How Can I Explain 2020 to You?

Letters to my Daughter .3

The Love That Transcends This Home is Greater Than The Hate Outside of It.

Your Mother

I didn’t know my purpose

I had no idea what I was searching for in life. I was afraid of taking action because I was afraid of the judgement and the pushback for being myself. For wanting the things I wanted.

I didn’t know that when I cried those tears they were fear leaving my body. I thought I was crying because my life, as I had known it was over, but it simply changing.

You will be two soon, and while last year we had the most beautiful blessed family reunion (catered by your grandmother, of course) I have no idea what this year will be like.

Lovingly decorated and created by Grandma, Baby J 2019

I don’t even know where to begin. 2020 will go down in history like a ton of bricks. Our lives upended, our wills tested and our morality at stake.

I had no idea that fear could drive humanity to its breaking point, but is it even there yet?

The world is confusing, battered with hatred and fear-mongering and for some reason, I chose to bring you into the world. Hope may have been reason, but while I was selfish in my motivations and “let life happen” to me; I cannot allow the same to happen to you.

I want to be the kind of role model I wish I had growing up. I want to be the kind of mother I never knew I could be. I want to provide the best way I know how, by living my life truthfully.

I have never been more afraid of what your future will entail because I cannot foresee what kind of future any of us might have. We are living in unprecedented times, where neighbors and allies are not enough. Where being kind is not enough.

I never want you to grow up with fear of persecution or feelings of inadequacy based on what you look like. You share the beautiful history of so many, written into your DNA! All of the world, literally!

I am imbued with the history of Western Europe, Western Africa, North and South America; all written into my skin. Your father as we know, has 5,000 years of history just under the surface (although I’d love to know what else is written in those features). But I want you to never feel ashamed for where you come from, who your ancestors were, what place in society we now have.

You are the product of LOVE!

As unlikely as the two of us seem to be, as different as night and day, we somehow fell in love. You are the product of that love- You are our gift to the world.

But I don’t know how to protect you from it.

From questions like What are you?

When I look at my own internal scars, my pain points, I don’t want them to infect you, but I don’t know how to not let you feel the hurt and pain of the world without exposing you to it. In order to learn we must listen, in order to grow we must fear ourselves head on.

This video from Cut, made me cry so hard. Not because it is our story, but because I can finally name the fear I have for you.

Courtesy of

To be judged for who you are based on what you look like

This year there was a virus that enveloped the world, that originated in China, your father’s place of birth. Because of this, some people used their fear as motivation to attack those that look like your father. He started wearing sunglasses in public, he told me the bright Spring sun hurt his eyes, but I heard the stories of the racist attacks. He was trying to be brave even though he could not control others’ fears and anxieties over something he wasn’t afflicted with.

When I was growing up, I was told I was many things, not all of them nice. So I changed parts of myself so that others would judge me less, the way I spoke, my hair, my Spanish. I don’t want my fears for you to plague the way I raise you, but my story will not be your story.

When I was a child, no one seemed to know where Dominican Republic was, so they called me ‘Mexican’, or in the summer when I darkened and my hair was curly from all the pool shenanigans, they asked if I was mixed. I always thought, Mixed with what? Children will always say things without consequences because of their curiosity and often because they do not have the words of eloquence or euphemism yet, but that doesn’t mean those words don’t hurt as one child to another. But I never told my parents these things. I don’t remember a single incident that I ever told them, would they have understood when even my Latina roots were always called into question.

The first time I shared this, a high school classmate commented on the fact that she’d never seen someone’s DNA story cover so much area, I guess she wasn’t aware of colonization.  But I did this for us so we would both know where we come from.

I look the way that I look because of colonization, the slave trade, the pursuit of discovery, adventure, probably pirates and greed, but it’s my story and I have no shame in it. I cannot control the way the past happened, I can only control how I feel about it. No one will ever be made happy because of how other’s treat them but if you know you are, truly, no one can ever take that away from you.

And since your father is the first of his family to leave the country, or so I gather, I can’t wait to do his DNA and find out any hidden truths. But guess what baby girl, you are the world. I’ve got at least 3 continents of history in me and your dad has at least one, 4 out 7 ain’t bad.

In our home, we speak Spanish, Mandarin, and English that’s like 90% of the languages in the world. Outside in Montreal they speak French, which we will both learn eventually. So while the world is hurting right now, contesting things that are pure evil and have been for a while, know this- the love in this home transcends the hate outside of it.

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”.

Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a Dream

That is the only thing that any parent wants and hopes for their child, but it is white parents that are often needed to be reminded of it. Because we, parents of color, are the ones that have to be reminded by others often that we are judged.

Your father has asked me why I didn’t take his name, my tradition not his, and I told him because my name dies with me. I have no brothers to my pass the family name traditionally, and I love my name. But there’s also a part of me that knew if I changed my name to your father’s, I would always have to explain.

Yan, but you don’t look Asian? But how many Filipinos we know with the last name Reyes or Cruz, why? Colonization, people! Get over it! Stop assuming things, stop letting your limited perspective of the world define it, instead acknowledge you don’t know everything and embrace it!

But now Mami is tired, her soul is wringed out like the laundry. Her story spent.

There is so much more I want and need to tell you, but it will have to wait just a little while longer.

With all my love,

Published by JSantana

Obsessed with Intentional Inclusivity and Fierce Belonging. Delivering Culture-Driven Leaders.

2 thoughts on “How Can I Explain 2020 to You?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: