“It was a sad day for any reporter to ask a sitting president, ‘Are you a racist?’” Ryan said as she delivered the keynote speech for Howard Community College’s Diversity Week on Monday morning on the college’s Columbia campus.
“The president did not respond, but it [the question] was in the air so heavy,” Ryan said.
Ryan asked the question the day after Trump allegedly said immigrants from African nations, Haiti and El Salvador come “from ---hole countries.”
For more than 20 years Ryan, a Baltimore native, has been a White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks, where she is the bureau chief. She has covered four presidents — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Trump.
Ryan kicked off Howard’s annual Diversity Week, a week of dedicated events to honor a variety of cultures and backgrounds.
She discussed the history of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and why she hasn’t let attacks toward her stop her from being a journalist.
“I am seven generations removed from the last known slave in my family,” Ryan said. “His name was Joseph Dollar Brown, he was sold on an auction block in Fairview, North Carolina.… He was my mother's great grandfather, he was my great-great grandfather.”
Ryan said her “troubles” being accepted as a journalist got worse after she asked Trump if he was a racist.
“The truth is I’m a journalist who studied for this, not this per-say, but I studied to ask questions to bring forth answers for we the people,” Ryan said. “When you suppress [journalists] it’s not about us, it’s suppressing [the public], you are not informed.
“I did not sign up for this but I stand because of you, I stand because of my two daughters. If I don’t ask those questions pertaining to us, who will?”
Robert Linton III, 18, a freshman general studies major at Howard, said Ryan’s talk was “very real and, like she said, she gave her truth and I respected that.”
Linton said diversity week is important because it is a learning moment.
“The world is diverse, it’s not just one single race and we need to celebrate it and educate people so they can … learn more about diversity,” he said.
Brandon Bellamy, co-chair of Howard’s Diversity Committee, said the main goal for the college’s diversity week is for students to see “diverse viewpoints and allow the greater community to see how we showcase diversity on this campus.”
An aspiring nurse, sophomore Gabriella Sanchez-Henry is looking forward to seeing how the college will become more diverse.
“I’m a minority myself and I want to see how we can make our school more diverse, there’s always room for change,” said Sanchez-Henry, who is studying nursing.
Diversity week at the college ends March 8. Other events include bollywood dance, deaf culture and life, the “ABC’s of LGBTQ,” lessons from first generation students at the college and more. For the full schedule, go to howardcc.edu/about-us/leadership/diversity/diversity-calendar.