He loves me between his smiles and contagious giggles. The brown guy in front of me wrinkles his nose and anger passes through his eyes, the anger he’s absorbed all day. I squeeze his arm. He flinches. How did I forget he cannot bear the gentle touch I offer after a long day? I’ve encouraged him, “Turn the other cheek….” He’s offered to “turn his cheek” as an obligated surrender to people and systems wanting to consume him. The Jesus I learned about has been too white and fragile to tell the truth about racism. I remove my hand. His flinch is trauma. I allow for a twinkle in my voice, telling him our seven-year-old son declared he wants 6 children, all boys. We laugh to chase away some of today’s anger. Jesus can’t have meant upholding a lie – that the power of love submits to racism.
In the afternoons to keep his claws of stored anger from catching me or the kids he jokes, tells stories, winding down from the fury he unleashes when it is just the two of us. The kids run around our kitchen chairs, reporting the good and the bad.
Our thirteen-year-old attempts to speak above the excitement, “I was called into the office today by the Vice Principal and Principal.”
We both glance his way, but my third child shushes him and holds my hand.
He repeats, “Mom. Dad. I was called into the office today.”
My husband glares. I see anger of today, yesterday and the day before weigh against his calm, “What happened?”
Despite the flinch, I whisper through my touch; Give him a chance to explain.
Our children aren’t required to be perfect, but we expect their best, whatever best is. They are to be the most respectful and polite, in school, and everywhere, representing who we are with dignity.
Luca glares back, “They told me they had caught me on a video siphoning gas out of cars. I didn’t understand. I told them I didn’t do it and they told me they had the video and I had to confess. They said it was me.”
Luis erupts; “Did you do it?” My touch on his arm is now fierce.
“Papa, I don’t even know what it is. Or, how to do it.” Luca stammers.
“I believe him. Did you tell them you were in class? Why didn’t they check your attendance? Did you tell them you didn’t do it?” I fire.
“Mom, they said they had a video.”
Luis roars, “What did they sayyyy???”
“They said they had a video but then another guy confessed with brown hair. It wasn’t any of us in the office.” Luca whispers.
Our love is thin, spreading across a surface the size of an ocean. I remember Luis’ innocent smile when he arrived to the U.S. to marry me. We believe our four children will thrive if we work hard enough to give them opportunities they’ll need. Will it be enough? I always ask.
Luis and I deflect comments like, “This is America!” in the local grocery story. Luis’ dependability and skills earn him favor at work, but not enough for a raise. He fears being fired if he is late, or calls in sick. Our children know why we are proud of a mixed-race heritage; hard work, ethics, and love define us. We don’t give up. We fight, and fall tiredly into one another’s arms.
The truth is Luis’ shoulders sag more now. His color is darkening with the warm Spring days. He and Luca will bronze, less able to assimilate. The tears don’t stop. The torch of racism scorches my family.
I weep, unable to settle and whisper to a brown Jesus: Come near. Hold us. Deepen understanding, expand our compassion and help us to love our enemies.
The kids in bed, Luis pulls a steak off the stove, pasta from a pot, serves me, and flicks on Downton Abby. Mrs. Patmore is our favorite.
Within minutes, Luis is snoring. Setting aside my plate of deliciousness, I place my hand on his head, speaking memories and reminders of his goodness to his dreams — our soccer days, his work ethic, he provides private music lessons for our children, he greets everyone with smiles, both girls earned spots on competitive soccer teams, I am nearly done with graduate school, we have Jesus and each other.
Luke 6:27-28 states;
“Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”
I turn off the t.v. He doesn’t stir. I am crying again. In the morning, he will tell the kids he loves them and drive to work. Love: the antidote to racism is loving our enemies well. This is how we do good, we tell the truth to ourselves and our children about race. We bless those who curse the truth which leads to love. And, we pray for those who hurt us even when they don’t know. It is showing up, not succumbing to the pressure to quit, but fighting for truth, to set both oppressor and oppressed free. I won’t uphold a lie, because Love honors the truth – the truth between Luis and I, our kids and our enemies.
Mother of four and wife of one awesome Mexican, Danielle Castillejo is a 2nd year student at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, studying to get her MA in Counseling and Psychology. She works and volunteers part time in an organization in Seattle that advocates for the agency and freedom of commercial sex workers. A survivor of abuse herself she continues to fight for sanity and love every day.
Powerful. Your husband sounds like an amazing man and your children sound quite awesome as well. I am cheering you on as you,’re “fighting for truth, to set both oppressor and oppressed free. I won’t uphold a lie, because Love honors the truth.” Blessing to you and your beautiful family.
Living in an immigrant neighborhood for 30 years, I believe you. The stories of everyday racism from my brothers and sisters never ends. Our family is multi racial, and multi cultural. I carry fears that are new as my boys move into teenage years. Micro aggressions are real.
Damn it. I hope you gave that principal a piece of your mind.
This teaches me so much. I realized the other day that, as a former
English teacher to folks from other countries, I love languages and accents,
so I usually ask people what country they’re from when I hear their accent.
Unless I can guess, which I often can. But I didn’t realize this was a micro-aggression.
And I need to cut it out because I don’t want to hurt folks accidentally. But I do,
we white folks do, often. I wonder if we will ever be able to just love one another,
because that is a big enough job in itself. Thank you for being transparent with your
My stomach was tight all through this, waiting for violence. I didn’t realize I should breathe until you placed your hands on Luis’ head. Thank you for sharing your daily reality. It is a generous offering – both in how you endure with hope and how fierce you choose your love to be. Thank you.