A Letter To My Future Child: We Will Raise You To Only Practice Tolerance And Love

Little boy with 4th of July glasses
Frank McKenna

Your dad and I aren’t even married yet (95 days, but who’s counting?). We probably won’t be ready for you for a few more years, but I am already thinking about you. The date today is August 16th, 2017, and the state that our country is in (and has been in, to varying degrees, since its conception) is prompting me to envision how life will be for you someday. Let me tell you a little bit about your mommy and daddy to contextualize some of these thoughts.

Your mommy is white skinned. That’s me, kiddo. My ancestors came to America from Europe, specifically countries like Ireland, Wales, and Austria.

Your daddy is brown skinned. His biological mother was a white woman, like me, and his biological father was a black man. Your dad’s skin is beautiful, the color of soft mocha or the warm hues of cherry wood. He has big brown eyes framed by long lashes. Doesn’t he sound handsome?

On the inside, your daddy and I have a lot of the same things. We both have brains and beating hearts; blood in our veins and bones surrounded by tissue and muscles…muscles that have recently weakened due to our shared love of pizza and lazy weekends. We also both have things that are not visible to the naked eye – souls, spirituality, humor, emotions, thoughts, and opinions. Though the specifics of all of these things are varied, the general categories are the same. And guess what, baby? The same will be true of you and everyone you encounter in your life. On the most fundamental levels, all humans are the same – the only difference you will be able to see in people is how they look and how a person looks does not really say much about who they are. And baby, it is very important that you remember that, because now I have to give you some bad news.

There are people in this world who do not like other people if they look differently from them. And there are people in this world who only accept the people who look like them. Those two things are not exactly the same but the impacts of them are. And it hurts me to tell you that your dad has experienced this in his life and will continue to unless things change.

Remember how I said that all people are similar on the inside? And how that is true of your dad and me? Well, even though that is the case and even though we grew up in the same town and live in the same city, state, and country, our life experiences have been different. And I will never be able to understand what your dad has been through on a personal level, no matter how hard I try to learn about it and respect it.

Some people look at your dad, and the people who look like him, differently than they look at me and the people who look like me. Some people have called your dad names, one very cruel name in particular, because of his skin color. Some people make judgements about your dad before knowing anything about his character. Sometimes your dad is in situations where everyone is kind, friendly, and accepting toward him – but none of them look like him. And, as if this wasn’t complicated enough, some people will accept your dad but will not accept somebody else who looks like your dad if their skin is a shade or two darker. Your daddy himself has even said that those people (who look like him but a little darker) have had even harder experiences than he has had!

Your dad and the people who look like your dad have no control over their skin color. They were born with it, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. And yet, there are some people in the world who treat them differently because of it. Imagine that we got you two puppies (don’t get any ideas, kid) and both of them were lovable and adorable and sweet. Lets say one of them has grey fur and the other one has brown fur. Would you treat your puppies differently depending on which color you prefer more? Or would you love them both equally because of their personalities and traits? It would be pretty silly to love one puppy less just because you prefer the color brown over the color grey.

If only humans were as uncomplicated as babies and puppies.

When you are born, you will be a citizen of The United States of America. The USA was formed by a group of people who immigrated over from England, which is a country in Europe. They came over here to establish a new land that promised each person freedom, liberty, and justice. And as America grew, more people from more countries traveled over here to start their new lives in a free land. So most of the people who live in America today have descended from immigrants and only a fraction of the population actually descended from people native to this land, and those people are called Native Americans. And guess what, love? Native Americans do not look like me or the people who look like me. In fact, their ancestors were actually here first and we stole their land from them! But still, there are some people who look like me who think that America belongs to the white people, even though the white people weren’t here first.

A lot of people who look like your dad were part of the formation of America, but they began their American lives as slaves to people who look like me. Thankfully, that changed in 1863 and the people who look like your dad have come so far and have fought so hard for their rights, their freedom, and their futures. But in terms of equality, our country still has work to do.

Which brings me back to you, baby. I have no idea if you will look more like me, more like your dad, or if you will be a wonderful blend of us both. Whatever the case, I know that you will be beautiful. Whatever your skin tone is, remember everything I have just told you – but more importantly, take to heart everything your daddy will tell you. And even further still, and especially if you have your daddy’s skin color, know that if people treat you differently because of how you look, that means there is something wrong with them – not you.

You are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and God is looking at your heart and not your appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). 

You are a human being, with a heart and a soul.

You are more than the flesh that holds you together, the hair that adorns your head, and any physical imperfection you may inherit from us (like my super slow metabolism/food addiction or your daddy’s male pattern baldness).

We will raise you in a home that teaches tolerance and love. You will encounter so many people of many different cultures and ethnicities and we will teach you to respect them and encourage you to befriend them. We will urge you to learn from them and to share your life with them. You see, my love, God loves all of us equally, regardless of what we look like, who we love, where we were born, or what we believe. We are all created as equals and we have a responsibility to try and love one another equally, like God loves us – to the best of our human ability. No matter what any person tells you, you are important and your life has value that is not dependent on your physical characteristics.

I know I will make a lot of mistakes as your mom – and sometimes, they might be mistakes that have to do with the very things I am preaching about in this letter! You see, kid, the sad reality is that intolerance, judgement, and ignorance run very deep in our society. And the people who look like me (myself included), however well-intentioned they may be, need to make serious efforts to learn, take on new perspectives, and fight against what the world has been teaching us. I’m still learning, but I promise to keep learning and to keep trying to do better. And I promise to fight for you and for our family however I can.

I can’t wait to meet you someday, little one. And I can’t wait for you to meet your daddy – the biracial man who has been the biggest blessing in my life. TC mark

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