Letters to My Mom
A moment of gratitude from Sonia Kang to Irene Martinez
Gracias por enseñarme a amar sin ver el color. You taught me to love with my heart. You led by example as a Latina who fell in love with my African-American father just a couple of years after it became legal to do so in 1967. You said we owe thanks to Loving vs. Virginia: The Case Over Interracial Marriage being overturned. Prior to this date, it was illegal to marry interracially.
Walking the streets, eating at restaurants, or on outings, people would hurl nasty comments about your relationship with Dad. He held your hand tight, the same hand he would later take in marriage.
When we were born, you tried to cover our ears from the derogatory statements people would say about your multiracial children. Instead of running from it, you explained that not everyone is mean and we would surround ourselves with those who loved and supported us.
In grammar school when kids were nasty toward us because we looked different than them, you said to focus on what we had in common, not our differences. When kids laughed at us for bringing ethnic food to school instead of peanut butter and jelly, you taught us to be thankful our grandma woke up early to make us a home-cooked meal.
In middle school during the ’80s when we hated our curly hair, you reassured us that women were paying big money for perms that looked like ours. We would cry to you that there wasn’t anyone who looked like us. You told us that it didn’t matter what the outside looked like because on the inside we are all the same.
In high school when I wanted to start to date, I asked you whom I should date. You told me you couldn’t tell me whom to date but that I would know by how he made me feel.
In college during rush week there wasn’t a multiracial group to join so you encouraged me to join both Black and Latino Student Unions. When I called crying saying I’m not Black enough or Latina enough, you comforted me from miles away and you told me that I was enough. And I believed you.
As an adult I fell in love with a Korean man. He asked me to marry him and we had your grandchildren. I told you people would look at me, then at my kids, then back at me, wondering the connection. Was I their mom or their nanny? I asked you what you thought and you said, “What do I care what they think, you know who you are to them, don’t you?”
On international day at my daughter’s school, she came up to you and said she was so sad because each student had to stand up and say what cultures they were. She stood up and said Latina, Black, and Korean. She said she thought she had the most cultures but her classmate Michael had four cultures!
You laughed, held her hand tight and said you were happy to be alive to see the day when your grandchildren would hold their head up high and be proud to be multiracial.
Yes, Mom, I’m the product of an interracial marriage in a multiracial marriage with four children who we are raising as mini global citizens in this diverse world of ours. My children will inevitably come to me with the same feelings and ask me the same questions I asked you. But I know from your teachings I will be able to help guide my children as you did for me.
Gracias, Mami, for following your heart and marrying Dad, thereby showing me that love conquers all barriers.
Reprinted from A Letter to My Mom. Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Erspamer Entertainment LLC. Published by Crown Archetype, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.