The Right to Love, Part IV: Opposition (Part 1 of 2)
by Lauren Alan
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Charles and Angie managed to hide their romance from everyone--until they were seen coming back from one picnic kissing in his car at a stoplight. Naturally, the news spread all over Selma, and word traveled to everyone they knew, including their employers.
While Charles was giving directions to some of the men at the pizza parlor, the head manager pulled him aside and asked him seriously, "Is it true you were seen kissing a white woman in public?"
Charles winced. "If you mean by 'in public' you mean in my car, yes, but we didn't think anyone was watching."
The head manager looked at him sternly. "No one needs to be WATCHING. They can just happen to see. Tell me EVERYTHING about this girl."
Charles started to sweat. What would his boss say if he knew Angie's dad had been a Klansman? But his boss had said to tell him EVERYTHING, and when Drake Wilkes told you to do something, you did it. "Well, Mr. Wilkes, her name is Angie Peterson. She's thirty years old like me and a second grade teacher. She's very committed to fighting for civil rights, even though her dad was a member of the Klan. She---"
Drake held up his hand. "Did you say her dad was a member of the Klan?" He was so enraged that Charles could see a vein sticking out of his forehead.
"Yes," Charles said calmly, "but you see, she doesn't hold any of the beliefs in white supremacy or scare tactics that the Klan has."
Mr. Wilkes refused to hear him out. "Nevertheless, her father was an enemy of our people, which makes her an enemy. You kissed the enemy, so now you're an enemy, too. I'm sorry, Charles, but you have to go. Pack your things. You may no longer work here."
Charles dejectedly picked up his bag and left. Having a relationship with Angie was harder than he'd imagined. Oh, how he loved her. He also knew she was not the enemy, since she did not support discrimination or scare tactics or anything else her father stood for, but that didn't make a difference. His boss didn't trust her father, and because Angie belonged to a man who had been a Klan member, he'd still be suspicious of her, too. Charles wondered how long it would be before there'd be peace between Angie's people and his...and when he and his people would see freedom.
Meanwhile, at Selma Elementary School, Angie was in the middle of explaining multiplication to her class: "You see, multiplication is really making the same number a certain amount of times. Let's try a problem." Angie picked up a piece of chalk and wrote an equation on the chalkboard:
5 x 2 = ?
"OK, boys and girls," she said, turning back to the class, "make two sets of five buttons. Go on, take out the bags of buttons I passed out and tell me what you get."
The children took tiny bags of buttons out of their desks and did what Angie asked them to do. "Ten!" shouted Jimmy Edwards, a cute little red-headed boy with freckles.
"Good job," Angie said, smiling at him.
Just then Robert Beckworth, the principal, came into the room. "Miss Peterson, do you have a minute?" he asked.
"Certainly." Angie stepped into the hallway. She closed the door quietly behind her.
"Angelica Peterson, is it true that you were seen kissing a black man?" her employer demanded. "All the teachers are talking about it. They heard it from Mrs. Porter, the secretary."
Angie nodded. "Yes, sir, it's true."
The principal glared at her. "Miss Peterson, how did you meet him? I mean, how did you get together?"
"Well," Angie said, moistening her upper lip with her tongue, "we got to know each other as we participated in the marches and other protests."
Robert turned purple with rage. "Miss Peterson, you know it is against the law to protest like that! And now youre KISSING one of the niggers? What are you trying to teach your kids, that it's OK to break the law?"
Angie became furious. "Yes, sir, I am aware of the laws. But I am also aware that the laws were written by ignorant people, and for you to even use the word 'nigger' shows that you are ignorant, too. I'd rather teach my kids that it's OK to break ignorant, unjust laws than teach them that it's OK to be ignorant."
Mr. Beckworth's blood began to boil. "Fine," he shouted, "if that's how you feel, you're through here! Leave, white trash, and don't come back here ever again!"
Angie felt tears come to her eyes. She loved her students as if they were her own children and it broke her heart to leave them, but it would be no use begging her boss to keep her. He hated blacks, and because she was in love with one, he hated her, too. Still, she knew in her heart that Jesus wanted her and Charles to be together, and she would stay with him even if it cost her life.
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