I know that, in growing up in Los Angeles and going to school in the Bay Area, I have lived in a bubble. On my first semester shooting for the daily, we did not have one Caucasian photographer.
One of the main missions of the Chips Quinn program is to encourage diversity within the newsroom. For me, just as important as contributing to the diversity of the newsroom has been being exposed to the culture in Central Minnesota. The city itself is some 90% white, and has a population of just over 60,000. St. Joseph, that town that I live in, has a population just over 5,000, and that, I’m told, is when the local university is in session.
In my three weeks here I have had discussion about politics with my roommates, been stared at in the Walmart parking lot (among other places … sometimes I think it’s because of my camera, other times my car, but sometimes I have neither), read user-comments in an editorial by executive editor John Bodette introducing myself and TaLeiza that basically called Chips Quinn reverse discrimination, and had numerous Asian jokes lobbed my way, including one that I think was about internment camps.
In all honesty, I love it love it love it. Being exposed to different worldviews, especially after the Magic, Science, Religion class, is definitely a rewarding experience and will teach me a great deal about myself as well as life here.
Also, of course, the people I have met who have been as nice and hospitable as one could ever ask is more than I can count. The staff at the St. Cloud Times, in particular, have been amazing. From putting myself and TaLeiza up in hotel rooms as we got settled and assisting with finding furniture, to explaining what hot dish is and showing us where to eat, they have been extremely welcoming.