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This Is Us: Taking Pride in Our Diverse Family

In today’s culture, diversity is a word that is thrown around frequently, especially when it comes to politics and newscasters. It is my belief that there is much more acceptance of diversity than many people actually see or are even willing to acknowledge. As an example, I would ask that you take a look at my family.  For that matter, I challenge you to look at many of the families in our own Delaware County. There is much more than meets the eye at first glance.

Yes, my husband Gary is likely one of the white anglo saxon protestants we read about in our history books.  But for a man who grew up poor in what was then a small town in Oklahoma he has a great world view. Much of that comes from paying his own way through college by working 40 hours a week during school and more in the summer (hauling hay and picking okra). For as long as I have known him Gary has had an open mind to new ideas and to acceptance of all kinds of people.

First of all, Gary married me.  Maybe I look the part of all white America, but I am particularly proud of my Native American heritage; unlike one particular presidential candidate, I can prove my heritage.  My maternal grandfather was born in Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma) to a full blood Cherokee mother. Unfortunately, my great grandmother had to register with the tribe as a half breed just so she would be able to sell her land.  So, I am now registered as 1/16 Cherokee when I should be ⅛. I wish I had learned more about that side of the family when people were alive to tell me, but as is too often the case hindsight is 20/20. I am also half German, my paternal grandparents were first generation Americans who always loved their country.

With lots of problems in trying to have children, our first child was adopted.  Valerie was five days old, and absolutely beautiful. Oh, did I mention she was also biracial?  At that time Oklahoma was still considered a Bible belt state. Not many people went around mixing the races unless it was with Native Americans.  Yes, we encountered a few puzzled looks and a few questions from people we didn’t know, but for the most part our daughter was accepted as a child of God who was going to be raised in a loving home.  And isn’t that what is most important for all of us?

Five years later we were blessed with a biological child, another girl who was just as beautiful.  Of course this daughter is also registered with the Cherokee tribe, even if she looks a bit Scandanavian with her blond hair and blue eyes.

Our older daughter grew up and married a man who was also racially mixed.  Their children are two of our treasures, a grandson who is about my color (a light brown) and a granddaughter who is a beautiful tan color.  Both children have their mom’s contagious smile and laugh. Like their mother they can win people over with their bright personalities.

Our younger daughter has two handsome boys who also have her blond hair and blue eyes.  The boys are nine and seven and even though many people ask if they are twins they are as different as night and day.  Yes, the boys could be registered with the Cherokees and are the last ones eligible in that line.

Several years ago, after the girls were grown, we decided to adopt a boy.  Because we were going to be older parents we were excluded from many adoption possibilities.  Finally, it all came down to Guatemala. Our son had just turned three when he came to Ohio. About a year ago our son wanted to do one of those ancestry DNA tests.  He was pleased to find out that he was nearly 75% Mayan. He turns 20 this July and is well on his way to becoming an electrician.

Oftentimes we have had the whole family in a restaurant and I have wanted to ask the wait staff if they could identify who is related to whom.  Add in one of my nephews who is married to a Phillipine woman and there is even more variety. We are certainly a motley crew, incorporating many of the shades seen in the graphic above.  But again, does it really matter? No, we love and accept each other and that is what is important.

For those of you who think this family dynamic is uncommon, I challenge you to be hyper observant the next time you are at one of our local Kroger or department stores, or the next time you attend a parade or festival in one of Delaware County’s communities, or First Friday in Delaware City, or even visit the Polaris Mall or the Tanger Outlets.  You are going to see many families like ours. Maybe the difference between us and the newscasters is that we accept diversity as a part of everyday life; we don’t have to make an issue of diversity because there isn’t one. As the popular TV show title says, “THIS IS US”.

Written by Cathy Merrell