I remember the first time I experienced intolerance and prejudice. It was from a place I wouldn’t have expected, and at an age I really didn’t understand it, but none the less I knew in my gut it didn’t feel right. It welled up in the pit of my stomach and made me uncomfortable and restless.
I was in the first grade, and I was asked at a family party “Do you have a boyfriend?” Yes, this was a typical and completely acceptable question to ask a 6 year old girl, because the only thing of substance that could possibly be on a young girls mind at that age would be boys. As a matter of fact it was the only thing of substance expected of a young girl well into her adult years, which then the question turned to, when are you going to get married and have kids? I spared the heartache and concern of many, as I did the acceptable thing and got married at 21 and had twins at 23. But I digress, that’s a whole other blog post… so did I have a boyfriend? “YES”, I perked up, “His name is Derrick”. “He is really nice to me, smart and cute”. I was immediately shushed, not because I was speaking of a boy, but because I was speaking of a black boy. And yes, I knew exactly at the age of 6 why I was being shushed.
See I was the kind of kid that was attracted and intrigued by things and people that were different than me. Weather it was as simple as the red headed freckled boy who was always getting in trouble, or the girl who needed leg braces to walk and an apparatus worn around her neck to communicate. There was a curiosity that drew me to them. One day that girl with the leg braces never came back to school, and no one ever spoke a word about her. It was like she had never existed at all.
My memories are vivid. I suppose because they were markers in my life. These small memories and many more like them, marked my awareness of humanities blindness and intolerance to what they didn’t understand, or were afraid of. How now, at the age of 48, am I in a place where we have elected a president who speaks of building walls? I look around me at my friends divided, unable to connect to what is at the root of the issues, only concerned about being right. Weather it’s driven from ignorance or fear, it all sits in my stomach the same way it did when I was six.
So I’m choosing to do the same thing I did when I was six. I will befriend the person others turn away from with an open mind, I will notice the qualities and abilities in everyone with an open heart. I will remain curious, remain loving, and I will attack prejudice against any human being with a restless fervor. The walls I draw on for Girl Noticed have now come to symbolize not only a positive empowering message of noticing girls and women’s value, but the breaking down of the walls we allow to surround us, and the ones that are built without our consent. You couldn’t stop me from following my own heart and mind when I was six, I respectfully doubt you”ll be able to stop me now.
Below is a video of a bright, courageous and inspired young woman. She was noticed by Girl Noticed on a wall in Lincoln, Nebraska, where much of the community welcomes and supports their refugees. Why would you not welcome and support this young lady? But let me ask you this, Would you even take the time to get to know her?