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A Letter to America

By Yuliana Kim-Grant


Dear America,


Before you call the police or point your gun at them, I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about my husband and my son. I understand that if you were to see them on the street, you might see only a black middle-aged man and a young black teenager. Perhaps in a certain context, you might see them as threatening, even if they are not in their everyday lives. I understand how powerful context can be. Our friends, especially our white friends, would have a hard time understanding how anyone could view my goofy, smart, kind husband as threatening, much less my kind, sensitive son. So, before you feel the need to dial 911 or to point your gun at either of them, I thought I would tell you a little about them.

If I could use one word to describe my husband, it would be “ethical.” His unwavering code of living ethically is impressive, not because I’m one without ethics but perhaps because I understand that my ethics could bend just enough if I were faced with a crisis and the bending were necessary for my survival. Not for my husband. This ethical foundation goes back to my father-in-law, a man who served his country, first in the military and then as a diplomat in far-flung countries across the globe. His work as a diplomat required him to represent and embody our county’s democratic values of life, liberty, and justice for all, even if his people back home experienced none of that whatsoever. My husband is a man who gets up at 4:30 every morning to exercise, not because he has to be at work at a specific time. See, the privilege of an Ivy League education and multiple degrees means you can be at your desk or office at a time of your designation or, at the least, in time for your first call or meeting. No, my husband’s early morning routine is borne from some ingrained discipline that I sometimes wish I had been born with as well. He applies this discipline and, by extension, his ability to work tirelessly and without complaint to his career, to his role as a son, husband, brother, and father. Let me say that if he needed to, in spite of his degrees and education, he would have no problem getting a second job at a fast-food restaurant to make sure he provided for his family. I know I can’t say I would be able to do the same. So, before you dial 911 or you point a gun at him, please try to remember some of his qualities.


My husband is a man who loves his country, even if this country is imperfect in its democratic ideals set forth by the founding fathers. His love for his country means he is willing to stay and do his part to make this imperfect union a little more perfect. Perhaps his deep-seated love is a result of having spent most of his life living overseas, representing his country as the son of a diplomat. But his unwavering love is something I have known since our first meeting, in 1993. The recent events of the pandemic, the death of another black man, and the mass rioting have shaken him in a way I have not seen in all our years together. We can point fingers at the leadership or lack of leadership that has brought our country to its knees, but then we would be developing amnesia about the hundreds of years of this country’s imperfections. So, before you dial 911 or you point a gun at him, please try to remember some of these qualities about him.


My husband is a man who loves music, devours pop culture, and most important loves time with me and our son first and foremost. Although all his education and worldly travel might suggest a complexity to his nature, I can say that he is a simple man at heart, a man who puts his own needs aside to make certain those around him have their needs met first. He is a man who loves his mother’s home cooking as much as the finest meal at a Michelin-star restaurant. He is a man with great humility, never throwing in anyone’s face his greater educational credentials and exceptional skills that have helped establish his career. So, before you dial 911 or you point a gun at him, please try to remember some of these qualities about him.


My son, who is biracial, who will forever be viewed as black in this country, is a young man of great sensitivity and thoughtfulness. He is a son any parent would be proud of: athlete, student government president, good student, kind human, and very good son. He is now a young man, the same one who asked me to talk to the mom of his third-grade classmate who was being bullied. That talk helped his classmate’s parents realize what their son was enduring at school and helped turn this young boy’s school year. He is the young man who stands up to give his seat on the subway or bus to an elder, even if that elder might think of him as “nigger” or “boy.” So, before you call 911 or point your gun at him, please try to remember these qualities about him.


My son is a young man, much like his father, with a very strong code of ethics. Sometimes I worry that his sense of justice or right will make him rigid, but if I were to choose between his ethics or lack thereof, I would choose ethics obviously. He is a young man whose sensitivity is such that he knows how I am feeling before I choose to express my emotions. His sensitivity allows him to cry without embarrassment. As a mother, I am very proud I have been able to raise a young man who can express his emotions without shame. So, before you call 911 or point your gun at him, please try to remember these qualities about him.


My son is a young man who cares about doing right and doing something with his life. He is not a son we’ve had to coerce or threaten to stay on top of his schoolwork. If anything, we’ve had to work to make sure he isn’t so hard on himself. He loves music, loves sports, loves food, and still enjoys spending time with his parents. So, before you call 911 or point your gun at him, please try to remember these qualities about him.

So, if you are going to dial 911 or point your gun at them, I pray that someone, anyone, will be able to film their last minutes, not because I want their deaths used as a prop to restart the same discussion about racial inequality. Rather, I hope to see their last few minutes so that I won’t have to imagine what those last few minutes were like for the rest of my life.

Yuliana is a yoga teacher, author, wife, and mother. Find out more about her at https://www.yulianakimgrant.com.


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