Fear, just like hate is a behaviour that is taught. Fear is the ignorant child born of misunderstanding and hate. At birth we start off curious and fearless, then learn like the one burnt by tea who now blows it, to cool before sipping.
Kids are like sponges, absorbing everything around them, good and bad. The adults, children grow into, are largely a product of the environment and society they grow. Discrimination is learned behaviour to end the cycle not only should we unlearn the bad but pay heed to the message we pass along to the sponges, that soak not just what we say but what we do.
When I was in grade 5 and 10 years old, my family moved to another town. Being the new kid in school is hard, you are like the cast out trying to fit in and even when you are finally a part of the tribe, you will always be an interloper. Kids can be cruel.
In my new class, the pupils sat two to a desk, except for one girl who sat all alone. You could say it was because in a class of odd-numbered pupils, someone had to sit alone, but the truth was the others had been reluctant to sit with her. Even during the break period, she sat alone. Back then, she probably would not have been my first choice for a deskmate either – I want to say it was because she was a girl since I was at that prepubescent age where girls were enigmatic, but that’s not entirely the truth.
She had a non-contagious, genetically inherited ailment that resulted in the lack of melanin in the skin, eyes, and hair.
When I sat with her, I could feel the stares and hear the whispers. During the first break period, I noticed the others who had earlier been curious to reach out and ask about where I was from, had cooled towards me. Later I would learn it was because they thought I would catch what she had. “A friend” shared with me how his parents had specifically told him to stay away because they were expecting his baby sister and didn’t want to take any chances.
During break time, I would sit with her because her mum made awesome toasted sandwiches and she was willing to share. It was also because we became kindred outcasts, the new boy and the strange girl, what a pair we made, especially when we were the ones who always came top in class. I suppose not playing with others gave us more time to read, besides that she preferred the company of a good book, coincidentally so did I.
Eventually, the class warmed up to us, thanks to the teacher who was always making us the group leaders in activities and asking the other students to learn from us; how to write the dreaded compositions which we churned out effortlessly. I suppose it also helped that over time they saw for themselves I didn’t catch what she had. She laughed it off and explained to them I could have told you that it wasn’t contagious if you had asked.
13 June is observed as International Albinism Awareness Day. The United Nations. This day is mandated to remind people of the perils of the past and the path to the future in the case of albinism and the people living with it.
The theme for 2022: United in making our voice heard
One of the reasons for this theme is to celebrate how groups of persons with albinism and individuals increase the visibility of persons with albinism in all domains of life.
From my timeline, I celebrate The Queen Of The BaTonga, Marvellous Tshuma long may her reign of representation rule.