This is YOUR VOICE, YOUR STORY: Soledad O’Brien

I’ve always been
a very hard worker. I may not be the smartest,
I may not be the prettiest, I may not be
the best at something, but I will tell you,
I will absolutely positively outwork you. 99.999% of the time,
it’s outworking that matters. My mother is from Cuba,
and she’s black. My dad is white,
and he’s from Australia. They met because they used
to go to daily mass. They’re both very, very
devout Catholics. And my dad used to have a car,
so he’d hit on my mother when she was going to church. And then one day she accepted,
and they went on their first date. And they would eventually
get married at the end of 1958, even though interracial marriage
was illegal. They had tremendous bravery,
and they just weren’t interested
in other people weighing in on their life choices. And I think they really
passed that on to me and my five
brothers and sisters, to the point where we just…
I mean, it’s a cliche. We just thought
we could accomplish anything, and live any kind of life
that we wanted to. There was no, “Ah,
I’m a journalist,” moment. It was more like, “Ah,
I’m not a doctor.” So I didn’t know what to do. I left school and started
working at a TV station, because I could get credit. And I just loved it. I loved running down the hall. I loved being part of the team,
even if it was the team that was, like, getting lunch
for people. I really felt very comfortable. And I grew very fast. I immediately… I started off
as an intern. And I just kept
growing and growing and getting great opportunities. I remember watching reporters
at our local station in Boston and thinking, like, “My
questions would be, like, “as bad as those. I should be a reporter.” I mean, it was literally that. I just thought, “I can do this.” And a lot of my growth
was about looking at other people
and always kind of striving to figure out what they did
to be successful. And then, you know, was I
going to be able to do that? When I was covering
the East Asian tsunami, a young woman
from the New York Bureau called me and said, “Listen,
they want to know “if you want to go
to Thailand for the tsunami, “and I told them probably not,
because you’re a mom, and I’m sure you don’t want
to go, but I had to call you.” And I remember I had just
had my twins. So I had four kids
under four. And I was like, “Put me
on a plane to Thailand. “Nobody in this building
wants to go more than me to Thailand.” But my strategy,
in all seriousness, was always to try to hit the
ball out of the ballpark, to do such a great job
that people would say, “Wow, she’s got four kids,
and yet she’s doing a great job.” I also was very well aware
that if I didn’t do a good job, that it would
have implications for other women
who had children. And other women of color,
frankly. Rightly or wrongly,
it just will. So my strategy was always
to really overdeliver. When I was a kid,
Son of Sam was on the loose. Serial killer in New York. I remember my mother
would go to bed praying, “Lord Jesus, I hope he
is not black.” You know, because there was
a sense that, like, in our town, where we were
one of two black families, it would absolutely come back
to bite us if in fact he were black. And so I think that
that’s because white people have 100 stories,
but black people have five. And most of them are not
particularly good. And Latinos have three. And most of those are about
immigration. And Asian people have one,
and Native Americans get nothing. Not to say we’re going to do
PR for black people, or PR for Latinos. But we’re going to tell
100 stories, so that we can be all of these things,
as we know we are. I don’t know that you can
tell the story of America and leave out a lot of
important voices, which I think we have
historically done. So I’d like to think
that I’m adding… I’m adding a lot of voices
to history.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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