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The Black Stripes of the Tiger: Reflections of Black Journalists on the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism

Posted by Bianca Aaron on September 12, 2008

Perhaps the main display of a tiger’s beauty is its black stripes– these badges of honor, strength, and pride that distinguish its beauty from any other feline. In a way, these same beauty marks can be aligned with the many black journalists who proudly deem the University of Missouri their alma mater, as they represent the touch of diversity on the school’s campus. However, as the panelists of Thursday morning’s forum, “Then and Now: Learning and Doing Journalism as an African American in Mid-Missouri,” expressed, the University did not always provide such a soft and welcoming foundation for journalists of color. 

A crowd of fascinated faces permeated the atmosphere of the Dr. Edward C. Lambert Seminar Room as the panelists shared their experiences of being rejected by many other white journalist students, faculty members, and even people in the community. Gail F. Baker, the Dean of the College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, discussed how her experiences with such rejection now helps her to be an aid to students of color. She expressed how she tells the students the reality that the business of journalism is far from a utopia, and that they will face racism and prejudice. Baker went on to express how, despite the ignorance of others, one must continue to pursue what ever it is that he or she longs to pursue.

A feeling of pride and unity began to diffuse throughout the room as audience members were able to relate certain experiences in their own lives to those of the panelists. In the open forum, one audience member, a young Chinese woman, talked about one situation in which a group of individuals made her feel uncomfortable about her racial appearance. She expressed how before the occurrence she didn’t realize how others may portray her because of her race, but became more concerned with her image after the incident. The panelists were able sympathize with the woman’s story and as a follow-up, I was able ask Kia Breaux, the Acting Bureau Chief for Missouri and Kansas, about her view of appearance in journalism, not only as a minority, but as a woman. Breaux told of how dealing with appearance as a reporter can be difficult at times, but it’s just one of the many struggles that minority journalists endure. 

Every memory expressed about the University did not all spring from frustration, however. All of the panelists could agree that, despite the disappointment concerning the continuation of racism as an issue today, the University provides a great education and foundation for future careers. Baker prided on the educational experiences she received from the school: “What I learned here, I have been able to transfer to every environment.”

2 Responses to “The Black Stripes of the Tiger: Reflections of Black Journalists on the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism”

  1. absolutelyape said

    Does a tiger have black stripes? Or are they orange stripes? 🙂

  2. Laura Kebede said

    I love the title. It’s always important to look back in order to see how far society has come and also to improve our future. Very well written. Wish I could have been there!

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