By Pauly Denetclaw
Last Monday, eight members of Generation Justice were scheduled to video chat with Maria Hinojosa, the anchor for Latino USA and President of the Futuro Media Group. I was so nervous. My pulse was racing and I couldn’t think straight. I was sitting in front of the webcam with Jason and Bayan as Maria’s video stream popped up at the bottom of the screen.
My heart jumped and all I could do was smile. I slowly began waving and saying hello. I introduced myself and suddenly I wasn’t nervous anymore. Maria has this amazing down to earth energy and I couldn’t help but follow her lead.
While we only had a short time with her, I gathered so much knowledge and insight. There are many things I learned from her and one that I will always remember is the fact that I’m an American journalist. While it seems obvious that I’m an American journalist because I’m an American citizen, I am more likely to be called a Native American journalist. This type of segregation creates the idea that I am separate from America and I don’t cover American struggles, I only cover Native American struggles. The big difference between these two labels is that one will get covered and the other will be ignored.
I didn’t realize until Maria said to us “you are American journalists,” that I never thought of myself as American. I’m Native American and there’s a difference. While I will always put my Indigenous heritage over my American identity, I deserve equity in all aspects of my life. I have continually accepted less from the United States because I thought of myself as separate. It ends now. I demand to be treated as a citizen of America and afforded the same opportunities that every American, especially the privileged, gets.
To ensure this equity for not just myself, but every person of color, I will cover and bring to light the many inequalities we face. I want to write authentically and candidly about issues that negatively impact people of color. I want an “authenticity that comes with integrity and appreciation.” The previous quote came from my new role model Maria Hinojosa.
Maria, thank you for all that you have taught me and for the encouragement I desperately needed. You have brought guidance to the question: what kind of journalist do I want to be? This question has plagued my thoughts since I began this fellowship with Generation Justice. Thanks to you I can answer that question for myself. I am an American journalist who firmly believes all people are created equal.