"Sticks and stones may break my bones,
This is the photo that ran with the announcement. Weren't we cute?
Not long after it was published, I received a card in my mailbox at work. The announcement had included the name of the parish where I worked in Orleans. The envelope was addressed to:
c/o Divine Infant Parish
That's it. No address, no postal code and no return address. I thought it was a little odd, so I checked the postmark, and saw that it had come through the post office not too far from my parents' neighbourhood.
I opened the envelope, and took out a pretty flowered note card. Inside held a message written in lovely, somewhat old-fashioned penmanship. The note began by congratulating me on getting engaged. How sweet! I thought. Yeah, right...
It went on to say that the sender (who signed the note only as "A Grandmother"), was sure that my decision to marry "outside my race" must be a huge disappointment to my parents and my grandmother, because she was certain that they had "raised me better than that". She went on to tell me that such unions never last, and I should go find a "nice white boy" to marry instead. She insisted I should spare myself the future divorce, by getting out while I still could.
Reading this, standing in the parish office, my jaw was dropping lower and lower. The secretary and another staff member (both ladies I was very close with) were watching me with some concern. They could tell something was wrong. But it wasn't until I read the next part - the part that reduced me instantly to tears - that they swooped in and took the card away. (After reading it themselves, it went instantly into the shredder.)
The "grandmother" told me I was being selfish. She said I obviously hadn't considered the future of my poor children, who would "bear the mark of my sin" because they'd be bi-racial (except she said "mixed").
My sin? My sin? Marrying a good, honest, loving, faith-filled man is a sin? Just because he happens to be Chinese? For some reason, this woman was raised to believe that God has a problem with people marrying someone of a different ethnic background. Even though she seemed to be somewhat familiar with my family (identifying my grandmother), she clearly doesn't actually know my family. If she did, she'd know my parents and grandmother would never have a problem with my choice of spouse based on race. Not just because they're not racist, but because my father himself is the son of a bi-racial man. My dad is one quarter black - his paternal grandfather was a black man who married a white woman.
I've had many (and I do mean many!) strangers stop me on the street, in stores, in church, just to tell me how beautiful they think Norah is. In fact, it happened 3 times in 2 days last week. Nobody has ever stopped me to tell me that they could see the "mark of my sin" in her.
I still feel the sting of those words in that card. Not because I believe a word of it, but because it saddens me that racism still exists. It upsets me to think that Norah may someday personally encounter someone who thinks that way. Growing up white in a predominantly white area, I'd never experienced racism like that on a personal level before this. It changed me. It made me aware of the need to continue to pray for people's views to be changed - for hearts to be changed. I can't hate the woman who sent that note, because I'm sure she honestly believed she was doing the right thing. And, more importantly, because intolerance can never be healed with more hatred.