Victoria Wilcher's KFC Shunning Is Just The Start

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Courtesy Sarah BrowneA welcome home parade for the author after her year of hospitalization
You had me at scars.

Normally I wouldn't touch this news with the proverbial 10-foot pole. It's too infuriating. At the heart of the story is a 3-year-old girl fresh out of the hospital; a big powerful corporation; a vicious dog attack, and an instance of cruelty camouflaged as "customer service."

A sweet little girl named Victoria Wilcher, already suffering too much, was asked by an employee to leave a KFC restaurant "because her scarred face scared the other diners." It's shocking to read that a human being would treat another that way. Especially blaming it on the job. Except ...

It happened to me.

More times than I can count. No, not in a Jackson, Mississippi, branch of KFC. But too many times, in too many places, and from too many people. What happened to little Victoria is similar to what I've experienced since I was burned on 60 percent of my body at age 7 and acquired the nickname "Burnt Browne."

Like Victoria, I was lucky to survive my lengthy hospitalization and surgeries. Like Victoria, I quickly learned that tortuous medical procedures are nothing compared to the cruel treatment meted out to those with scars.

The incident, Victoria's grandmother said, left the girl in tears. "They just told us, 'We have to ask you to leave because her face is disrupting our customers,' " Kelly Mullins told WAPT-TV. "She's embarrassed and I hate it because she shouldn't be. She understood exactly what they said."

Of course she did.

Early on, those of us who are told we look "different" fully grasp the sting of the word. Few areas of my life have been exempt but my career path has always been rife with pivots due to my extensive skin grafts.

When I landed my dream job at a television station early in my career, my new boss outlined a key requirement: Wear a jacket to cover up your scars. Otherwise, no air time. When I resisted, he shot back: "Better go back to radio then."

Another boss told me, when denying me a promotion: "You have the perfect personality for this job. I wish I could take your brain and put it on Susan's body. Your scars are too distracting."

"No matter what's wrong with a person, if a person's different, if a person's scarred, or is a different color or anything, people shouldn't be discriminated against," Mullins continued. "Her being 3 years old and already being discriminated against, it makes me mad, because I know for the rest of her life it's going to be like that."

KFC says they're investigating the report.

How can we end discrimination like this? Post your ideas in the comments, please.
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