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To My Son,

You’ve probably heard the question “Are you mixed?” asked of you a dozen times by this point. When asked your ethnicity on your standardized tests and applications, you may not be able to check the boxes as quickly as others. The options of “White” and “Black” are becoming increasingly anachronistic, for which I am grateful. But for a young man like you, the confusion can still linger.

I want you to know that I love your mother more than I can express and I couldn’t imagine serving the Lord and loving you with any other woman by my side, which is why I chose to be with her in spite of the fact the some people may despise our marriage and even our children. I use that word despise with a great deal of intentionality. A lot of people will try to convince you that racism doesn’t exist, and my earnest prayer is that it does less so in your generation than it did mine. But as long as you live in this sinfully broken world, it will always rear it’s ugly head. We deceive ourselves into thinking it’s not because sin is having it’s numbing effect on our conscience and awareness. As I write you this letter, I sit at my desk less than 50 years removed from the court case Loving v. Virginia, in which the Federal Government finally prohibited laws against interracial marriage. As recently as the year 2000, a prominent university representing the God we worship upheld a ban of interracial relationships based on a belief that, “God intended segregation of the races and that the Scriptures forbid interracial marriage.” And it may not be a big deal by the time you read this, but the media is currently in a frenzy because an NFL player bullied and berated a fellow teammate, going as far as calling him a “half-nigger”. And the thought of someone calling you something so ignorant and hurtful is the reason why I write you this letter.

One of the greatest tragedies of slavery was the ruthless rape of female slaves by their white masters, with their offsprings becoming a trophy of ridicule and a contribution to the “mongrelization” of society. Although we’ve come a long way, biracial children are still hearing the echoes of racism and dehumanization. Let’s not sleep on this. There’s a huge difference between fantasy and fruition. Although African-Americans received the right to vote when Congress passed Amendment XV to the U.S. Constitution in 1870, Jim Crow shrouded our hope in it’s evil until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even then the waters were so muddy we couldn’t see to the bottom. That same act gave authority to the Federal Government to force schools to desegregate because although the historic case Brown v. Board of Education declared that segregated schools were “inherently unequal,” a decade later nothing had changed. It’s important to be aware of the history because it’s a common tactic of the devil to deceive us into believing we’ve arrived when if fact we still have a long way to go on the journey. It’s specifically important for you to be aware of black history because the one-drop rules of old have welcomed you into this whether you like it or not.

As you travel this journey, in the midst of whatever confusion and soul searching that takes place in your heart, my prayer is that you will cling to this reality: Your identity won’t be found exclusively in your race or ethnicity. That doesn’t mean that you are “raceless.” The errors of color-blindness are well stated. Take great pride in your culture and heritage. But identifying yourself primarily by your race, however you choose to define it, will only grant you superficial affiliation with a group of people who let you down if you look to them to tell you who you are. Allow your race to inform you, but don’t let it define you. Instead, my greatest hope for you as your father is that you will find your identity in Jesus.

There is no other truth that will more deeply penetrate the confusion brought on by your racial identity and every other mystery life throws your way than the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You were created in the image of God and there is within this image an unshakable dignity and value. This common dignity among all humanity assures you that you were made no less than any other man regardless of what they say of you. It also requires you to remember that even your oppressors bear this same image and must be loved. That doesn’t mean there isn’t evidently sin and evil present in their heart that mars their God-given, God-reflecting image, but just remember that sin is no respecter of persons. Sin levels the playing field. We’re all wrought with it from the inside out. But we are told of a faithful saying, one that I earnestly pray you will come to believe and treasure, that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” The Creator and sustainer of all the earth cast aside His divine rights as God and embodied for us perfect humanity. He went from the majesty of heaven to the filth of this world to live the life that we could not live and die the death that we deserved. The very Son of God was treated like a rebel, so that us rebels could be called sons of God.

So when the questions come, and they most certainly will, look to Jesus. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. You will only ever know who you truly are in relation to who He is. Thrust your life upon his mercies and let him show you who you were created to be. To those who put their faith and hope in Jesus, He makes us partakers of this divine Sonship. This promise is reserved for you if you believe, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Before you are black… Before you are white… Before you are whatever in between… You are a son. Your heart is spoken for by the Living God. You aren’t diluted or defective. If “mixed” is what they want to call you, then embrace it for it’s beauty and lay to the wayside the negative connotations people sling at you. You are mixed much like the Kingdom, a living demonstration of future glory. Jesus will bring truth to the lies that you’ve been told. The cross will answer any questions about your value.

You may find it weird that I wrote you this letter before you were even born, but I needed a way to deal with these matters concretely. I spend enough time considering race and reconciliation theoretically. But considering my son… Now that makes it all hit a little closer to home. I know this letter isn’t as nuanced as it needs to be. My hope is that this won’t be the final word on the matter between the two of us. Not only for your sake, but for mine. I’ll give to you whatever little wisdom I can muster, but I long to learn from you as well. Even though I grew up broke in the hood among a primarily African-American context, I’m still a white, Christian male in America at the end of the day. I am the epitome of privilege, which is why I want to be there to hear your stories of hardship. I want to understand. I want to feel. And I want to love you through it all and always point you to the One with the final word. I’ll probably rewrite this letter a thousand times before you ever actually lay eyes on it and I honestly have no idea how to end this thing, so I’ll keep it simple. I pray that Jesus becomes the treasure of your heart. I pray that you find in him what can be found nowhere else: the true you. You are a blood-bought son who is loved beyond measure.

I love you,

Dad

 

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