Why I Reject Santeria as an Afro-Latina

As more Latinos claim their African ancestry as a point of pride and call themselves “Afro-Latinos”, I have begun to see a resurfacing of acceptance of Santeria and other types of Brujeria (witchcraft). This spirituality is typically practiced amongst women who call themselves “Santeras”, although men, “Santeros”, practice it as well. In their opinion, they are bringing healing and prosperity to themselves and others, by tapping into the strength of their ancestors and the gods of their people. For many Afro-Latinos, to claim Afrolatinidad means to embrace the religious and spiritual practices of our African ancestors. I am here to boldly claim that I do not accept any part of Santeria or any other religious/spiritual practice other than the way of Jesus Christ. I am not less Afro-Latina because I reject Santeria. Santeria is a dangerous practice that injures its followers’ minds, bodies, and most importantly, their souls.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Santeria, I’ll briefly explain what it is and what it means to its followers. You may use the beautiful resource that is Google to learn more if you’d like. Santeria, per Wikipedia, “is an Afro-American religion of Caribbean origin that developed in the Spanish Empire among West African descendants. Santería is a Spanish word that means the “worship of saints”. Santería is influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Its sacred language, a variety of Yoruba, is the Lucumí language”. 

Essentially, when Africans were brought to the Caribbean islands as slaves, they were forced to become Roman Catholics, as the Spaniards were Catholic. These Africans absolutely did not want to give up their religious practices, as religion is a massively important part of any culture. Therefore, they worshipped their African gods in secret, masquerading them as Roman Catholic saints. As the Catholics prayed to the saints, and still do, the Africans managed to maintain their religious practices while pretending to be Catholic.

Santeria has deep roots in my Puerto Rican family. My mother told me this summer that her mother used to force her to pray to little statues and photos of gods and to give them sacrifices and offerings, like food, money, and perfume. Also, because my grandmother often saw my mother as “bad”, which meant precocious and opinionated, my mother experienced a cleansing of sorts. An ancient ritual, intending to rid her of evil spirits, was performed on her in the bathtub and it disturbed her. As a child, my mother questioned these practices and saw them as fruitless. To her, these statues and photos were just pictures of dead or fictional people who held no power over her life. This tradition of Santeria was passed down to my mother much like the Spanish language or the practice of eating rice and beans. It was and is simply in our culture to worship the gods.

Thankfully the Lord has had His hand intensely upon my mother throughout her entire life and as a young girl, she developed a deep faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Through her knowledge of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s power, my mother became instrumental in leading her own mother to faith in Jesus Christ. My grandmother renounced all ties to Santeria. Since then, no one on my mother’s side has been connected to Santeria, to the best of my knowledge.

There is another person in my family who has practiced Santeria and has confessed to me that she saw spirits sometimes and that her daughter reported seeing spirits as well.  These spirits included an old woman and a young girl, who apparently pressed her face immediately against my family member’s when she appeared. Whenever she discussed these apparitions, she claimed that seeing spirits was “a gift.” I learned these things through her stories.

These are all personal anecdotes of how Santeria has harmed my family. You may be thinking, “Well, they just didn’t practice Santeria correctly. This doesn’t mean you have to reject it. Others can freely practice it without experiences like these.” You’re absolutely right. Every human being has a choice in what they believe and practice. God will not force Himself upon any individual; He is a gentleman. But, I hold the Bible to be the only true religious text and therefore must completely reject Santeria as a viable spiritual practice for myself and for anyone who is seeking to know the One True God.

Let’s take a look at the person of Jesus Christ. Historians agree that such a man named Jesus certainly existed. Whether or not He is the Lord, the Messiah, and the Son of God is the question. Many religious texts and practices agree that Jesus was a good teacher and some even go so far as to claim that He was a great prophet, but nothing more. What’s perplexing and should bring pause is that these religions feel they need to answer the Jesus question. Jesus is so singular that they cannot ignore His existence and ministry on Earth. His teachings are radical and confusing. Readers, you can reject Jesus as God, you can believe in Him as just a prophet, you can merely enjoy His teachings about helping the poor, but there is one thing you cannot do. You cannot ignore Jesus Christ as a person. If major world religions, such as Islam, have an answer for Jesus while still denying His deity, you must form an opinion about Him. Many people have said that Jesus is either Lord or an absolute nut/fraud.

