February 8 was National Girl Scout Cookie Day. Do you buy Girl Scout cookies? What’s your favorite? Samoas drizzled with chocolate? Thin Mints? I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies, tempting as they are. Oh, I’d like to. I don’t like cake, but I do love cookies, especially good cookies.
But I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies. When I was in elementary school, a bunch of us signed up to join. I was so excited! Crafting, meetings, badges, camping – I could hardly wait. Actually, I did wait … and wait and wait. I found out later that the meetings had started … but only for the lighter-skinned girls. Those of us with darker skin (there were only a couple of us) weren’t called. We weren’t allowed to join the local Girl Scouts. I was just a little girl and I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know about prejudice or why some girls got to join but others weren’t. To me, we were all the same, just a bunch of little girls in elementary school.
It’s hard to believe that not so long ago, Girl Scout troops were segregated, with different troops for white girls, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians. At my school, there weren’t enough of us darker-skinned girls to be able to create a troop, so we were simply left out. I watched as the Girl Scouts wore their uniforms to school on meeting days, with their sashes and badges. I listened to them talk about their meetings and the things they’d learned or made. It made me sad. I didn’t know then why I couldn’t join. I felt left out and didn’t know why.
The social unrest of the 60s prompted the Girl Scouts to change their programs and the organization, but not yet in my area. There was prejudice in Orange County at that time. (When we moved into our new house, a neighbor came up to my mom and told her “I didn’t know they were going to let Mexicans move in here!” To which my dear mom replied “I didn’t know they were going to let poor white trash move in here.” You didn’t mess with my mom.) Thankfully, the Girl Scouts are a great organization and those types of prejudices are no longer. They do great work, building up young girls, teaching them a variety of skills, building confidence and inner strength, creating strong young women.
I so wanted to be part of that. I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies. I don’t buy them because of the little girls that they hurt so deeply years ago. I don’t buy them because of the little girl that I was, wondering why I was left out, not knowing why. It’s not that I hold a grudge; as I said, they’re a great organization and I encourage your support. It’s just that I want to honor and serve as witness for what once was, for the little-girl-me who just wanted to be part of a troop.