What is the difference between building walls and building bridges? And does it even make a difference if we build walls or bridges?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be white. More specifically I wanted to look like my mom. I wanted to have straight hair, a button nose, and light brown eyes. I wanted to be like the other girls at kindergarten, who looked like their mother and never got questions about “how it feels to be adopted.” I wanted people to see me and immediately think “That girl right there, she is Norwegian”, instead of constantly being asked “But where are you really from?”
When I got older, and we moved to Ghana, I wanted to be black. I wanted to look like my father, and to know his language. I wanted to fit in with the kids in my neighborhood, to be seen as just another one of them. I wanted the people around me to not immediately assume I’m just some ignorant tourist, whenever I was out on a walk. I just wanted to fit in.
But I didn’t. And I understood that very early on. I think I was around 5 or 6 years old when I realized that no matter where I’d go I would either be too black or too white. There was this wall separating me from everyone around me. My parents would try to understand but they just couldn’t. And as a child, realizing that not even your parents understand you is probably one of the most painful realizations you can have. I always felt so alone.
When I became a pre-teen and got access to the internet, these feelings only got worse. On the internet, I would see racism almost daily. People there would say the most vile and cruel things to each other. It was like there was this war between black people and white people. And since I don’t really fit into either category, I was just kind of there, on the sidelines, without knowing where I could stand, and where I belonged.
That is, until March 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and when the BLM protests broke out. For the first time in my entire life, I saw people of all races and ethnicities unite, in the name of justice and equality. For the first time in my life, it felt like it didn’t matter what my race was, because we are all human. And even after the protests died down, and the walls between races were put back up, that stuck with me.
So, in the following years I decided to change my viewpoint, and instead of focusing on the walls, I decided to focus on the bridges being made. For example, my parents. They built a bridge between my father’s black family and my mother’s white family. And while that may seem small or meaningless to some, it is progress. Every time someone decides to ignore the differences in race and see other people for who they are it is progress. It is the beginning of something beautiful, and it is contributing to one big bridge between all races and genders.
In the beginning of the text, I asked the questions “What is the difference between building walls and building bridges?”and “Does it even make a difference if we build walls or bridges?”. My final answer is that the difference between building a bridge and building a wall is that a bridge unites people. It allows people to learn from each other’s differences, and it gives everyone a place to belong. And that feeling of unity and belonging is so incredibly meaningful, I don’t think I would be able to describe it to you even if I tried.
Walls, on the other hand, separates us, it doesn’t leave room for understanding and love. It shuts people out, and leaves people like me feeling like we don’t belong anywhere. We won’t be able to learn anything from one another, or how to respect each other’s differences if we build walls. Walls will stop cooperation, and as a society, we will not move forward.
So like Martin Luther King jr. once said; “Let’s build bridges, not walls.”
Written by a TCK, 15 years old.