Jesus Christ made some authoritative claims about Himself that have never been made by another person in history. Here’s one of them: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'” – John 14:6

Wait, what? Jesus claimed to be the only way to know God, and also was God Himself. Who else has made such an outrageous claim? Mohammed claimed to be a prophet but certainly did not claim to be the Messiah or God Himself. All religions claim to point to the way, such as through a specific diet or abstaining from things like music and sex, but no one else has claimed to be God. This is a claim that we must investigate and take seriously because if He is correct, then all human life hinges upon this claim.

So let’s say that Jesus is just crazy and/or a fraud. What do we do with His other teachings and behavior? Jesus was a 1st century Jewish Rabbi. In His culture, associating with women was forbidden and a Gentile woman was like a dog. Jesus made it a part of His ministry to specifically reach out to women, even Gentile women. Two examples of Jesus showing love to Gentile women are found in John 4 and Matthew 15. To Jewish women, Jesus saved one of them from being stoned in John 8 and allowed a sinful woman to anoint Him in Luke 7, much to the shock of all of the religious leaders around Him at the time. As far as His teachings about the poor go, one simply has to read Matthew 5 in its entirety to see a man committed to societal equity and loving those who are vulnerable.

We cannot believe that Jesus is crazy while also accepting His teachings and praising His kind and forgiving behavior. The two are absolutely mutually exclusive. So if Jesus is not crazy, then who is He? He must be Lord, because He claimed no other title.

I could write for hours about why I believe the Bible to be true and why Jesus is God, but that would turn into a book. Note to self: write a book before you die.

Jesus claimed to be the only way to God and I accept that claim as the truth. If I accept Jesus, then I also accept the Hebrew Scriptures He preached from and referenced. The Bible is full of warnings against witchcraft or spiritual practices that don’t center around Christ. God warns us that we are not safe with mediums (psychics) or witches. He tells us this quite forcefully in Leviticus: “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 19:31) and “I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people” (Lev. 20:6). Scripture clearly states that if a person is to know the One True God, the God of the Bible, they cannot have anything to do with witchcraft. It results in loss of relationship with God, which is what He wants with us. We cannot serve two masters. How can we claim to worship Jesus, who professed to be the only way to God, while also worshipping African deities? We must choose. I am not saying this. Jesus says this.

What will your choice be today? If you’ve been living life as a Santera or Santero and you want to talk more about Jesus or if you want to leave that life, please reach out to me! I’d love to talk about this more in depth and pray for you.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

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Rosalie Avila’s Suicide (My Story)

A few days ago, a young girl named Rosalie Avila committed suicide. She was 13 years old. According to news sources, she ended her life because of constant bullying from fellow students at her school. She documented each act of verbal violence every day in her journal. Two months before her death, she began cutting herself and was receiving therapy. In her suicide note, she apologized to her mother, knowing that she would find her dead in her room.

A young girl killed herself because other kids bullied her. I have so many questions and feelings.

  1. Why didn’t the school do more?
  2. Could the parents have done more?
  3. Why does this keep happening?

I’m left dumbstruck, gobsmacked, and disturbed. The older I get, the younger the kids are who kill themselves. When I was 13, the thought of suicide never entered my head. I don’t think I had ever thought about it, even as a concept. I had heard of ancient people who committed suicide, but I had never known someone who had committed this act of violence against themselves.

My initial thoughts on Rosalie Avila is that she did not know the ramifications of her final actions. She did not actually know what she was doing. Her mental state was not clear and she was not in control of herself. At 13 years old, her insular academic world was her entire world. She could not picture a world outside of her school. She was not able to imagine a positive future for herself apart from her situation as a bullied child.

Therefore, she took her life. Personally, I believe that she’s rejoicing with the Lord right now. As she was a child, I believe God didn’t hold her to the standard that He holds adults to. Her brain couldn’t comprehend her actions. Now, 13-year olds can definitely have a beautiful, holy, childlike grasp of the Gospel, but that’s another conversation.

Ultimately, my heart breaks for this young Latina. She had an incredible future ahead of her. God created each and every person with a specific purpose and plan. It was NOT God’s will for Rosalie Avila to kill herself at 13 years old. He knew it would happen, but He hoped the whole time that she wouldn’t do this. He created her to serve Him, enjoy the beautiful world that He created, and bring others to a loving knowledge of Himself. I wish this beautiful Latina grew up to become a freedom fighter, fighting alongside me and others as we push forward toward God’s kingdom.

 

 

Personally, I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts three times in my life. At ages 15, 17, and 23, I was tortured with unwanted suicidal thoughts. These thoughts bombarded my mind and I couldn’t free myself from them. Rosalie’s story could’ve been my story.

It took constant fighting against these thoughts to become somewhat free. But, I quickly realized that I wasn’t fighting against myself. These thoughts weren’t coming from my own brain. If my brain produced these thoughts on its own, I would welcome them. I would not be disgusted or scared of them if they were of my own creation. The human being wants to survive. We have natural survival instincts that automatically kick in whenever our lives are threatened, or are perceived to be at risk.

These suicidal thoughts came from the prince of darkness, Satan. I began fighting Satan, not just the thoughts. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” – Ephesians 6:12 

Clearly the Word tells us that we fight Satan, not others and certainly not ourselves! When a suicidal or negative thought came into my head, I would combat it with the truth. What is the truth? The Bible. I literally forced myself to read an uplifting verse in the Bible or to sing Christian worship songs in my head. This helped immensely. I took every thought into captivity, as the Word tells us to do.

“…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” – II Corinthians 10:5

Practically, there are several things you can do when you find yourself targeted by Satan with suicidal or negative thoughts. I’m not a mental health counselor, but these are the practices that have helped me and brought me further onto this path of divine healing.

  1. First and foremost, tell a trusted person about your thoughts. The number one thing that Satan wants to do during this time is isolate you and make you think you’re crazy. Fight against that desire to isolate yourself. That comes from Satan. It will make your situation worse if you isolate yourself.
  2. Bring these thoughts to God Himself. He is not surprised by these thoughts. He knew you would have them before you were even born! He wants you to ask Him for help. He will send His angels to guard you and protect you from the demons that are attacking your mind. “For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.” – Psalm 91:11
  3. Do exactly what I described a few paragraphs above. Replace these intrusive thoughts with Scripture and worship lyrics. This will truly help you!
  4. Seek therapy, spiritual counseling, and/or mentoring. There is absolutely nothing wrong with therapy. God loves it! It’s so biblical to seek help from others. It doesn’t mean you are insane or weird if you have a therapist. Honestly, so many issues around the world would be solved if every person received therapy for their problems.
  5. Don’t give up. My number one piece of advice is NEVER give up! Satan wants to make you think your life is over, you have no future, you’re crazy, no one loves you, and you’re worthless. LIES! ALL LIES! This is why we need to know Scripture because Scripture tells us the opposite. God loves us, we have a bright future in Him, and we are worth much because Christ died and rose for us.

If you ever need to talk to someone, I’m great to talk to about these things. These issues are more common than you think, so there’s no shame in coming forth about them.

 

Here’s a lifeline you can call if you feel you need immediate help (or call 911): 1-800-273-8255

They even have an online chat if you can’t talk by phone for whatever reason.

 

Be blessed. Be strengthened in Christ’s love for you. Be well.

 

Love,

 

Gabby G.

The Vietnam Vet on the 1 Train

The other night, the night before my 24th birthday to be exact, I held a piping hot cup of masala chai on the 1 train. I had just left an evening of Korean fried chicken and boy talk with one of my good guy friends. My head was full of possible solutions to boy problems (so dumb and a waste of my precious time) and, while holding the pole, my book, and my chai (no small feat), I glanced down and saw an elderly man with a Vietnam veteran hat.

Now I had just rewatched Forrest Gump, and while that’s obviously not a film solely about the Vietnam war, it does showcase the brutality of the war and the ways it mentally or physically ruined these young men. I looked at him and wondered, “Did he enlist?” “Was he drafted?” “I wonder how old he was when he served. He must have been in his early 20s.”

I had to say something. “Excuse me, sir? Thank you for your service.”

This elderly man merely gave me a half-smile, shrugged his slight shoulders and said, “Someone had to do it.”

He then went on to exhort me to join the military (not happening) and he explained that in life, you do what you need to do because it has to be done. That’s it. No discussion.

 

When he left, I sat in his spot and thought if I could ever fill that role of fighter. I definitely have no interest in the military, but God has called us to fight this fight of faith until the day He returns or calls us home. We must stick to this battle, remembering that the war has been won.

This is a battle we enlisted in when we signed up to be followers of Jesus. Jesus promised us that we would have to fight and we would often be hurt or killed for His name’s sake.

 

“Jesus asked, ‘Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'” – John 16:31-33

 

Take heart! Be brave. Be valiant. Christ is WITH YOU! We do not fight this battle alone. We are a part of a larger army than we know. Believers around the world are praying at all times, quite literally because of time zone differences, and although you do not know your brother in the Congo or in India, he prays for you. Pray for him and for your sister in Pakistan who cannot speak the name of Jesus. Pray for your siblings in Christ like you would pray for your own flesh and blood. They are your eternal family. ❤

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Jehovah Rapha

God, thank You for Your unconditional love for me.
You pursue me like I’m a lost treasure.
You search me out, intentionally.
Your presence crashes over me in waves.
You bring healing to my body and soul.
When I am misunderstood, You reach out to me.
When I am neglected, You sweep me into your arms.
When I am exposed, You clothe me in Your understanding and protective care.
If I praise Your name in my deep troubles,
You make Yourself known and You act.
You rescue me because I am Your daughter.
As a Father, You discipline me because I am Your disciple.
You open doors and shut them, creating a rhythm that suits my life.
You give me life.
Abundantly.

Praise Report! I’ve been dealing with neck pain and swelling for the past week. The doctors were confounded! It wasn’t meningitis. My thyroid was fine. Bloodwork was absolutely beautiful. They resolved to put me on antibiotics. On the way to the doctor, I had a minor panic attack and had to jump off of the train for a minute! As I prayed my typical, feverish “Lord, please don’t take me! Let me stay! Please heal me and help me.”, I clearly felt God saying “I will be your healer. Not the doctors. No one but Me. I will be your healer.”

Last night, I attended my bible study meeting and had the group lay hands on me to pray for healing. My bible study leader is actually one of the church elders so he anointed my neck with oil as well. He told me that I’m the second person ever to ask for healing, although Scripture tells us to seek healing and prayer from our elders. (Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. – James 5:14).

While I was prayed over, I felt something spiritual happen. My heart started palpitating and my body flushed. This happened when they prayed against any possible demonic attack that may be causing my neck pain. I knew this was a spiritual thing!

This morning I woke up with no swelling, no heat (my neck had become quite hot to the touch), and only minor discomfort. There’s no pain! The Lord healed me in my sleep.

 

Praise God!

Relating to God as Father (When You’ve Been Abused)

Readers,

This is a painful topic. I suppose I should insert a trigger warning for any abuse survivors. I won’t go into too much detail about the abuse that I suffered, but I will mention it in slight detail. This piece may bring back painful memories for you. I’m right there with you, friend. We’re in this together.

 

Alright, well here’s a bit of my story. I was born into a tumultuous family. My father had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and his own long history of abuse in all its sick forms. Many people hurt my dad when he was a child. Typically this is what happens. Someone is abused and they, in turn, abuse their own children, often unknowingly.

I was abused. I was emotionally, verbally, spiritually, and financially abused. Common occurrences in my home were these:

  1. I would come home from school and find at least two family members engaged in a screaming match.
  2. Dad would become so angry that he would punch holes in walls and break things in the home. One time he threw my dog against the wall. I will never forget that. 
  3. When I asked for money, it was given with much reluctance and often I felt indebted to my father. I had to perform in a certain way to pay him back. This is something I struggle with to this day.
  4. Often, my parents would threaten to divorce at least once a week. One time I became so fed up with the arguing, because I was studying, and I said, “Just divorce already or don’t because I’m studying!” I was 9 years old.
  5. Sometimes Dad would leave for days on end, after a big fight with my mom. If he didn’t leave, he gave her the silent treatment for a few days. As my brother and I grew older, he exhibited this behavior toward us as well. 
  6. I’ve been called a bitch, evil, a burden, etc. Cutting words.

Readers, this abuse is something that the Lord is slowly lifting off of my heart every day. With each morning, I feel that God is calling the abuse out of me, calling to my mind the painful memories so we can work through them together. Every time I see my therapist, I receive so much healing and validation. I love therapy. I highly recommend it!

Now, this piece is about relating to God as Father when you’ve been abused, especially by a man. I never realized that I had an incorrect and incomplete view of God as Father until recently. My Christian walk up until age 23, my current age, has been about legalism. I always wanted to “do the right thing” and “be a good Christian.” I wanted to please God. I wanted Him to be proud of me. I want my Dad to be proud to be my Dad. I didn’t want God to punish me. 

I never experienced that light freedom that comes from loving Christ and being loved by Him until recently. Actually, you know, picturing Christ in my mind when I thought of God was easier than thinking of the Father. This could be because the Father seems a bit removed from us in the sense that He does not have a body. He is Spirit. But, Christ has a body, so it’s easier to relate to Him. That’s so genius of God to send Christ. 🙂

But, this is how my walk has been. This has been how I related to God. I can’t quite pinpoint what really happened to change it, but one night I was reading Romans 4 and the realization of God’s holy grace rushed over me! The Holy Spirit came upon me in a powerful way and I wept for hours, finally realizing that God loves me because He is love and because He made me, not because I’m “good.”

For those of you who struggle with viewing God as Father, listen to me. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I don’t have this all figured out yet and I won’t until I join the Lord in heaven, but it gets easier. My recommendation is to:

  1. Deal with the memories when they come up (as long as is healthy for you)
  2. Seek therapy (whether that’s formal counseling or some type of counseling from church)
  3. Pray to your Father
  4. Read the sections of the Bible where the Father is mentioned as loving, patient, kind, and understanding
  5. Wait on the Lord. He will heal you.

 

Friend, what happened to you was not something unknown to God. He knew it would happen. He didn’t want it to! But, we have free will. However, what Satan meant for evil in your life, God will turn it around for your good! You will be a blessing to yourself and to others. God will bring you to a place where you can speak to others about your past and your healing. Many will come to the Lord through your testimony. Many will find healing. I firmly believe this. Rest in God. Let HIS strength be Yours. He loves you because He’s your Abba. ❤

 

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel,
I knew you were going to a place where everything would be made right.
Your body would be restored.
Life would be renewed.

A place where pain no longer ruled
And sickness was a forgotten foe.
Where humans didn’t kill each other
Over religious beliefs or skin color.

Yet you didn’t want to go.
Not many of us do desire to leave
Although what’s awaiting some of us
Is divine glory beyond comprehension.

But, the cancer ate away at your body.
The doctors removed your stomach;
Left you bare.

I wonder if you remembered what food tasted like,
What it was like to drink something cool and refreshing.
Or had you become accustomed to the tubes
That kept you with us, although you were suffering?

Nabeel,
In this world, you left the old life for the new.
The only promise you had to cling to
Was the promise of God’s ever-presence.

We are not ensured health in this life
Nor wealth, although we try
To keep a firm grip on both.

Nabeel,
You showed me what it meant to be a Christian.
To suffer, to be sick, and to love Jesus regardless.
You’re in the Lord’s arms and that brings comfort.
But we’ll miss you and the work you did for the people you loved.

Nabeel,
You are enjoying everything new.
New body.
New mind.
New home.
We just wish you didn’t have to go.

 

 

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. – John 11:25

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. – Philippians 1:21

My Thorn

My dreams often times run wild and free. My dreams…what are they? From where do they come? Is it just me in there? Or does my Father sculpt them? Perhaps it’s both blended together. God’s influence and my talents working as one. That’s the ideal, but is it true for me?

My worst enemy will always be me. Pulling against Him as He extracts the rotten growth. Those roots run deep. They’ve woven themselves around my heart and traveled between the curves in my brain. I pray and wait for Him to set me free.

But perhaps this is just my particular thorn. Everyone’s got one, I’m sure of that. When I grasp the rose that is God’s heart, my thorn cuts deeper in my palm, but I squeeze tighter. Regardless of the pain I let the blood trickle down. It’s not mine. It’s His. It cleans me as I hold on. My thorn forms the crown He wore.

I was blessed by my Lord with a big heart. It burdens me as I live, move, and have my being. This heart of mine, it isn’t mine anymore. I gave that ownership to another, to the Only. A heart for His purposes must not be filthy; it must be purified. But, it must always be broken.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Dear America: My Father is White (And That’s Okay)

This weekend has been jam packed with hospital visits and emergency surgeries, but I finally have a few moments to sit and breathe.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m “biracial.” My mother is Afro-Puerto Rican and my father is German-American. In other words, my mother is brown and my dad is white. Their union created me, ethnically ambiguous me, and I enjoy looking so distinct. Although my mixed heritage has been difficult to embrace at times, mostly because of others’ reactions to me, I love who God made me to be. I’m blessed to not be stuck in one culture and one mindset. Because I’m mixed, I can easily move between many cultures and believe that this will help me win souls for Christ. 

While being different is fabulous, there are aspects of the mixed life that are annoying and, at times, disturbing: some people think I’m my father’s wife. Yes, some people see me, a brown-skinned, curly-haired 23-year old woman out with a white 57-year old man and assume that any relationship between us must be of a sexual and romantic nature. Are you vomiting yet?

Growing up, I instinctually knew that society would perceive us in this way and when I became a teenager, I would make it a point to call my father “dad” or refer to “mom” whenever we were out in public. My fear of being mislabeled was profound. As a little girl, no one thought that anything inappropriate was happening between my father and I; we were just father and daughter. But, as I grew older, I knew that doubts would arise.

I could see it in people’s eyes when my dad and I shopped for groceries. I could feel their judgement on my back when I would hug my dad in public.

“Who is this little brown girl?”

“Is she some mail order bride?”

“That’s disgusting.” 

This fear subsided for some time because I lived in New York, and people were liberal. It was not inconceivable for a white man to have a brown child in New York. However, moving to Georgia has shown me a different side of America. Here, I go out with my father with the constant fear that someone will assume that our relationship is not familial. The other day, we went to Walmart (I hate them, but my dad’s a sucker for a bargain), and at the checkout line, we engaged in our typical witty banter, much to the amusement of the beautiful and sweet African-American cashier. When my dad left the checkout line to wash his hands (he got chicken blood on them -__-), the cashier asked me my age.

“I’m 23.”

“Oh, wow! I was going to say 17!” she laughed.

“Yeah, that’s just because I have my glasses on.” I replied, smiling.

. . .

“Are y’all close?”, she asked.

I was taken aback. In what way was she asking this question? I hope she knows he’s my dad.

“Yeah, we are…he’s a good dad.” I answered. Good job, Gabby. Clarify the relationship.

“Really? Aw, thats great. It’s hard to find good dads these days.” she said, with a little sadness in her tone.

Amen, sister.

When my dad came back, the cashier remarked to him that I said he was a good father and he in turn commended me as a daughter.

We left the store and I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman who saw my father and I together and immediately knew what our relationship was. That is rare.

 

This feeling didn’t last long. The next day, my father was rushed to the ER with what he thought were heart attack symptoms (turns out it was a panic attack), and the EMT who arrived at our house referred to me as my father’s wife. My dad immediately corrected him and he apologized.

Blunders like that happen often, but I asked myself why does this happen so often to us? It’s clear that my dad is almost 60 and I’ve been mistaken for a teenager countless times. Does anyone seriously think we’re married? If so, why?

I believe there’s only one reason that some people don’t understand our relationship: my skin color. If I were completely white, no one would doubt that this almost 60-year old white man and white 23-year old girl were father and daughter. In fact, if the genders were switched, I highly doubt that anyone would assume an older white woman would be in a relationship with a young brown man. They would see him as her son, wouldn’t they? No one would question it. But, because I have brown skin and I’m a woman, suddenly the relationship is not clear. This should not be so.

We live in an era where people freely marry people of other cultures and have babies with them. These babies grow into young adults and then adults who must deal with society’s perception of them and their parents for their entire lives. It is so damaging to a mixed person to be perceived as so incredibly “other” that we must not be related. We must be some young bride. Some sugar baby. Isn’t that the picture they have in their heads?

I wish this would stop. A girl shouldn’t fear going in public with her father simply because she’s of a certain age and different skin tone than he is. So, yes my dad is white. He’s my dad and will always be my papa bear. I’ll hug him in public and let them think what they will. He’s my dad and that’s all that matters.