Zu has a head that instinctively understands music and a heart that is drawn to a catchy song. Melody and rhythm flow through her like a tranquil stream through alpine wilderness. She feels the emotion of a song in the deepest recesses of her being.
It's a gift.
And she sings. Oh how she sings. Her voice is lovely. And sweet like marshmallows. Some of my most cherished moments have been those seeing her lost in giddy bliss - belting out the chorus to an Owl City song. Or holding her in my arms while we sing Hey Jude together. Or when a special tune comes up on her MP3 player and she says, "This is my favorite song, how did you know?"
Someday, when she's older, she's going to be one of those girls with her own YouTube channel singing her own versions of popular songs.
I occasionally picture an older version of her with an acoustic guitar in her hand or sitting behind a keyboard, and I imagine her future voice replacing the vocals of whatever music I have playing. Most of the time, this imaginative jaunt into days yet to come makes me smile.
This is what I was doing the other day while listening to an old Counting Crows album. The song playing was one of my favorites - Have You Seen Me Lately? When the chorus started, I began to imagine Zu's voice replacing the one belonging to Adam Duritz. "I was out on the radio starting to change. Somewhere out in America, it's starting to rain."
That image of a teenaged version of my daughter rocking this song that the teenaged version of me used to listen to brought me joy. It's the same sense of hope and optimism I feel when I imagine the awesome things my boys JJ and Christian could accomplish in their lifetime.
But as the song continued to play, I was reminded of a truth about life that I know my kids will wrestle with sooner or later. In the song's bridge, Duritz sings, "Come on color me in. Give me your blue rain. Give me your black sky. Give me your green eyes. Come on give me your white skin." To let it sink in, he repeats that last line a couple of times.
Come on give me your white skin.
Come on give me your white skin.
Suddenly, the though of my sweet girl singing those words broke my heart. Because I know the day is coming where she will feel those words, even if she never speaks them.
For now, I shouldn't worry. My daughter is fiercely proud of her Native American heritage. If you call them Indians, she will correct you. And I'm thankful that her friends at church and school have accepted her for who she is. And I love her beautiful mocha colored skin, her piercing brown eyes, and her blend of raven and chocolate hair that shimmers in sunlight. I will always see her as a priceless gift, a treasure.
But lets be real. We live in North Idaho, an area with a notorious history with white supremacy. Even in more diverse areas of our nation, America still struggles with issues of race. Someday, my kids will enter that world beyond the shelter of my guidance. Because of that, I know that someone somewhere will treat Zu and her little brother with less dignity and respect than they deserve for no other reason than their ancestry. I know that in the ugliness of adolescent comparison, a classmate will deem Zu less beautiful because of the pigment of her skin. I know that no matter how hard I try to protect them from the evils of this world, someday my kids will feel hated, they will be discriminated against, they will experience racism.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope that attitudes change. I hope that every teacher, every peer, and every stranger my kids meet in the street see them for who they are. I hope that my kids grow up in a society where everyone is treated fairly. And I hope Zu and JJ never wish they had been born with white skin.