I was naive.
Your skin, your culture, your life, the system, the poverty…all of it.
I thought the enlightenment of my early 20s, the empathy in my heart, and my love for you was enough of a starting point, but it wasn’t.
I was captivated by the boy from Lubumbashi. Stories of an imagination that freed you from the realities of growing up in a place full of natural beauty, yet ravaged by the aftershocks of genocide and Belgian rule. A place that would only know civil war and greed in its aftermath, and would leave you and your family never feeling free.
That same spirit carried you as you and your family would journey through three countries, live in a refugee camp, and finally make it to South Africa on the heels of the Apartheid.
You didn’t know it yet, but you would begin your new life as a black foreigner—treated like a black man to the naked eye, but put down even further once they would hear your voice. An experience that would leave you, yet again, never feeling free.
I’ve gotten to ride the front seat a mere 4 years out of your 14 here in the land of American dreams; a concept I now know I have taken for granted as I’ve watched you work tirelessly to achieve the tiniest bit of it. I’ve seen you graciously put on a happy face being used as the token man of color in work, opportunities, and social groups time and time again. You’ve been picked at, pulled over, questioned, and put down, yet your optimism and love for this place and its people has been humbling to say the least.
Your American story is rare, yet enriches the collective black narrative of never feeling fully free. Never feeling like you belong—always having to prove yourself and play catch-up— striving for goals that put you at a different starting point than your white counterpart.
It’s all too real. I see you.
I see the generations of sadness, disapproval, and trauma in your eyes everyday. I stand with you, our baby, and our brothers and sisters. I acknowledge a pain and reality too great to ever fully understand, but worth every fight.
I love you,
Your white wife.
Re-posted with permission.
Written by Gretchen Muya, a love letter to her husband and my brother-in-law.
INSTAGRAM @gretcherz @gretchendawleybridal @yvesmuya