A journalism major’s story: Discrimination, racism, Hispanic stereotypes, oh my!

Juan De Anda editing copy with Dianne Heimer

Juan De Anda editing a features page for his college newspaper, Sacramento City College Express, Fall 2010. Photo: Allison Valenzuela/SCC photojournalist

My parents came to the United States from Mexico in order to have a better life. But because of the language barrier they couldn’t assimilate easily into American culture and society. Through their struggles, they did their best to instill in me a sense of social justice. I witnessed how terribly my parents were treated because they couldn’t speak English fluently or had an accent. At certain offices, stores, neighborhoods, and schools, they would be treated differently or ignored because they’re from another country.

Like my parents, I was treated differently in school because of my ethnic origins. I’d be mocked and called a janitor, construction worker, or gardener by some teachers and peers. This made me feel inferior and that I couldn’t advance in life compared to other groups. I also had a speech impediment that made it harder to express myself. My educational experience has been partly what catapults me toward a career in journalism within the mainstream news media.

As a journalist, I have a strong desire to report and bring to light the struggles of people and their stories. The strength of the human spirit is incredible when revealed to others, but with the current obsession of gossip and high ratings/readership, there’s a subtraction of attention paid to ordinary but extraordinarily perseverant individuals. In the same vein, I feel a need to also report on the struggles of immigrants, especially those from Latin America, because their concerns aren’t being addressed and lack voice. They are pushed aside and considered stories of low importance. And when given coverage, they either are mostly “zoo” stories, those that only focus on exotic things uncommon in daily life like ritualistic ceremonies and cultural manifestations, or “problem” stories that focus on the flaws and negative aspects of some within the community like gang violence and low graduation rates. This small allotment of coverage depicts a grossly inaccurate portrayal of people that leads to stereotypes and misinterpretations

In five years from now, I plan to be a graduate from SFSU and I hope to be working for mainstream news organization that has a beat dealing with immigration, Latinos, etc. I’m particularly interested in Spanish language broadcasting but if I can’t break into the field, then I will be willing to work elsewhere as long as I can report truth.  Marianne Williamson once wrote, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others the power to do the same.” This statement reminds me that holding back effort in my own life to pursue education will unintentionally hurt the ones who look up to me. It is my responsibility, to my community and to myself, to inspire others and encourage them to face life’s hardships with their best efforts. This is why I’ve decided to become a journalist, to stay in school and learn the skills to communicate all of this.

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