Dear Xander and Alex,
When I first found out I was going to be a mom, I was so excited. I didn’t realize there would be two of you! But the joy that you have brought me over the almost four years of your lives is indescribable. Looking at you every morning when you wake up and putting you down to bed every evening are the best moments of my day.
I’m writing this letter to you because I know that one day I’m going to have to have a talk with you about what it’s like to grow up Black in America.
The murder of George Floyd last year when you were just two years old was something that shook the national consciousness. But it was something that exposed to the nation what your father and I have known for years, that systemic inequities and violence against Black folks has not stopped — not even close.
Just last weekend, a man named Daunte Wright lost his life when he was shot in Minnesota during the same week and just miles from where the man, who put his knee on George Floyd’s neck and suffocated him to death, was on trial. This was only a few months after 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario was pepper sprayed by police and assaulted, for no reason whatsoever, when he was on his way to my hometown of Petersburg, VA.
I wish I didn’t have to say this to my sons, but being Black in America is hard. It’s an experience that your father and I have lived for almost 40 years now. When I was a little girl, I was told that there were some neighborhoods that I couldn’t be in after dark. But today, your father experiences the feeling that a traffic stop for him could mean a life or death situation. And while a lot of progress has been made, there is still so much work to do.
I ran for Delegate in 2017, right when I got pregnant with you two, because I wanted to make a change for people who came from my community — people who looked like me, people who looked like you, and all of the folks who felt as though they had no voice and needed someone to lift them up. When I was in the House of Delegates, I worked hard to make sure that all Virginians were represented well. I was proud of my work to ban chokeholds by police officers, to bring healthcare to our community, and to make sure that Brown, Black, and marginalized children are not excluded from receiving an education no matter how they style their hair or if they wear a religious head covering.
When I look at you in the morning, as you skip through the house and play with your trucks, I can’t help but to be so in love with this time because you are the sweetest little boys ever. But this time is also precious because I know that you’re oblivious to the kinds of hurt and harm done to our community. When you’re older, we will sit down to talk about all of this. But until then, I’m going to keep fighting, and if I’m elected Governor, I hope to make a real change for all kids in Virginia — and especially for you. I’m going to hold bad actors accountable. I’m going to make sure that mental health professionals have a role as first responders and make sure that officers actually use the de-escalation techniques they are trained to use so that everyone is treated the way we should be treated.
With all that mommy is trying to do, there will still be lots of work that needs to be done to address the decades of racism, redlining, voter suppression, land theft, mass incarceration, and Jim Crow segregation. Being Black in America will still be difficult, and it kills me to think about the ways you may be treated based on the color of your skin. So it will be up to my generation, and yours, to tear down this broken system and implement policies that are intended to protect people because we have too many over-policed, disinvested, and stigmatized communities. And I hope that when you’re older, more people will wake up to the hurt and the harm done to Black Americans and work harder to create a world where equality is our reality.
Xander and Alex, I love you so much. Hopefully, you won’t have to have the same talk with your children. My fight is for you and all Virginians who have been left behind. My purpose is to create legislation to improve Virginia and to represent our Commonwealth well. As your mom, I’ll do everything I can to protect you for as long as I can. And I’m going to work my hardest as Governor, to make sure that I leave this place a little better than how I found it.
I love you.