My parents were married in the mid-1940s. My siblings and I are not certain of the exact date. In fact, we are learning there were many things we don’t know.
My parents came from the South: Arkansas and Tennessee. They left soon after marrying for the freedom of the West.
Mixed marriages were not accepted in the South, especially not in 1940. And this is where the story takes an interesting twist, because until very recently, I was not aware it was a mixed marriage.
For my entire childhood and into my adult life, my mother held a secret close to her heart. She told her children that she was French Creole, a rich mix of French and Black ancestry, with a little German thrown in. We never met our grandparents or any of their families, so we had no reference point. We believed all we were told.
Now we’ve learned that Mom was a descendant of an English mother (Sussex, England) and a German father. No French, no African American—just European.
So, you may ask, why the deception? Surely she knew her lineage.
Why Did My Mother Mask Her Identity?
I think it goes back to marrying a black man in the 1940s, when mixed marriages were not accepted in the South and not in the climate of that era.
Life during this time was filtered through the lens of World War II. The prevailing culture was anti-German and anti-Japanese. Although Blacks were given access to serve in the military and work in the defense industry, they faced racism, unequal pay, a lack of freedom, and death—including death by lynching. For African Americans, separate and unequal was the reality.
When Mom and Dad walked down the aisle, my mother walked away from everything she knew: family, friends, identity, and her history—all because of love. She was protecting her husband. Instead of looking back, she committed to a life that would, at times, be unrelenting, isolating, and painful.
From that day forward, she designated herself Creole, an identity that, under the circumstances of her new marriage, was far safer than the one given her at birth. On every critical document (marriage certificate and census status), she recognized herself as Black. Her original birth certificate was mysteriously destroyed in a fire. No copy was ever available.
Her love was displayed in a selfless cover-up.
She willingly sacrificed all she had to share life with her husband, and to give life to her children.
Love Was Her Greatest Motivator
I often wonder if she ever looked back. When life pressed in, did she regret walking away, changing her identity? When her husband broke her heart or her children disappointed her, did she long for what had been? I will never know. But I do know that she stood strong, stayed true, and loved despite it all.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the Apostle Paul shared a biblical definition of love:
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance,” (NLT).
I’ve learned that Mom practiced this definition. Her love never gave up; she never lost faith; she remained hopeful, and endured through difficult circumstances.
We Can All Choose Love and Simultaneously Fight Hate
Today, we are living in an environment that mirrors my parents’ reality. African Americans continue to struggle under systemic practices that foster racism, injustice, and even death. But unlike the overt attacks against my parents, today we live with subtle and insidious assaults—the mugging of individual value and self-image, a clever corruption of the future.
As humans, we each have the burden and the privilege of fighting the bully of hate.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
So, “unarm truth.” Love unconditionally.
Both things we can do to redirect the history of a painful past.
As humans, we each have the burden and the privilege of fighting the bully of hate. So, unarm truth. Love unconditionally.
My mother did what she felt she had to do. The only option available to her was to deny who she was to become the person she believed God wanted her to be. She believed that her and my dad’s love was enough to withstand the hate they experienced.
Today, our love continues to remain stronger than the hate we encounter. I commit to seeking truth, standing strong in it, and loving others, unrestrained, from that place in my heart that reflects God’s character. The place that reveals His power.
Practice patience, kindness, humility, justice, and rejoice whenever the truth wins. And never give up or lose faith or hope. This will shift our world from one hardened by hate to one enveloped by love.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How We Can Stand With the Black Community With Dr. Zoe Shaw – 136!