Have You forgotten my name?
O Lord, come to Your child.
O Lord, forget me not.
You said to lean on Your arm
And I’m leaning
You said to trust in Your love
And I’m trusting
You said to call on Your name
And I’m calling
I’m stepping out on Your word.
You said You’d be my protection,
—an excerpt from Just Like Job by Maya Angelou
Ryan Lindsay knows firsthand the circular path life can take. Always interested in sharing people’s stories, uncovering injustice and advocating for change, she started her career as a radio reporter. Now, as a student at Yale Divinity School, she expects at least some of what she once did as a journalist will be reflected in her ministry, albeit in different ways.
The ministry path is one that a younger Lindsay, to some extent, predicted. While going through boxes of things from her childhood, she discovered a sheet of paper with three columns about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Interspersed with options like a fashion designer and actress was a preacher. “I thought that was pretty wild because I guess 15- or 16-year-old me knew something about me that I forgot in my 20s,” she says.
But while Lindsay is excited about affecting change and impacting people’s lives as a preacher, she still remembers the racism she experienced as a Black reporter and wants to share that story in an effort to shed light on the racism, discrimination, prejudice and double-standards still rampant in our society and within journalism.
Originally, Lindsay, who went to Northwestern University for her undergraduate journalism and African American studies degree, wanted to be on television. “I found that there were so many restrictions about appearance and image,” she says. “The feedback I got was, ‘You have great delivery but you need a more consistent look,’ which is to say straight hair—I’m a Black woman, straight hair is not my norm.” This was 2014. Glasses, which she has worn since she was 8, were also not acceptable for on-air TV reporters.
A few years later, Lindsay decided to focus on public radio instead after graduating from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She was selected to be part of a national guns reporting fellowship that included ten National Public Radio member stations. “Halfway through the fellowship I realized I was very unhappy,” she says. “I felt silenced in a lot of ways.”
The silence exacerbated the emotional toll of covering gun violence across the state. “Being at memorial services for the anniversary of Sandy Hook or sitting with a woman whose daughter was fatally shot or the double shooting where a 17-year-old died but his best friend survived and the man who’s the alleged shooter was 24 struggling with schizophrenia—I didn’t process my feelings about these stories,” she says.
The fatal shooting of a young Puerto Rican teenager in Wethersfield by a police officer was a turning point for Lindsay. “When you’re a Black reporter things are inevitably different both inside and outside of the newsroom, especially in the wake of death. Standards change. Rules are revised.” she says. “I experienced profound prejudices, discrimination, and racism while reporting that story. That I am a Black woman who refused to let journalism dictate how I used my right to free speech was made out to be a problem and deemed unprofessional. I was unwilling to accept that being a journalist meant that I could not speak out against racism happening to me and others.”
“When you’re part of the press you’re looked at differently. You’re treated differently than other Black people who are protesting because the media historically has not been kind or accurate to Black people,” Lindsay says. “You’re viewed with a level of skepticism as a Black reporter.”
Lindsay recalls a police officer texting her when he saw her at a protest. “He said, ‘Hey saw you at the protest—didn’t know if you were reporting or protesting, hahaha.’ It was so wild to me because I was so clearly in reporting gear and it’s a comment that never would’ve been made of a white reporter.”
At her job, it took nine months to receive a press pass, which enables reporters to be identified as a member of the press and often allows access into areas not open to the public. “I had to raise the fact that I needed a press pass. I needed something to show other people that I was legitimate in their eyes. People constantly looked at me, not as if to say, ‘Who do you work for?’ but rather to say, ‘You don’t belong here.’” she says. “There were so many layers that the white folks at my job were not able to perceive or were not moving fast enough after I brought them to their attention. This was a matter of my safety.”
Even still, badges don’t always shield Black reporters from racism. A classmate of hers from Northwestern, Omar Jimenez, a former CNN journalist, was arrested live on TV while reporting in Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
At another point, Lindsay was accused of having an anti-police bias by a white pastor who confronted her after an interview about a police shooting involving one of his former congregants. “Black reporters have to deal with so much,” she says. “I couldn’t go to protests unless I was reporting. That was hard because I needed an outlet and wanted an outlet.” This was during the protests that followed the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in 2020. “I had so many feelings—I was angry, devastated, afraid.”
“Workplaces are highly racialized environments. You’re dealing with near daily or daily microaggressions, and then sometimes blatant acts of racism,” Lindsay says. “Your spirit knows that something’s not right. It begins to weigh on you. I questioned myself. Am I doing something wrong? Or not working hard enough? Why is there this cloud hanging over me?”
This is the first time Lindsay is publicly speaking about some of the racism she endured while working as a reporter. Remaining silent about what she experienced was not conducive to her mental health and healing. Lindsay says Black people should be able to speak about their experiences of racism without that being viewed as bitter, burning bridges or as throwing former employers under the bus. She stresses that being able to name the harm that’s been done, while uncomfortable, is critical for growth and accountability, if employers and the industry of journalism as a whole are truly willing to do the work necessary to create work environments that are not toxic and emotionally taxing for Black people.
Today, Lindsay is grateful for her new path and eager to work in the community as a pastor. In the meantime, she offers this advice to newsrooms interested in diversifying: “The work of being anti-racist is truly daily work. You have to go beyond having a single black reporter in your newsroom. You have to ask—why don’t we have Black photographers, videographers, editors and news directors? Why aren’t statements against racism or an occasional DEI workshop enough? You have to ask questions of yourself and interrogate your own biases.”
Each day in May, you will meet a new face and a new lived experience, because #LetsFaceIt there is no one-sized fits all when it comes to our wellbeing. View past posts here.
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