Editor’s note: Ten years ago, the author of this essay, Julie Boyé, received an anonymous letter through the mail. The letter was riddled with expletives and racial slurs directed at Julie Boyé, who is married to British-American singer Alex Boyé, and her family. The letter states, in part, that Julie is a “disgrace to the rest of us white people,” because Julie is white and Alex is Black. The letter was signed “Concerned Parents.” In this essay, Julie Boyé is publicly responding to the letter for the first time.
Dear “Concerned Parents,”
I’ve wanted to respond to your letter for a long time now. But I don’t want you to think that you’ve been on the forefront of my mind. Actually, you’ve been benched in the back. But every so often, I think about the day I got your letter, and I’m reminded that people like you actually do exist, which I’ll never be able to comprehend.
It was 10 years ago when I received your stamped envelope in my mailbox. The handwriting looked like a kindergartener’s penmanship, complete with backwards R’s and a combination of upper and lowercase letters. You made the effort to make the handwriting unrecognizable, which I found strange.
“Who in Pennsylvania knows where I live?” I wondered.
I thought maybe it was fan mail of some kind. Sometimes people write to thank me for letting my husband, Alex Boyé, take time away from our family to perform a concert or speak. I thought it might be something like that.
It was not that.
It was a vile diatribe so profoundly disturbing that it reminded me of those described in Latter-day Saint scripture as “a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people.” Except you sat behind a computer like a coward, typed a letter berating my amazing, God-given family, got in your car, paid for a stamp and mailed your deranged rant anonymously. At least villains of old had the courage to show their faces.
You seemed to find pleasure in name-calling. You used the N-word repeatedly. You called my family “shameless ingrates” and “mongrels.” Multiple times, you called me a prostitute. I’ve come to realize that your letter is really about you, and not about me. It’s a reflection of how hurt you must be. Because hurt people hurt people.
Still, it’s astounding the way you choose to speak. You said you would disown your children if they were romantically involved with a person of another race, and that you’ve been telling them that since they were small. You said you would rather your kids be with a white father who abused them, than with a Black father who did not.
But here’s the kicker: There is hope for your kids, and maybe for you, too. Your kids, I believe, will likely be better than you. They may well be pioneers of peace in your family, not the carriers of repugnant racist beliefs passed down from an ignorant parent. Like my own husband, who was a victim of abuse, they may be the ones who can break the link to end a destructive chain within a family’s line. Who knows, maybe your children could be the means to open your own eyes and lead you to the love that comes on the other side of blind bigotry.
It’s been almost 55 years since the decision in Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that invalidated laws banning interracial marriage. We still have a long way to go to get rid of racism in our society, but as CBS News reported, “Nowadays, you can hardly open a magazine or turn on the TV without seeing an interracial couple.” Nearly 1 in 5 marriages in the U.S. involve people of different ethnicities, nearly twice the number from just two decades ago.
In other words, ironically, you’re the aberration, not me.
February is Black History Month, and at this time each year, I’m always reminded of the heroic accomplishments of our Black brothers and sisters. The insulting names, the abuse and the racist ladders they had to climb give me perspective on just how minuscule my own experience with racism has been.
As Alex likes to say, “It’s Black History Month every month for me. I’m still Black in March, April, May and June.”
The scriptures teach us to turn the other cheek, but sometimes we need a little spinal adjustment and pop of the neck to help us combat the punches.
So to that end, I declare to you, “Concerned Parents”:
We are a thriving family of 10 in a world that otherwise criticizes us for our size. I have eight strong and resilient kids who love one another and help each other and try to be like Jesus. I have a husband who lifts me up and stands behind me when cowards like you come swingin’ (and miss). He bears me up in the moments I lose my confidence to trolls who delight in the shedding of emotional blood continually.
So thank you very much for your concern, but it’s misplaced, much like your values. The Boyés are doing just fine. How are your kids?
Julie Boyé and her husband, Alex, live in Sandy, Utah, with their eight kids and goldendoodle. They have a family website, theboyefamilyjewels.com. Find them on Instagram or YouTube @theboyefamilyjewels.