A Necessary Struggle—Episode Twenty

Separate but Equal


Sunday was quiet and crept to an end. After Harmony drug everyone to church with her, they all grabbed lunch at Bethany’s Chicken Shack and caught a movie. A decision that they deliberated about in the lobby of AMC for fifteen minutes; Samuel wanted to see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates; Trevor, Cairo, and Harmony wanted to see The Purge: Election Year; Safiya and Lela wanted to see Tarzan; and Alyssa could careless. Whichever movie they picked she was going to fall asleep on so in the land of democracy The Purge won. After the movie, they said their goodbyes and went back to their residences waiting for Monday to roll around.

And roll around, it did. Harmony couldn’t get a word in as she sat backwards in her desk chair with intent eyes shifting back and forth from Sean and Chris. Tension clouded the A/C chilled lecture room.

“They killed him in cold blood.” Chris seethed poking the pencil’s eraser on the desk.

The tepid coffee burned Sean’s throat as he quickly swallowed it, “He had a gun.”

“In the waistband of his jeans! His hands were up.” Will demonstrated holding his hands in the air.

“Police Brutality is rapid in America.” Richard sat up straight. “You can find millions of videos on YouTube proving that fact.”

“They’re not crazed, gun-toting enforcers. Protecting and serving.”

“Protecting and serving who! Because it’s not us.” Will shouted his caramel cheeks sharply reddening. “I got thrown up against a fence and asked why are you in this neighborhood two blocks from by house. My house! Has that happened to you?” Sean slowly shook his head and Kirsten looked down at her lap.

“Yeah, Bernard Lewis did run.” Chris clarified. Her cocoa eyes were strained from watching too much news coverage into the wee hours of night. “ But does the constitute being shot in the neck. Yeah, he did steal a car. But is that a crime punishable by death. People do far worst in the country but we do something and it’s okay to shoot us like a dog in the street.” She roughly wiped a rolling tear from her cheek.

“I didn’t say it was right.” Sean shifted in his seat turning toward Professor Russell who stood against his desk. “I…if you don’t comply…”

“You can get shot in the back.” Will rose to his feet and propped his body against the wall, smashing his Afro in the back. “Well, not you…but me. I would get shot in the back. You would get tased, arrested, and taken to jail.”

“People fear what they don’t know,” Jason spoke with his English accent. “Although I don’t wear the garb, I’m a Muslim with Syrian roots and if I was pulled by the police they would think I’m a terrorist. I have to think about that. Make sure I say the right things. So, Will I understand.”

“No, you don’t! You don’t understand what we go through.” Will pointed to himself, Chris, and Harmony. “You don’t know our struggle. Our pain. You will never know.”

Lisa dropped her hand from her mouth as her blonde hair shined under the sun rays that flowed through the windows, “Then tell us.”

Will bite his lips while Chris studied the stillness of her pencil on her desk. Harmony took up the baton to break the silence but her emotions strangled her words.

“Um…” Harmony inhaled a nervous breath. “I don’t want to….”

Professor Russell stood up straight slipping his hand is the pockets of his grey trousers, “Go ahead Harmony…speak what’s on your mind.”

Harmony nodded then turned back to her peers. “I borrowed my cousin’s, Taylor…” She smiled while Lisa and Richard gingerly laughed remember when the teen came to one of their classes. “…Copy of Higher Learning and the line that stood with me was when Ice Cube’s character told Omar Epps’ character ‘we’re behind enemy lines’. Its moments like this that reminds us where we came from. Cargo carried in ships, chained together like sardines. And I know people always say ‘Slavery’s over. Why do we always have to go there’ and yes, slavery is over. But its side effects still last. Prejudice. Discrimination. Redlining. Profiling. For you…” She looked over at Sean, who always seat by her. “You can forget about it but for us…we’re always reminded of slavery. From our varying skin colors, different hair textures, broken or mysterious family history to our last names that come for our families’ slave master…we are reminded that our ancestors were slaves; that we were three-fourths of a person, property, on the same level of a horse or mule. And of course, all police officers aren’t bad. I know police officers. My next-door neighbor is a cop and I used to help him decorate the neighborhood for every holiday when I was in high school. But where there is good were there is also bad, Ying and yang. And no one should be above the law, not even those that uphold it.

“No one is above the law.” Professor Russell echoed. He slapped his hands together sounding a thunderous clap over the classroom. “Great statement to end the class.” No one moved still stuck in their heads. “Go on. Get your stuff. Get out.” He turned to the desk loading his belongings in his briefcase. “I sure Dr. Randle’s students are crowding the hallway right now.”

Sean gripped his laptop in his arms, “Will you know I’m not….”

“Sean…” Will put his red bag strip over his shoulder as he passed up the desk. “Don’t finish that statement.”

“How do you know what I’m going to say?” Sean asked as Chris grabbed her pencil out of his hand.

“Because you always say it after we have a discussion about race.” Chris rolling her eyes walking towards the door. “You’re not racist. We know.”

“Of course, you know….” Sean smiled looking up and down Chris’s body. They body he knew too well.”

Chris briskly turned around shoving a finger in Sean’s face causing him to take a step back and onto Jason’s foot. “I told you to never bring that night up again.”

Sean winked at her as Jason pushed him off his foot, “My bad.”

“Oh, give it up already.” Lisa typed on her cell. “We all know about the late night hook-up.”

You told them…was the last thing Harmony heard as Richard urged them to move out the door. She quickly stuffed her belonging in her leather messenger bag as Dr. Randle’s Human Rights students surged in the class.

Professor Russell unhooked the cords from his laptop, “Harmony can I speak with you for a second.”

“Sure, Professor Russell.” Harmony slipped the bag strap onto her shoulder as she forged her way around the girl that eagerly waited for Harmony’s desk.

“I told you to call me Carter.” Professor Russell reiterated slipping the Apple Mac in his bronze Ortus briefcase.

“You did…but I prefer Professor Russell.” Harmony blankly leered into his grey eyes looking back at her.

He tentatively scratched the back of his neck; it was time for a haircut. “I know that you’re friends with a girl named Safiya.”

“A girl named.” Harmony chuckled. “Yeah, she’s my roommate and friend.”

Professor Russell stepped around the desk decreasing the wealth of space between them, “I just wanted to know if you could keep me in the loop because I don’t know if you know but—”

Harmony cut him off, “I know…everything and I don’t want to be involved.”

“Harmony…please.” He begged lowly so the students chattering away in the desk didn’t hear him.

“Professor Russell, you are the head of the political science department and I need this class to graduate and I can’t possibly focus, taking notes if I busy thinking about how you are a two-timing married bastard that got my friend pregnant.” Harmony pushed her unruly curls over her shoulders. “So, for the sake of my GPA, you are my professor and Safiya is my friend.” Harmony turned her attention to the suit-clad woman approaching the desk. “Good morning, Dr. Randle.”

“Good morning to you Ms. Monroe.” Dr. Randle smiled at them both sitting her briefcase on the desk. “And Dr. Russell.”

Harmony smiled at her two professors and headed out the door.


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