Sharon K. Sobotta
Of the hundreds of people I've interviewed over the years, the most memorable person is 94 year old Betty Reid Soskin, who continues to work full-time as a park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter National Park. Betty's great grand-mother was a slave, her own mother had few options, and Betty was present (with a picture of her great grandmother in her pocket) in Washington DC for the swearing in of President Barack Obama. Betty has witnessed and been a part of a significant amount of change in her life, but shared that the older she gets, the more she realizes that we live in a both-and world and not an either-or world. What does she mean by that?
This means that significant progress can be made AND there is still a great deal of work to be done.
This means that holding officers who shoot unarmed black women and men is an important first step AND it is still not enough.
It means that we can and often do have a privileged AND a marginalized identity at the same time.
It means you can s be from a rural region AND be savvy about diversity..
..or that it is possible to be from a metropolitan area AND not be in tune with social justice.
It means that there are multiple truths AND that there is space to acknowledge and honor those truths.
In August, 2015 I had a transformative experience when I visited a small liberal arts college in Minnesota to apply for a position as the Director of a Diversity Center. The experience affirmed that there are savvy people invested in diversity and social justice everywhere (something that many Californians don't yet realize). I witnessed an entire community that was extremely invested in a position, met with dynamic students, staff and faculty who cared and I was excited about joining the team. Not believing in the concept of the world being a BOTH-AND place, the father of my children didn't believe that we could live in Minnesota AND experience diversity, that we could be away from San Francisco AND have a community that would enable our biracial children to thrive. Ultimately, his fears took the shape of a court order preventing me from starting my new job. Stepping back and reflecting has helped me see that this is a common misconception that many people subscribe to. My mantra is that when life doesn't go as planned, it's best to embrace it as content and then do something about it. Hence, I'm starting the BOTH--AND reality project and I want you to participate.
Your story can be as simple as "I'm from Minnesota and I am ..." "I live in Minnesota and I am...."