TITLE: God's Beautiful Child
By Venice Kichura
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For once life was good, thought college freshman, Amber Mitchell, as she walked into a campus gift store to apply for a job. It was only her second week of school and she’d already bonded with her new roommate, Liz. She liked her courses and professors. And, she’d found a job opening close to her dorm.
More importantly, she finally fit in here. With 40,000 other students from all over the world here at the University of Texas at Austin, who cared if she were biracial? Thank God, she was finally out of Cramdon Creek, Texas where she’d felt like an outcast all her life. Here maybe folks couldn’t even tell if someone was a half breed. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Austin was the most liberal city in Texas, not like her hometown three hours away.
Her skin was almost fair like her Swedish mother’s. But if you studied her face, you could easily see her African-American features. Verbal battering from other kids in childhood only made her work harder to prove her worth. However, she still struggled with her identity. Her hard work had won her a full scholarship to UT, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Another goal, that she once had, was to meet the father she’d never known. She was the product of an affair between a young white girl and a biracial man.
But now she wasn’t so sure she wanted to meet him.
Am I white? Or am I black? That’s the question that plagued her for 18 years . She’d decided it was better to just choose a race and ignore your other cultural roots.
“Here Miss.“ The busy woman at the back desk smiled at Amber and handed her a job application. “You can sit here and fill this out.”
“Thanks,” Amber said, sitting down, looking over the application.
She felt proud listing all the honors and awards she’d received in high school. She’d been salutatorian and had served with several service organizations. But then her pen froze, stopping dead cold when she came to the one question that made her blood boil. That old familiar set of shattered, confused emotions welled up inside her as she stared at the two boxes. Please check one--- white or black.
“Can I take this home and return it later?
“Sure,” said the woman, looking up from her desk. “Just make sure not to wait too long because we’ll be selecting applicants next week.”
Walking home to her dorm, Amber thought of how unfair the world was. She knew now she had been prematurely happy. We still live in a world of black and white. She had gone through the same trauma filling out college applications. Was she white? Or was she black? If she listened to the taunts of her childhood classmates, she was a zebra, an Oreo cookie, a half breed, meaning only half a person.
She’d been raised by her fair-skinned mother and Irish stepfather in a white middle class neighborhood in a small Texas town. Standing next to her mother and two younger towed headed step sisters and red-headed stepfather, she stood out as the different one. She could almost pass as white if it weren’t for her thick lips and frizzy black hair. She grew up lonely, not having many friends. Her best friend was a book.
Her pity party was interrupted by the familiar chorus ringing on her cell phone. The phone sang out the ,” Alleluia,” chorus, the cue song for her religious mother. Her mother had found God after her affair with her biracial father. Amber had been raised in church and even had professed faith in Jesus. But she got mixed messages from the kids there who teased her. If this is how church people act, then I can do without the church,” she told herself.
“What’s wrong, Honey?” “I can tell by your voice that you’re upset.”
“Oh, nothing new, really,” she said, not wanting to talk about the job application.
“Amber? I have something to tell you,” her mother said with a serious tone.
“Oh no! It’s not Mitsy, is it?" Her 12-year golden retriever was slowing down lately and she feared the worst.
“No, Honey, your dog is fine. But she misses you just like we all do.”
“Amber, you won’t believe this, but I just got a call from your father and he wants to meet you.”
Amber was speechless. After all these years, now he wants to meet her? Just when she wanted to forget her black heritage..She cracked her knuckles, just as she always did when she was troubled.
The lull was longer than usual when Amber was frozen in her thoughts, so her mother broke the silence saying, "Honey, are you still there?"
"Yeah, Mom. Look, this is too much to take in right now, Mom. Let me think about it, Ok? I’ll get back with you soon I’ve got to go now, “she said, walking into her room. “Love you, Mom”
She was so distraught she didn't even greet her roommate. Liz was rearranging her book shelf when she heard her a plob on Liz's bunk bed.
“Hey Amber, are you OK?” Liz asked. “You look confused.”
“No, not really, but thanks for asking. I just have some decisions to make.”
“Whenever I have a lot on my mind, I knit and pray,” said Liz.
“Unbelievable!” Amber exclaimed. “You, too?” We really do have a lot in common. I can’t say I talk to God that much, but I knit, too, when I’m stressed. Only I’m out of yarn.”
“I have some left over yarn right here, “Liz said, opening her bottom dresser drawer. “There’s not much, but help yourself.
“Thanks, Liz, but I just want to knit to calm down, not to make anything. This will be fine.”
“You know you can talk to me. I’m here if you need me. Tonight , we‘re all going to hear this evangelist, Tom Jenson, speak at the Young Life rally down on the campus mall. Want to come with us and knit later?
“No thanks,” Amber said, clearly, but politely. She knew her roommate was religious and didn’t want to offend her. She’d grown up with a religious mother. Now that she was away from home, she wanted to find out just want she believed for herself. However, she was impressed at how kind Liz was. She wished the kids back home could have been as Christian as her roommate.
“I understand how you need to be alone sometimes to think. The speaker we’re going to hear tonight spoke at my church last year. There’s a video of his message in the VCR. Just punch play if you get bored. The guy is amazing!”
“Thanks, again, but I just need to be alone with my thoughts. Have a good time,” she said. She hadn’t come to college to get more religion. She’d had enough of that back in Crampton Creek.
Liz left and Amber was alone with her thoughts and knitting needles. Examining the yarn scraps, she had to chuckle when she noticed the yarn steins were shades of white and dark navy blue that looked almost black. “Well, here we go, “she said, picking up the yarns. I can’t decide on which color, so guess I’ll knit a biracial scarf. After half an hour, her project took shape and looked good. The constant clicking of her knitting needles almost put her to sleep they were so soothing. She still couldn’t decide what to do about her dad or the job application.
Weary of her own thoughts, she wanted to run from making any decisions. Maybe I should see just how radically religious my new roommate is, she mused, finding herself pushing “play” on the TV/VCR remote.
“Your identity is not in who are you, what you do, or what you look like,” the speaker began his message. It’s only found in knowing your identity in Jesus Christ.”
The words touched her heart, but she was more drawn to the speaker’s physical appearance. The world would consider him an ugly man. His face was deformed from the Gulf War 15 years ago. She listened and learned that his war injury had led him to faith in Christ. He, too, appeared black, but it wasn’t that easy to tell. His hair was light brown and straight. He had such a warm smile on his face, he was beautiful. At the end of the 20 minute video, she was challenged. She had heard a lot of sermons in her lifetime, but nothing like this.
This man and his message gave her hope. She was energized now and recommitted her life to Christ, quietly bowing her head. She immediately felt a peace. Suddenly it didn’t matter what her race was. She was God’s child and that’s all that mattered. Glancing at her emerging black and white scarf, she was surprised how lovely it was turning out. It was beautiful and so was she! For the first time in her life she felt beautiful. She knew her life at UT would be happier than her childhood years. It wasn’t just because more of the kids were more accepting. It would be because she would start seeing herself as a beautiful person and not a half breed. She wasn’t a fraction of anything. She wasn’t half-and-half, but whole in her identity in Christ.
Now that she’d come to know more of the love of her heavenly Father, she was ready to meet her biological father. Maybe she could help him too. After all, he was biracial and probably suffered the same painful childhood that she’d undergone.
And as for the job application, it just didn’t matter what she checked. She knew who she was in Christ and that’s all that mattered. She was God’s beautiful child.
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