Return to Sender

This afternoon I opened an unfortunate email that is prompting me to comment here in this space.  The email was sent from a family member, who had sent it to other family members as well, and the contents essentially amounted to what was supposed to be a joke–except it wasn’t funny.  It related a story that was intended to elicit a chuckle from those who maintain negative stereotypes about people of Mexican origin, the Muslim faith, and those whose United States citizenship may still be in process.

Normally I don’t read emails that are merely “forwarded,” but today I did.  And though on one level I am sorry I did, on another I am not.  My youngest son is of Mexican origin, and perhaps the occasional reminder that some in the world–and apparently even some in his own family–hold his ethnicity in a less-than-respected regard is needed.  

I know when things such as this happen, people will often respond with I didn’t know, or I didn’t mean anything by it, or It was supposed to be a joke.  To each of those, I would counter, it’s immaterial.  August is going to one day soon be old enough to have his own email account, and he, too, will be the recipient of these types of communications.  The senders may not know his ethnicity, may not have meant anything by it, or may have thought they were being funny–but at the end of the day, what does it matter?   A beautiful child whose biological father is of Mexican descent is going to be affected–deeply. 

August, I have said (and written) before that I cannot shield you from people’s hurtful attitudes and hateful language, but I promise you that as much as your father and I will raise you to embrace your background and cherish your ethnicity we will also arm you with the verbiage you will need to confront the negative stereotypes when you need to.   Emails such as these say more about those who send them and who refuse to contradict them than they do about you.    Be strong, my beauty . . . The world so obviously needs you.

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3 thoughts on “Return to Sender

  1. We sometimes get the jewish version of what must not of have been a very tasteful email joke you recieved. More often my kids hear comments by people who don’t know us well, referring to others with “they must be jewish”. Their simple response is always, “I’m Jewish”. That’s all they ever say, 2 simple words that speak volumes. It silences, and usually embarrasses the person, which is OK with us. The offender sometimes tries to backtrack but the kids politely shut them down, change the conversation, they don’t need apologies or expanations, they are proud of their heritage and really don’t care about the ignorance of others. August has terrific parents and 2 wonderful brothers, he will grow up strong, confident and proud. “I’m Mexican” will only be just one of all the other wonderful things he will be!

  2. Both my godchildren are from ethnicities different than mine and different than their adoptive parents and different from each other. It has been painful for everyone on dozens of occasions. As young adults now they are known for their contributions, behaviors and personalities as individuals and world citizens. But it was no easy trick. Yes, you will give them the words, and, in their generation, it will be somewhat easier, but not pain-free, sadly. Your words, Samantha, will begin a shift in your own family and have a ripple effect, and your children will be soooo proud to call you Mom and Dad because of what you stand for!
    Crystal

  3. When people have opinions like that, they usually don’t personally know (or don’t realize they know) anyone who fits that description. Once they do form a relationship with different types of people, they often realize that they’re not so scary after all. Maybe your relative will change his/her opinion if he/she is reminded of your son’s background. People have an especially hard time assigning negative attributes to children.

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