It is a providence of God that I taught a student this past year. She’s mixed race, and I am so grateful for all the insights she gave me on what it means to be 50 percent one thing and 50 percent something else. She once said, “People ask me if I’m white or black, and I always tell them I’m me.”
My wife and I have had several conversations about this—about how we want to raise our daughter, our fears she won’t be accepted, and our hopes for the life she might have. My wife worries she won’t be embraced because she’s caught between the black and white worlds, and the side effect will be no place to feel love.
This is something I’ve thought about and prayed about, and I have so many things I want to tell Ellie, my beautiful, caramel drop of joy:
I want you to know your mommy and daddy love you so much. You are 50 percent Mommy and 50 percent Daddy, but most importantly, you are 100 percent you.
You are a beautiful, intricately-made child of God.
You never let anyone put you in a box. People will ask you whether you are white or black. You don’t let them define you like that. You tell them they should expand their conception of what identity is. You tell them, “I am me. I am amazing; I am so smart; I am so strong; I am so capable; I am going to blow you away. You won’t be thinking, ‘Wow look at that black girl,’ ‘Watch that white girl,’ or ‘Can you believe that mixed girl?’ You will just want to say, ‘Wow. I wish I could be Ellie Carter.’ ”
Yes, baby, you are going to have to check a box on a form, you are going to have to take a standardized test, and you are going to have to apply for colleges and interview for jobs. The box I hope you check is “Mixed,” because, at the end of my day, my sweet, beautiful baby girl, you are 50 percent Mommy and 50 percent Daddy.
After you fill out that form—because like I said, sweetie, you have to—after you fill out that form, don’t let them forget your name. They want to know what race you are, so they can put you in a box, so they can limit you. But you are so much more than that.
Yes, you have two races in you— you are white and black, and they are equally part of you.
Yes, there is a hard history with what Daddy’s people did to Mommy’s people.
Yes, and because of that, people will assume you are black, and people will accuse you of being many things because you are claiming both your mommy and daddy’s sides, but you tell them you are their child, and you tell them to remember your name, not the box they want to put you in.
I hope you will claim both of us—we are striving to raise you the best we can. We love you so much. Your mommy has had to struggle with people limiting her because of the box they want to put her in because of her race. Your daddy has had to fight the box people put him in because of his disability.
My hope for you is to live in a world without boxes. All these boxes are arbitrary and invented by humans to justify oppressing other humans. The wonder of who you are goes beyond any box, my baby girl.
There is a you beyond your skin; there is a you that is more than this physical world; there is a you that cannot be captured on a form, that can’t be checked in a box.
You are so special, so beautiful, and I want you to always know that you are more than any words could describe. Your mommy and daddy gave you your DNA, and you are 50 percent Mommy and 50 percent Daddy, but most importantly, you are 100 percent you.
Mommy and Daddy hope you never forget either of us, but we also hope you have a world better than the one we had. We hope you have a world of more reconciliation, more love, more acceptance.
Baby girl, it hurts me to think someone would judge you based on your skin color, that someone would think you are less than or that people would think you think you’re better than they are. I hate the thought that there’s a world of people who would hurt you because of your race. I hate to think anyone would want to put a negative thought in your head, but my sweet, precious girl, you are going to blaze so radiantly, you are going to shimmer, you are going to leave everyone blind with how bright you are going to shine in this world.
Don’t let anyone tell you who you are.
You stare them straight in the eyes and say, “I am Ellie Carter, and I am going to change the world.”
Maybe, Ellie, I have high expectations for you. Ultimately, I want you to love yourself, be true to yourself, and I want you to love others.
I know it sounds cheesy and silly, but I think being honest and loving others genuinely is enough to change the world. The world is based on fear, and that fear is what causes people to cling to the boxes we talked about earlier.
And fear? Ellie, just know that fear is from evil, fear is weakness, fear seeks to destroy.
But you? My hope is that you are honest, and my dream for you is that you love. Love casts out fear. Honesty cast out lies. And if you can do that, baby, you are going to change the world.
You are beautiful and glorious my sweet girl—don’t ever forget that. We love you. You are 50 percent Mommy, 50 percent Daddy, and you are 100 percent you.
That is enough, Ellie—the world needs you.
What are you doing reading this? Go out and change it.
This post originally appeared on The Sunday Morning Staircase