I haven’t even gotten a chance to hold you at all yet, and already I want to hold you a little tighter.
Beautiful girl. You got your mama’s big, questioning brown eyes and your daddy’s quick and open smile. And you got your smooth-as-silk dark chocolate skin from both of them. What a blessing, you’re gonna grow up to be a striking beauty just your mama and your grandmas.
But also, what a burden, the same burden that they bear, the same burden their mamas and their grandmas bore, the burden they will fight to save you from, and the burden that you will, I’m so sorry, probably inherit.
Beautiful Hilde. This world’s gonna break your heart.
Two days ago, a bunch of people who have an awful lot in common with me voted for man with hate in his heart. White folks, Southerners, Christians, they voted for this man. Some of them voted for him in spite of the things he says. Some of them painted a picture of this man in their heads and voted for that picture. Some of them thought the alternative was worse, and, well, it wasn’t great, but it probably wasn’t worse than this. And then, some of them voted for him because he gave them permission to return to old stories about power and hate and race. Ghosts and monsters that I thought were buried and gone, faded into the past, have come roaring back, summoned by this man’s incantations and spells.
Precious gift, soft and snuggly burrito blanket baby, there are people who look like me who don’t want you here. There are people who will decide that they know everything about you because they see all that melatonin in your skin, and what they think they know won’t be flattering. There are authority figures who will see you, innocent child, as a threat, as somebody who needs to be controlled. History is trying to repeat itself, and history was not kind to sweet, sleepy infants with chocolate skin who grew up commit the crime of being a black woman in America.
Little girl, tiny baby. You have so much to learn about how foolish and awful adults can be.
I pray that the monsters never come to you. May you be treated with the dignity and respect of a monarch. May you never have your dreams crushed, your personhood diminished, or your freedom taken away.
And may my words be more than words.
Hilde, your mom is teaching me about the importance of fighting for what’s right. She’s teaching me that first thing I have to fight is my own complacency. She’s teaching me to use my voice and my position as an amplifier for the voices of the oppressed. She’s teaching me that it’s not enough to rely on the system to generally get it right, that the system has to be challenged, directed, influenced.
She’s teaching me to be bold. I’m not very good at it, but I hope I’m getting better.
Hildegard. Your mom told me she gave you a warrior’s name, a name for a queen. You’re going to need it.
But you are not alone out there. Not as long as I’m around. I will do everything I can to keep the monsters at bay. I will help to teach you that there is a hope beyond this world and a redemption now and yet to come.
I will also teach you how to drive a stick shift and how to write at least a little code. I’ll show you the best places to find Asian food in Atlanta and how to knit a hat. I’ll show you that even though life has lots of hard things in store for you, there’s a lot of good out there too.
Hilde, I don’t know what’s in store, but I know that whatever it is, I’ll be there for you. Hold me to it.