Want to get uncomfortable with me?

It’s me, Jose Antonio Vargas. I am a journalist and filmmaker whose work centers on the emerging American identity. Want to talk about race? How about gender and sexuality? Immigration?

I know — that stuff can be a little uncomfortable, even for me. But as an undocumented gay man who looks Asian but has a Latino name who majored in African American Studies and who just made a TV special called “White People”, I know a thing or two about being uncomfortable.

And I want to tell you about my latest uncomfortable thing: I’m launching a media startup called #EmergingUS. And we’re doing it in an unprecedented way, by taking it to the people in the largest journalism crowdfunding campaign in U.S. history.

If you’re an early believer, please pledge your support — every dollar you give will be doubled (more on that later) right here.

And if you’re just learning of #EmergingUS, here’s why we’re doing this.

Have you seen something on the news recently and thought: “Wow, that big news company really understands me and my community?

Yeah, me neither.

Contrary to what you may have heard about me, I’m not gay, I’m not Filipino, I’m not undocumented. I’m all of those. Each of those is just part of my identity. But when big-name media outlets tells our stories, they strip them down, and pit people against each other. Gay vs straight, immigrant vs American, and way too often, Black vs White.

America is so much more than that.

America is the “Homo Cholo” lamenting the loss of a Black gay club. America is a Latina artist using her art to talk about sexuality and feminism. America is the “Asian Playboy” teaching Asian guys — among the least contacted in online dating sites — how to pick up women.

America is trying to figure out what box to check on the U.S. Census form.

And those are just some of the stories we at #EmergingUS are ready to tell you. Check out our trailer:

How is it that during an election year, we still have trouble defining what “American” means? How is it that whenever someone says “immigrant” we think “Mexican” — even though the country’s fastest growing immigrant group are Asians and Pacific Islanders? How is it, in a nation full of creativity and innovation, the best we can come up with for our friends is an “Other” box?

We need to talk about #BlackLivesMatter. About women’s rights. LGBTQ rights. Freedom of religion. Immigration. And Native Americans. And yes, we need to talk about White people. After all, in a lot of places, including Los Angeles, where #EmergingUS is based, White Americans are already in the minority.

We need a place to talk about what we as Americans are, and what we are becoming.

If all this sounds hard and fantastic and far-fetched, it’s because it’s never been done before. But we’re going to make it happen, with your help.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already taken part in changing the media. Your side-eyes at terrible headlines, your tweets about insensitive politicians, your Facebook comments about reporters misrepresenting your community: your feedback has shown us all that traditional big journalism just isn’t working.

I’d like to invite you to take the next step in changing the media: making it better, with us.

The good news is that we’ve already gotten started.

For the past several months, I’ve been working alongside a tiny and diverse team of journalists. And trust me: what you saw in that trailer is just a sample of what we have in store for you. #EmergingUS will bring you original videos, essays, podcasts, graphics, and in-depth reporting on communities and issues that are usually overlooked.

But to make that happen, we need the funding: for more resources, more multimedia reporters, more producers, more editors.

The better news is: you can help.

Instead of attaching ourselves to a big-name news corporation, we’re crowdfunding it.

You can check out our campaign here. Any contribution you make will be doubled by our partner Beacon. Yes, you read that right: every dollar you give will be doubled. And we’re trying to raise $1 million. If we don’t raise our $1 million goal, we don’t get anything.

But it’s a gamble we’re willing to take, because we believe that you’ll join us. We need the funding to be independent, to tell your stories.

We believe that your story is worth investing in.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably thought that the media doesn’t represent you or your friends well, and that somebody ought to do something about that.

This is your chance to be that somebody. Join us by pledging below.




57 claps
Jose Antonio Vargas

Written by

Founder/CEO of @DefineAmerican. Journalist. Filmmaker. Media entrepreneur.