Why I Check the 'Black' Box: Alum Lori Teresa Yearwood Writes Essay on Racial Ambiguity

Tuesday, December 08, 2020
Lori Yearwood smiling while standing in a wooded area
Photo by Natalie Cass

SLATE -- Only decades later, when an old colleague from the Herald, who identifies as Black, contacted me on Facebook and gave some feedback about the situation, did I understand my loneliness. “There was some question amongst the Black reporters about whether you were authentically Black,” he told me.

I didn’t say much, but the idea of that reality made me feel angry and defensive. How could I have been any more authentically me than I already was, I thought. The truth is that back then, I never actually saw myself as Black. Nor did I see myself as white. I found my first reporting job at the Syracuse Newspapers in New York through the National Association of Black Journalists. I did feel uncomfortable identifying as Black when I didn’t feel exclusively Black inside, but I had felt much more supported by my Black college professors at San Francisco State than I did by most of my white professors.