The message about the book is I hope you realize that we don’t have time for the imposter syndrome anymore. We need you.
Maria Hinojosa ’84 – founder of Futuro Media, an independent nonprofit organization “committed to producing ethical journalism from a POC perspective” and the 20-year veteran host of NPR’s Latino USA – has become a household name in journalism. But it wasn’t easy getting there.
On September 10, in an exclusive conversation with President Sian Leah Beilock, Barnard’s Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence stressed how representation (or lack thereof) affects self-confidence. “I was going through the internships and I was like, I’ve never seen anybody like me doing that, so I’m sure I’m not good enough,” Hinojosa said of launching her career as a Barnard student. “You see all of the success, but what you don’t see is the stuff that came before.”
In addition to her Peabody Award-winning work as a broadcast journalist, Hinojosa is the author of three books: Crews: Gang Members Talk with Maria Hinojosa (1995), Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son (1999), and the new memoir Once I Was You. In her latest book, Hinojosa offers a personal account of how the rhetoric around immigration has long informed American attitudes toward outsiders and enabled willful negligence and profiteering at the expense of the United States’ most vulnerable populations.
In her conversation with President Beilock — part of the Insights: Powered by Barnard series exclusively presented by Beyond Barnard for students and alumnae — Hinojosa discussed Once I Was You, mental health, and teaching through a pandemic.
Read some of Hinojosa’s insights below:
On how Barnard pushed her to pursue broadcast journalism:
“Barnard is central in all of this, and you didn’t pay me to say this. It’s in the book! I talk a lot about Latinos and Latinas in particular, the invisibility factor, and what invisibility does when you don’t see yourself reflected is that you believe that you’re not capable of doing this thing. So even though I was doing WKCR and had an audience and had a show, there were no Latina journalists in the United States that were visible on television. There were none on public radio. And so when it came time finally for me to apply to internships, I went to the career services office, and I was going through the internships, and I [thought], ‘I’ve never seen anybody like me doing that so I’m sure I’m not good enough.’ And it was Jane Gould, who worked there, who said to me, ‘You must apply to that NPR internship.’ She was just forceful, like, ‘You can’t see what you truly are capable of doing.’ And I got it, and that’s how everything changed. We’re talking about this moment in history and we’re talking about being good allies — this is one of the ways, is seeing the talent that we oftentimes as women of color and as immigrants don’t see in ourselves. It’s one of the great joys that I have being a professor now.”
On getting the most out of Barnard:
“If I have a regret [about my Barnard years], it’s only that I wasn’t able to experience more internships, and that was because I was working, and I couldn’t kind of find the time to make it work. I think I would have appreciated somebody saying, ‘Do the internship thing a little bit more.’ That would be the only thing that I would probably change, and that I really stress to my students now: Use Barnard to help you figure out a way to get those internships in, because they are extraordinary.”
On how she came to write Once I Was You:
“Four years ago I was on MSNBC, on primetime, and I had a kind of viral moment. I was on with somebody who used the term ‘illegal immigrant,’ and I said, ‘There’s no such thing as an illegal human being. Illegal is not a noun.’ It was seen by 10 million people, and actually the chair of my board said, ‘You need to write this book, Illegal Is Not a Noun.’ I said I could see writing a little book that you would pick up at the airport and read, like Chimamanda [Ngozi Adichie]’s We Are All Feminists kind of thing. And then — and I like to tell this to my students — I know that you see all of the success, this big poster, my book, but what you don’t see is the stuff that came before. The first two proposals that we wrote were rejected. I wanted to write this little book, and the publishing industry was like, ‘We don’t want a little book, we want a big book.’ And so that’s kind of the nature of the book.”
On how she takes care of her mental health while reporting on difficult topics:
“[I use] all the tools at my disposal. I was not an avid meditator at all. I was resistant to meditation. I would laugh at people who would say, ‘Come on, Hinojosa, meditate, 10 minutes a day’ — I’d be like, ‘Ha ha, fat chance.’ [But] during the 2016 presidential campaign, when I lost my best friend Cecilia Vaisman ’84, that was when I started meditating. I was dealing with not only the Trump campaign and its rhetoric but also the pain, the loss, death. And so I meditate every day. I work out every day. I’m a boxer, and this helps me to feel strong in general. I focus a lot on gratitude, especially now being a survivor of a pandemic in a pandemic, and I also give myself time off. I’m very adamant about taking care of myself.”
On advice to current students dealing with remote learning during a pandemic:
“What I do with my classes is we just talk about it. We acknowledge it. We don’t pretend like it’s not there. We don’t know everything that’s going to happen, we’re going to have to live this day by day, but we are living something that is extraordinary. That’s the best that we can do. That’s what I try to tell my own daughter, who just graduated from Brown in June, and she’s as frustrated as everybody is. This is so hard, but we’re going to be here tomorrow again.”
On overcoming imposter syndrome:
“I talk about imposter syndrome being my little companion that was always here, always with me. I want people to understand that you don’t get here [with] all success. There’s a tremendous amount of imposter syndrome. I tell my students that when they walk into a space they need to strut because, excuse me, you are the shit, you are that. You have got to convince yourself that you are that. Everybody is insecure, so you’re not the only one. I think the message about the book is I hope you realize that we don’t have time for the imposter syndrome anymore. We need you. And then I say to my students, by the way, you’re here. You’re so here, you so made it, and this place is special, and you are special, and you will have privilege because of this. So now own it.”
*Responses have been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Watch the full conversation between Hinojosa and Beilock below:
And for more from Hinojosa, watch this exclusive conversation between the Journalist-in-Residence and the political operative and Latinx advocate Paola Ramos ’09: