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What's In A Name

What's In A Name

Dear Ximena,

I hope that when you are older, all you know is beauty, hope and happiness. I hope you always feel safe, and like no matter where you are or where you end up living, your parents always feel like home.

Normally, I would be proud at the fact that people have a hard time pronouncing your name. I think being different is important; it builds character, and will make you into a strong, woman who, I hope, is not afraid to correct people who call you “See-mena” or “Chimena”.

When I named you Ximena, I was well aware that it was not a smooth, roll-off-the-tongue, there-are-so-many-of-you-in-my-class name. I like that people have to pause, think, ask questions. Ximena is strong, like a shield. It actually means “listener,” though I never want you to be reduced to a pair of ears. You are so vocal already, telling us what you want in that way only you can: your expressive “Oh’s!” and “Ba’s!” (Ball is your favorite word right now), your curious eyes, your little hands pointing, grabbing, always learning.

As much as I hate to admit it, though, I am scared. I woke up thinking one day: holy shit, nobody ever knows how to say your name. Your future teachers will trip over it on the first day of school, a crack on their banal sidewalk. Your future classmates may even make fun of it. “He-men-ah?! He-man! Ha! Ha!”

Your teachers will never know how incredibly smart you are, how incredibly advanced. If you ever get pulled over for speeding, the cop will not know how when you were just 9 months old, you had the vocabulary and intelligence of a 12 month old - how could he?

They will only see your name. They will look up, and the color of your skin will confirm their suspicions.

They may cast you aside, they may think you are less than. But you must never let them.

Over the last year, too many people of color have died at the hands of police officers. I know I cannot always protect you, I know I cannot always make you understand how beautiful and powerful you are. 

I know you are still too young to understand most of this. Some day, you will run up to me, demanding to know why you were made fun of for your name. Or why your teacher put you in English-learner classes when you have been reading Harry Potter from the womb. Or why you were questioned for walking around after the city's curfew, when your other lighter skinned friends weren't stopped.

I am bracing myself for these things - these important moments in your life. These moments will create you. They will mould you. But they should never define you. 

I hope I am wrong. I hope things are radically, systemically, 1000% different. I hope people that look like you and me and our neighbors stop dying needlessly at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us.

I wonder how many other moms have to bury their fury and the fear, all while drenching their children in love, the only certain unwavering armor we can offer.

Remember to keep your chin up, and always correct the assholes who mispronounce your name. You are the most beautiful, brilliant person I have ever met, and I am honored to get to fight by your side.  

Love,

Your mama

In loving memory of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and too many other lives lost. #BlackLivesMatter today and always.

Credits // Art: Margarita Sikorskaia

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