A real-life example of an ally to all races, genders and sexuality, Jana Shortal spoke at the Best of the Midwest Journalism Conference on Feb. 16.
Shortal was hands-down one of the most powerful keynote speakers this weekend, and at the end she got a standing ovation for her message.
A television news anchor, she is a white lesbian woman who does not dress feminine, and for that she gets constant hate comments in social media.
Shortal started off with talking about how she deals with such mean comments a daily basis and she was proud to say that she responds to the comments because why should she not? She made it very clear that she has the right to be who she is and no one should question it, and that is what set the tone of the rest of her keynote.
As people were asking her questions you could tell the main point she wanted people to take away was simply to be themselves.
People asked her multiple questions about how she handles hate, how she brings out her unique voice and every time her response would be “do it” or “you are the only you.” She was inspiring in a way that made you want to be different.
As a journalist, it can be tough because you can’t be too bias, but you also have a voice that needs to be heard, or a voice so others can feel heard. She mentioned how much people would scream at them “F*** the media!” But she doesn’t care and still pushes through, reports and brings attention to things that she knows is not right.
My favorite thing she said was: “Don’t tokenize people.” My take away from that would be, just because you have one black person, or one queer person, or one transgender person in your business doesn’t mean you can’t find more. Being diverse does not mean one of something it means a mix of multiple individuals.
Give praise to a community not one person out of that community, and I think Shortal expressed this throughout her entire time speaking.
Not only did she want to point out oppression but she wanted to be clear that all sides have to be understanding. She told a story about how she met a man named Kelly that she was respectfully debating with online, who at first, she did not know was a man so when she did find out it was pretty funny.
He came in to talk on the radio show and they respectfully disagreed with each other about the controversy of athletes kneeling during the national anthem. Shortal wanted to get the point across that it is not anti-America but to hopefully find justice to the violence against black men from police officers. Kelly made his point that as a veteran he was hurt because he risked his life for this country.
Shortal wants communication, and she wants justice for the oppressed. Constantly she would talk about facts but acknowledge her privilege as a white women up front with her voice being heard.
After her keynote I went up and thanked her for being a true ally and giving me a more open mind to people who may be thinking differently about society than I do. She made an important point.
“We are all human, and we all have feelings,” said Shortal
If we just stopped and actually talked to each other than maybe society might get a little closer to getting rid of racism, homophobia or any other oppressed group. We need to learn to listen and not just speak and Shortal has gotten a great start to this.
You can find her on Instagram and twitter if you are interested to see what she has to say, her voice is so powerful and she could probably change the world.
I look up to her and she is my new inspiration, I hope to make an impact one day in the world the way she made an impact on me.