Blog: White man’s burden

By Dan Hill, J Camp Live! Staff

Sunday night. Three of the best-known television reporters in the nation’s third largest media market sit on the stage of Loyola University’s Baumhart Hall. They are powerful people, highly accomplished, and they command attention from the audience of “budding” young journalists. As the reporters share their stories, the awe and wonder of the audience only grows.

Before this week, I would have presumed that those three authoritative figures on stage would be whites. And that maybe in that attentive audience of teens, a couple of minority kids would sit restlessly, sticking out like a sore thumb because of their ethnicity.

In reality, Sunday night’s speakers were Hispanic women. The audience was an incredible mix of students from around the nation — a mix of talents, of cultures. And there I was, restlessly sitting in my web of insecurity, playing the role of the sore thumb, the odd man out, the black sheep.

The white guy.

J Camp has effectively thrown my understanding of the color wheel of life out of balance.

The Asian American Journalists Association has done such a good job at promoting diversity and giving opportunities to minorities that they have succeeded making the white male the minority – at least at J Camp.

That was something for which I did not prepare, but something I needed to experience. I come from a whitewashed high school in El Dorado Hills, a hardly diverse suburb of Sacramento. When I’ve met students at my school who suffered because of their minority status, I’ve had little help to offer. But after my J Camp experience, I think I can empathize.

This week, I’ve felt the power of diversity. I’ve listened to speakers talk about how they’ve had to overcome obstacles because of race and, in some cases, gender.

I’ve questioned myself as Joie Chen spoke out against the injustices of a business far too long run by white males. I’ve learned from the likes of CBS News anchor Russ Mitchell and others that reporting overseas may actually be more difficult for those who “look American,” presumably meaning people like me. I’ve recognized that incredibly talented and funny and friendly and hardworking high school journalists really do come from all over the country and from all ethnic backgrounds. And I’ve been thankful that at least I don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes.

As this camp’s “token white guy,” as instructor Chris Macias jokingly called me yesterday, I feel grateful to have received the same kindness and encouragement and respect as my campmates. While there have been times when I’ve questioned my right to attend the camp — not only because of my skills, but also my skin – I’ve been able to go through the experience of being a minority with the comfort of having J Campers at my side.

I will close with an apology to my new friends: I regret that for many of you, gender and color and culture may present barriers between you and your dreams. I am sorry that tomorrow, some of you will be returning to places where you are “different,” where the majority – regrettably, people like me – sometimes fails to see past our differences and recognize how talented you are. I will not forget your stories and will always cherish my own: How, for one week, I saw life through the eyes of a minority.

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