Racial background doesn’t stop those wanting to learn

I remember way back in the fall semester of 1983 when I first came to NIU. I was always an average student and didn’t test very well, so I was accepted at NIU through the Chance program. I didn’t know anybody and the Welcome days were a nightmare (being a shy person when it comes to meeting people).

Since I was photo-editor of my high school yearbook, I thought it would be great to work for the school newspaper (if NIU had one). After calling around, I found there was one. And, much to my suprise and delight, it paid real money, not just “experience.”

After talking with Jerry Thompson, the Northern Star adviser, I felt encouraged to apply for a position as a photographer. I walked into the building and did not see another dark-skinned face. I felt a little intimidated. After several attempts to meet with the photo-editor, Thompson encouraged me to hang in there and to pester the guy until I got a job.

After several weeks of trying, no luck. It did cross my mind that I wasn’t being hired because I was black. But I stuck it out and I got the job I desired, and have been working at the Star ever since.

Because of my enthusiasm and talent, I was being called “future photo-editor” by the beginning of my second semester. My third semester I became photo-editor for the first time.

In the 4 1/2 years that I have been here, I have seen only a few minorities (women not included) come to work for the Northern Star. Most don’t stay for the duration of one semester. Most I’ve seen stay about six weeks, then usually quit and explain that they have been neglecting their studies. There are countless non-minorities who do the same thing. Most people who are dedicated enough and who want the experience stick it out at the Northern Star.

Grades can suffer tremendously. I have seen a number of good people flunk out because they were “too” dedicated. The number of students on this campus willing to make such sacrifices are few, and common sense would lead us to believe that the number of minorities who fit this criteria are even fewer.

Ever since I started working here, I have heard that the Northern Star is racist. I hear questions like: Why aren’t there more blacks or other minorities working at the Star? I believe that it is simply not of interest to most minorities on campus, or maybe those who are interested are afraid to try it out. No one should be afraid to at least give it a try.

I have seen many people working here who aren’t going on in the field, who aren’t good enough to go on in the field or who kept their jobs because no one had the heart to fire them. It annoys me to constantly hear that the Northern Star doesn’t hire minorities when the Star has no minorities to even consider.

I was amused during a meeting I photographed last week when someone was concerned about the lack of minorities and women at the Star. First of all, there was a black photographer shooting the event (myself), and secondly, a woman reporting it. I broke into a smile when I thought of the Star’s current copy-editor, who is male, and whose entire staff is made up of women.

I think that if the administration wants more minority representation at the Northern Star they are targeting the wrong area. They should find ways to encourage minority participation, not lead people through their actions to believe that the Star practices bigotry.

I have been a member of many organizations on this campus and many times I have been the only black. But I did not let my racial difference stop me from accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish. It might have made me hesitate in the beginning, but it never stopped me.

The Northern Star is a great place to learn, but only if a person—no matter what their racial background—is willing to sacrifice to learn. To those who are, the doors of the Star are always open.