Dear Elyah and Nevin,
I am blessed to see the world through your pure and innocent eyes. You see humanity selflessly with love and kindness. When you look in the mirror you see tan skin with the sweetness of cinnamon, big brown inquisitive eyes and your flowy, curly hair. You describe my skin as pinkish-white and your daddy’s as brown. You say you look like your daddy’s family, yet like me, but a little darker. You tell me you feel special to be Dominican, Venezuelan, and American. With a proud, glimmery-sparkly smile you say you like that our family looks different and not like everyone else’s. You see our hybrid celebration of Jewish and Christian faith as typical practices. When given a compliment on the beauty of our family your response is, “I know,” as what they're saying is matter of fact and you don’t question the root of the comment. Historical non-traditions have become our traditions.
Today, I feel a special pride as a mom and a woman. I feel proud to share the experience to vote as an American living in a free country. I love that voting together has allowed us to have open conversations about race, politics, the pandemic and the current climate of our world. I love hearing your opinions. Your understanding and conceptualization blows me away. You get it, candidly, unbiased and unjaded. Today, I feel honored as a mother to be able to experience and model to you the power of our voice. I can talk to you about racism, political bureaucracy and injustices in the world, but without action, the action of voting, I am not a model to you and I would have done you an injustice.
Today, we voted. Today, we get to matter. But, in this power, I fear weakness. I fear the weakness, insecurity and hatred of others. How do I protect you from the tainted and jaded reflections the world may see of you? How do I explain to you why someone may not like you because of the color of your skin? Why will I have to explain the reasons you are treated differently because of the color of your daddy’s skin?
Elyah and Nevin, I am a white, American privileged woman born and raised in the United States of America. To be honest, I was raised with a silver spoon in my mouth.
Your daddy is a dark skinned, Dominican-Venezuelan raised without anything remotely resembling silver. He has lived a diversified life of racism and discrimination. You are two beautifully mixed (I am biased) multi-racial and multicultural resilient children hopefully part of the new traditions. Yet, in this world, the world your daddy was exposed to there is brutality and unkindness. I can’t make sense of it myself. How do I explain it to you? Luckily, at 5 and 7 years old, we do our best to protect you and shelter you with hopes our today will be changed. You are the change. We can’t protect you forever, nor do we want to, but we can teach you. Your dad and I want you to know and understand who you are, where you come from, and the realities of life.
I am ashamed to tell you I was taught racism. To most it would not appear as overt, but by being passive I continued as part of the problem and not the solution. Without intention racism continues to be acculturated in education and in the middle-class bubbles I was raised in. As a child and an adult, I heard others tell me they were not prejudiced, as they defended their white privileged perspective and justification that they had black friends or knew people of color. I had family tell me they were not prejudiced nor did they dislike black or Hispanic people, they just wouldn’t want me to have a relationship or marry a black man because they wouldn't want that for my kids. They had fear bi-racial kids would face ridicule, discrimination or racism. I was more scared to have bi-racial children, for my kids to face the racism of their own blood as opposed to the racism of the world.
Elyah and Nevin, I live in hypotheticals and theory. Your daddy lives in reality. His reality was his face getting smashed into walls and brutally hurt because of the color of his skin. Your dad endured physical and emotional harm because of where he was born and what his family looks like - your family. He was rejected, disqualified, left out, and not accepted because of other people’s fears of the color of his skin. Your dad’s reality is 31 years serving in our Armed Forces as a Naval Police officer and 26 years as a Federal Agent protecting our freedom. To this day he still lives in a world that people give him second looks and move away from him because of the color of his skin. Maybe their dislike for your dad is skewed because of their own past experiences? What have they been taught? Or their beliefs or political views? I often do not see the looks people give him or our family. I say that whether we are white, black, brown, or purple we are all the same color. But we aren’t. Your daddy sees it. He feels it. He sees the way the world segregates. He vividly sees the ugliness. My lens is blurred and projected from my hazel eyes, light skin and deep denial. Dad’s body tightens and goes on high alert when he is in the presence of a rebel flag. His hyper-vigilance goes into overdrive when we are with him in the company of pro-Trump supporters waving signs demanding their America. He automatically goes into defensive, protection mode as if his and our lives depend on it.
I’ve tiptoed around adversity, politics, and racism. I was worried my opinion was not strong enough, good enough or it was wrong. I was scared to be judged. Silence is worse than being wrong. The fear of being ridiculed paralyzed me from having the opportunity to educate myself. I didn’t want to give fuel to the power of hate and ugly to be spread by discussion, but I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Racism, discriminative politics and violence are unacceptable and incomprehensible in the best of times, and right now this is happening most when Americans are most vulnerable. Americans are coping from the pandemic with financial hardship, grief, anxiety, and at minimum variations of preoccupations of fears and insecurities.
Over the next couple of weeks intensity, fears, and anxiety will increase as the fate of our country will be determined. I want you to ask questions and tell your dad and I your thoughts. We want to understand if you are scared or confused.
Elyah and Nevin, nothing will change if nothing changes. We have to be the change. I continuously think of the phrase, In a world where you can be anything, be kind. It keeps playing like a broken record over and over in my head. It leaves me feeling present, alive and with possibility. It leaves me with a voice. It leaves me giving you a voice. It leaves me knowing that we must vote for kindness. But more than anything WE MUST BE THE KINDNESS.