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.