When people ask why we moved to Sacramento, they’re typically surprised by our answer. The truth is we sat down, drew up map of the entire United States and just listed out pros and cons (my husband scribbled in helpful notes like: very cold in winter above Chicago, Minneapolis and Boston.) “And after looking at all the factors we identified Sacramento as the best city in the United States for us,” I explain. Here, especially native Sacramentans look baffled.
For us, ethnic/racial diversity played a crucial factor. Sacramento is one of the most diverse and integrated cities in the United States. Having lived in multiple cities that are diverse on paper but wildly segregated in practice (hi Chicago!) that second component was vital.
I’m bi-racial with Jewish and Buddhist parents, so I’m familiar with straddling identities in polarized communities. It’s uncomfortable. What I’ve learned is the more diversity you have around you, the less you get approached by curious strangers, desperate to categorize you. My (white) husband and I have a daughter who is lightly brown-ish with curly hair and a Spanish last name. I wanted her to grow up in place where people wouldn’t spend a lot of time obsessing about what “she is.” I’ve already experienced more, “so she’s white!” and “so she’s black!” paired with obnoxiously relieved faces in her short life than I want to acknowledge.
When I say “we looked at the entire country and picked Sacramento,” and the face across from me caves into disorientation I add, “we wanted to be some where diverse.” Then I see eyes lock back into focus, a head begin to nod. “And the trees, the weather,” I add.
Now it’s their turn, “And a short drive to Tahoe, Reno, Napa, Sonoma and San Francisco!”
“Where my dad lives,” I say.
Now everyone is pleased and nodding. “This little cow town is the best place in the country?” they say again and shake their heads, “things sure do change.”