by Xochitl Dixon • 2
My parents immigrated from Mexico as children, grew up in California, and applied for American citizenship as adults. Longing to give me a chance for a better life, they changed my Spanish middle name to English and dropped my first name when they registered me for kindergarten. Though I’d been speaking Spanish since I babbled my first words, they forbade me to speak Spanish in school. We spoke English at home, too, unless Spanish-speaking relatives or friends came to visit.
My parents believed my accent-free English and light complexion guaranteed my ability to fit in, to pass as “White.” They worked hard to erase every trace of our culture in me and in our home. They only spared the items in our pantry, since history proved our food was more acceptable than our descendants.
Their desire for assimilation left me resentful and stranded between two worlds that expected me to fit stereotypes while affirming that I didn’t belong in Mexico or America. As an act of rebellion, when I turned eighteen, I began using my first name. Xochitl, pronounced So-Cheel, an Aztec name that honored my Mexican heritage and would make people accept me . . . all of me. Or so I thought.
In college, fellow students and even some professors referred to me as an “Affirmative Action charity case.” Far too many people exaggerated mispronouncing my name. Frustrated, I adjusted the spelling to make the pronunciation easier for them. Xochi, pronounced So-She.
Over two decades later, in 2021, I watched a video interview and realized I’d adopted the wrong pronunciation of my name. I have since corrected my error.
Resisting assimilation, striving for a sense of belonging, and struggling with hating my light complexion through most of my childhood, high school, and college years, I tried to answer a question that fueled my insecurities.
What are you?
It wasn’t until the year I accepted Christ as my personal Savior (2001) that I answered that question with confidence.
What am I?
I am a beloved child of God created on purpose and with a God-ordained purpose, so that I could thrive within an intentionally diverse and purposefully connected community of His image-bearers.
My newfound confidence strengthened my resolve, until my biracial (Black and Mexican) son became the target of racism during his first month as a Kindergartener.
As a new Christian, I wanted to respond in love not hate.
While I prayed, God used Psalm 139:23-26 to deepen my roots in the foundation that secured my identity in the unchanging truth of the Bible and the life-changing love of Christ.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:23-26
Through the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit, I finally saw my whole self and accepted every part of me. From that foundational confidence, I recognized every person God created as a unique and valuable member of His family. Our differences are God’s good and deliberate decisions. And in 2001, I wrote Different Like Me.
Almost two decades later, in August 2020, I celebrated the release of that picture book and invited others to join me in saying: “God made you special and different like me.”
Xochitl (So-Cheel) Dixon serves as a contributing writer for Our Daily Bread Ministries. She is the author of Waiting for God: Trusting Daily in God’s Plan and Pace and the 2021 ECPA Christian Book Award Children’s Book finalist, Different Like Me. Xochitl serves the Lord with her beautifully diverse family and her service dog, Callie. Crossing generational and cultural boundaries with faith-building messages of God’s love, she encourages readers around the world through writing, speaking, and the Worship Expressed Christian apparel and accessories she designs. She enjoys connecting with readers on social media and her blog at www.xedixon.com.