I made peace with the fact that in the United States I could be in the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time and be shot and killed by police because a man or woman who feels threatened by my presence and calls 9-1-1. I can be murdered by a concerned citizen standing his or her ground as I walk through "their" neighborhood. I could be asking for help because our car broke down and be taken from this world if I knock on the wrong front door. I could be arrested because I "fit the description" and die in the police van or in the cell and no one would be held accountable. On one hand I will seek justice and love mercy and on the other accept that some people and some systems will not change this side of Glory.
But I certainly have not accepted that for my Black, Chinese and Korean American daughter - Maia Pan Bang Jie Walton.
Maia's name is rooted in thousands of years of history. Pan is her family name, Bang is her generational name, and Jie is the name chosen by her grandmother. Walton holds the complicated history of my people in this country - slaves and slave owners in Virginia. The name most will call her is Hebrew for water signifying notably in the Bible a deep cleansing and replenishment. And looking at the life of Jesus, the waters of baptism signify new life itself. How beautiful it would be if those who saw her knew the story of how faithful God was through the story He wove from South Korea, Southern China, and Southern Virginia to make her life possible!
Sadly, none of this will be perceived at first glance.
Instead, a nurse enters our hospital room not even 24 hours after she is born and says "your daughter has such a nice complexion".
Another worker enters later, "she has such beautiful skin."
I've given up my privilege of moving on and it's making me painfully uncomfortable. Staying #woke makes my bones tired.
Those two women didn't know that on the phone I was looking up from I had just seen that Charles Kinsey was shot by North Miami Police while laying on the ground with his hands in the air.
On the ground.
Hands in the air.
Explaining that he was a behavioral therapist.
And he is still shot.
He is Black like me. He is educated like me.
And my daughter is Black like me too, but her skin could be praised by many simply because of its lightness. Would they have said that if she was dark like me?
These moments that are supposed to be so joyful and exciting, is invaded by the brokenness of the history that we can't get past because we as a society won't deal with it. And this is the society that my daughter is a part of. The opportunities for marginalization of this woman of color are paralyzing.
Will my daughter be ashamed for her friends to meet me? Will her friends treat her differently after they find out her dad is black because she can "pass"?
Note: (If you don't know what "passing" is, please click here)
Please don't zone out or stop reading or declare this is too long, too sad, too honest, too whatever by going on to the next thing in your newsfeed.
Please don't tell me to move on.
Don't tell me to get over it.
Don't tell me it will get better.
Don't tell me that she'll love me because I'm her Dad, her Baba. And that you just love me too.
I need you to understand, or at least attempt to see the reality that I live and this little one will be privy to. I need you to commit to actively fight racism and prejudice based on skin color. I need you to keep learning, to speak up, and to show up.
The issue remains that every day her value could be propped up on the false and destructive notion that lighter skinned people are more valuable, deserve better treatment and bear no burden of dangerousness. She will be given the benefit of the doubt by a potential date or the Deputy and that is painful and disgusting. The issue remains that if we have another child and his or her skin is darker, they will have completely different experiences in this country. They will be perceived and treated differently by teachers, classmates, police officers, security guards, relatives and in-laws. As I mentioned in "Racism is Ruining My Marriage", the level to which myself and other people of color have internalized our devaluation is staggering. And to try and tear down our culture's worship and protection of whiteness is exhausting - so no wonder folks don't even try.
Jesus help me. Jesus help my wife. Jesus help my daughter.
I briefly shared these thoughts with two white male friends of mine. One said in short, "I can't imagine how hard those things must be but do your best to choose joy." And he is right! These circumstances have not changed the love of God, His love for me and for Maia. These trials do not change the reality that we just had a healthy, Psalm 139, beautiful type of baby. Hallelujah and amen!
The other said, "I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on this". So I wrote this piece. And I'm sure we will talk about it.
And that is why we have the Body of Christ. I am not alone. My daughter will not be alone because her Mom and friends like this are willing to listen, learn and fight for her. Priscilla knows that our daughter is Black and Asian and the social implications of that ethnic identity. She is more than aware of the model minority myth, is well-versed in deconstructing narratives that ensure white supremacy is kept in place, and knows the children's books and the bible stories at every level to ensure Maia has the knowledge and the theology to flourish as a Black, Chinese, Korean woman in this world of ignorance and intolerance. We have white friends and family willing to own the collective history of their people and our country and press into racial justice and reconciliation. There is a growing community of people especially in the Asian Diaspora willing to wade into the choppy river of justice work because Jesus showed us that we can walk on water if we keep focused on Him.
And that is the type of miracle we will need to bring justice for the Native people who had this land taken from them, the immigrants who call it home, the slaves that built its wealth but don't share in it, and even the very people who started it all death and destruction in the first place. More pointedly, that's the type of miracle I need for my daughter to know and feel she's loved. Because we are all made in the image of God to flourish, work, rule and create including this little wonder sleeping soundly as I write this post.