esp. the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture; theology dealing with the origin, nature, and destiny of human being.” In my years studying anthropology at the University of Washington, only two classes stand out in my mind as actually addressing what the dictionary definition explains my area of study to include: Biocultural Anthropology, which was an education in where humans come from in the most literal sense of the word, examining their evolution through time and space, and a class I took in the final year of my collegiate education: Perspectives on Ethnic Identity with two fabulous professors who encouraged us to discuss all things taboo about ethnicity, race and identity, personal and projected thereof. As educational these two classes were, however, I feel I have received an education in the understanding of human beings “in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture” more in my weeks of driving across the country and living where I do now than I ever did in any of my classes at college. I’m not discounting my education or interaction with my professors, it’s simply that I feel one cannot fully and entirely understand “the science of human beings.” Sitting here, living here now, I feel I have a more complete understanding of what I don’t know about the “origin, nature, and destiny of human beings,” and being aware of what you don’t know is arguably more educational than thinking what you know is the ultimate truth; because I feel, I believe, I know in my mind that the “human being” in the above definitions is more than a physical being merely existing on this planet. I believe knowing and understanding a “human being” is to understand that one will never be able to know the thoughts and dreams and hopes, the “destiny” of a soul.

So, while I initially assumed writing two papers based on this internship was going to be a slightly difficult task in examining two different angles of journalism – something I did not officially study in depth, according to my transcript – I found it is much easier than I first let myself believe. For part of journalism, a very strong and important part, is the ability to do exactly the opposite of what ol’ Merriam and Webster define it as. According to the book credited to these two gentlemen, journalism is “writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation.” Bull. According to this aspiring young journalist, journalism is the study of anthropological events, in which the journalist first studies a subject or subjects, listens to opposing viewpoints, collects facts and figures, interprets these to the best of his or her ability and then presents such findings in as unbiased a manner as possible, while understanding what he or she is presenting could and should have an affect on those who engage in interacting with it. The most crucial step of this process, this young journalist believes, is to understand that we are going into worlds of which we often have no prior knowledge, yet upon which we may have certain expectations projected and attempt to approach it honestly.

The first step in unbiased reporting is being aware of such bias. Things may only be removed when one is aware of its existence in the first place.

And so, in this paper, I attempt to observe my own bias as a journalist raised in a world separate of the one which I attempt to capture each day as unbiased as possible. Learning happens most honestly and freely when it is not expected. A person merely must be open to this idea and willing.


1 Comment so far
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Great job! I enjoyed reading this, again. You’re very talented. Thank you. Love mom

Comment by Mom

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