Raised by a white woman, this is the lesson I learned about love

To: Mom

From: Sarah (As told to Lauren Brill)

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Dear Mom, 

You are white. You grew up in a wealthy white suburb where you attended a mostly white school. 

When I was a kid, I remember once we were on line at a grocery store and a little girl behind me pointed to you and asked, “Is that your babysitter?”

Sarah grew up in a small town in Michigan.

I said, “No! That’s my mom!”

Dad is Mexican-American and Mescalero Apache, which is why our complexions are different. 

You wanted me to be a strong Mexican woman, letting me know at a young age that even as a kid, I was equal to all adults, both men and women. 

You were a feminist who grew up a girl scout and took part in your high school’s race relations group, even though there were very few minorities in your school. While you meant well and fought hard to change the world, sometimes I felt as though you did not completely understand the context of what you wanted to change. 

When I started school, where I was one of five kids of color, you’d always make a big deal over my accomplishments, making comments such as, “I bet you were the first Mexican girl on the girls’ golf team, or you were probably the first person of color to win this award.

When I was a kid, I remember once we were on line at a grocery store and a little girl behind m pointed to you and asked, “Is that your babysitter?”

If I told you someone made a racist or ignorant comment at school, you would tell me to speak up and add to the dialogue, not just for myself but also for all people of color. 

I was a kid, who grew up around mostly white people. I didn’t see myself as a representation of all kids of color but rather just as a representation of myself. 

Sometimes, I felt like you did not get it. 

Even so, as I look back I realize your desire to make a difference has had way more of  a positive influence on my life than a negative one. When I was eight years old, you ran for the school board in our little village. Not only were you the only woman on the school board, but you were the only liberal. And in our small town in Michigan, that was a big deal. I helped you with your campaign signs, went to school board conventions with you, and even met famous politicians, like the governor.  

You showed me that with hard work I could become anything that I wanted. So, I decided to pursue a career in the arts as an actor and photographer. Mom, I grew up to be a strong woman like you wanted because that’s all I knew and all I saw. 

When I was 21, I was diagnosed with a chronic neurological condition called Pseudotumor cerebri, where fluid builds up in my brain and acts as a tumor. I have had eight brain surgeries. At one point, I spent two months at the Cleveland Clinic. Mom, that was a time in our lives where the strength you possess and the strength you instilled in me became paramount. You sat with me every single day, arriving at the hospital in the morning and staying until visiting hours ended at night.

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Doctors told us they didn’t know how or if I would recover. But mom, you never stopped believing in me.

As you sat at my bedside, you would say, “Sarah, you will be you after this.”

Mom, I took your words to heart as I turned your strength into hope. Now, I am doing much better now.

What I have come to realize is that no matter what you have always meant well and always had my best interest at heart.

As a person of color raised by you, a white woman, I realized there is no way you could fully understand a life you never lived. But just because you don’t know my experiences, it certainly doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. Instead of expecting you or anyone else to understand my journey, mom, I believe together we will change the world by embracing the love that leads us to stand or sit beside each other along the way. 

Love isn’t perfect, but it is powerful.

I love you, mom,

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