A few years ago, as I passed by an unremarkable store window, I realized something startling about myself: I was surprised by my reflection.
I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t what was reflected back at me: long black hair, slant eyes, tan skin, short stature, a flat nose.
Maybe it was because I was walking around with my friends, who are white. Maybe it’s because everyone else around me was white. In the years since, I’ve analyzed this moment and have realized that the disconnect really started decades ago.
As a child, I never really saw myself reflected in my community. My family moved to Greensboro from New York just when I was about to start grade school and from Kindergarten through college, I attended schools in the city. I didn’t have any Asian friends, much less Japanese ones, outside of my own family. As a result I made myself small; I conformed. I often felt as though I didn’t belong.
When I returned to Greensboro in 2018 after a stint in the Triangle, I was welcomed back to Triad City Beat, first as a staff writer. (I had been an intern in 2014). Then I moved up to associate editor, and for the last few years, I’ve held the title of managing editor. But it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve fully embraced my role. I didn’t think I deserved the title. What did it mean anyway? Who was I to lead a paper, even one as small as ours? Was I qualified? What did I know?
But the picture is becoming clearer, my reflection sharper.
Taking the trust that Brian has consistently instilled in me through the years along with the backlog of stories I’ve produced in the last five years, I’m starting to see myself for who I truly am: As someone who wants this paper to accurately reflect this community that I so love. As someone who wants to hold those in power accountable while also being held in account. As someone who is capable of making it happen.
Because what I’m finally starting to realize is that I’ve always belonged here. And so do you.
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Nice job, Sayaka!