The Only One reflects on “The Mindy factor”


This column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.

Actress Mindy Kaling plays a woman normally treated as if she is invisible. As a result, she goes around town pretending no one sees her. At the end, she humorously learns otherwise.

Nationwide Insurance 2015 Mindy Kaling Super Bowl Commercial  "Invisible"
2015 Nationwide Insurance’s Mindy Kaling Super Bowl Commercial “Invisible” aired during the 2014 Super Bowl

The Kaling commercial, which premiered during the Super Bowl earlier this year, is one to see, and I am not one to endorse commercials. I liked it only for the compelling message it provides, if only for 30 seconds or so.

This Only One reporter experienced a “Mindy” moment this weekend not unlike other times as a Black journalist in an all-White press box. Now renamed “the Mindy factor,” the latest “invisible” experience took place as I covered the three-game Twins-Chicago Cubs series, a St. Paul Saints game, and the Lynx-Tulsa evening matchup.

I must have been invisible to the guy who sat next to me, constantly tapping his ice-filled cup on the work table to whatever song or sound he heard during the game. He never even remotely considering the fact that I was working just a few inches from him.

I was invisible to another guy who acted like Ricky Ricardo or Little Ricky, using the same aforementioned table to do finger bongo playing.

I was invisible to the stats person assigned to pass out post-game information to all the press, but somehow skipped over me, despite the fact that I clearly hadn’t left for the evening because all my stuff was there.

Like Kaling noted in her commercial — invisibility seemingly has its place. I don’t know if her double-point message was caught by the American television viewing public, besides selling insurance. She’s of Indian decent, and such invisible experiences are too often the case for women of color such as herself, especially in work places that lack diversity or the basic recognition that she is at least a human being.

Black females go through the same ‘Mindy’ — a 2010 study noted that Black women go “unnoticed” and “unheard” where they work.

It’s no different for the Only One. That invisible feeling comes early and often whether at regular season sporting contests in Minneapolis or St. Paul; whether it’s pro or college; or whether it’s local or a special event held elsewhere.

You’d think I would have gotten used to it by now, but you really don’t. Frankly, you never quite get used to people looking through you, or if they could, walk through you without even a hint of your humanness.

My late uncle would often say on this, “Even dogs bark.”

However, Kaling and I disagree on one point that she made in the ad:  the actress and the unseen narrator boasts that “a cloak of invisibility has advantages.” I haven’t seen any thus far.

Maybe such advantages exist in 30 or 60-second commercials, but in real life, the invisible treatment is as real as O.C. Smith’s “Little Green Apples.”

“Invisibility isn’t the answer,” wrote Rhitu Chatterjee about Kaling’s ad on  “Going about one’s life as though she’s invisible is definitely not the answer.”

The Only One certainly agrees with Chatterjee.

Dr. Richard Lapchick also talks about “invisibility” of Blacks and other people of color in U.S. newspapers and website staff.  Read more in “Another View” in this week’s MSR print edition.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to