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Independent in 1847
“The flowers flew off the farm like their wings had never…”
“Beep! Woosh!! Hahaha!”
The bell to 3rd period cut Miss Missy off from reading. Students were already laughing, talking and rushing to their next class in the halls.
“Goodbye Miss Missy.”
“Goodbye Claire, be ready to learn about civil rights tomorrow.”
Civil rights, that's what was written in big, cursive letters on the board the next day. Miss Missy is my teacher this year for 7th grade, there are only two female teachers in our whole school. Miss Missy is very passionate about what she does, substantially like my father. Father is passionate and precise. Mama says that comes from his job of being a lawyer. Our family is lucky that Father’s job wasn’t taken by the new inventions recently contrived. We live just outside of New York City to make it convenient for him to go to work every day.
Today we learned about civil rights and how the new inventions have made an impact on them. This doesn’t affect me and my family very much in our everyday lives, so I didn't know much about it. However, when the class was over I went home with a new perspective on everything. I had never genuinely thought about civil rights, let alone how ardent Miss Missy is about them. On my walk home, I realized that Father is like the men Miss Missy was talking about. Before we had to send “our help” away to help in buildings Father never treated them very kindly. They had been with us ever since last year, and I never knew any of their names. Father always referred to them as “our help.” He was always pushing them around to do more. I never saw them leave or come and didn’t know where they lived. They weren't allowed to come inside and our house wasn’t that big to house all of them. Father didn’t like blacks, he treated them crudely. How was I just realizing all of this now?
Father got home from work at around 5 o’clock and found me upstairs in my room. Perusal he asked me how my day was. I didn’t think we would mind much about the differences I saw in civil rights so I told him about my day.
Except when I stopped talking and he told me that what I was learning in school was erroneous I knew minded. He acknowledged what I said by saying that blacks are different than us.
“We live in better houses, eat better food and work for money, Claire. You must realize this now or it’s going to be a dispute.” “Negroes don’t have the same opportunities as us, they don’t deserve them.”
I had never heard my father talk like this. He turned around and tried to walk peacefully out of the room. But I could feel the vibration on the floor from every step. He walked into his and mama’s room and closed the door behind him. I didn’t mean to anger him, I tried to listen in but could only catch a few words.
“Did you know about this?... Whos Claire’s teacher? She is teaching at a white school! What gives her the right to teach my child this? Claire’s teacher doesn’t belong in school she belongs in jail along with Susan B. Anthony, they seem to have the same opinions.” Father whispered under his breath leaving his and Mama's room.
Father was exasperated, I could faintly hear mama trying to serene Father. But it was no use I had already heard what he had said and I had already angered him. Father believes blacks were less than us.
The next day I wasn’t nearly as thrilled to go to school. I went in early to see Miss Missy and talk to her about Father. I couldn’t stand the thought of him being angry at me and Miss Missy. I pulled a chair up next to her desk and sat down. This wasn’t going to work, either what Father said didn’t make any sense or what Miss Missy said didn’t make sense. And truly I didn’t want either to be true.
“I don’t know what to do Miss Missy. Father says I shouldn’t be believing what you say. He was speaking the truth about how we live in better houses, eat better food and work for money, but it doesn’t seem right.”
“Claire, I’m not going to tell you what or who to believe. This decision is for you to make on your own based on how you feel.”
I sat there and pondered. Soon enough the rest of the class came hustling in. I was now faced with a decision it seemed like no one was even thinking about. If I took the side of my father I would be lying to myself about how I truly feel about this. If I took the side of how Miss Missy thinks Father would be ashamed of me and I could tell from how he spoke last evening. I was suddenly ashamed of how my father viewed the people no different than us. I could barely sit still during the lesson today and when the class had finally finished I couldn’t face Miss Missy. I didn’t want to talk or listen to anybody else say anything more. This thought was taking up my brain and both sides were fighting against each other on what to do. I took the long route home trying to make up my mind.
By the time I got home I was emotionally exhausted and couldn’t keep what I was thinking to myself.
“Father, I don’t agree with what you think. Blacks are no different than us, Abigail is no different from you and me.”
He stood there looking at me, I could feel the heat radiating off his body and rising into his face.
I didn’t know what to do. I felt so frozen but so free. I have never ever done anything like this before. I tightened the grip on my book bag and kept a straight face. I knew if I could stay strong longer he would slowly have to back away.
And slowly the anger did drain from his face and his posture weakened. His fists relaxed and simultaneously my grip did too. I had done it, I told him how I felt.
The instant pleasure didn’t last much longer after. He sent me to my room but it didn’t matter. I saw things how I saw them and I’m not going to let my father’s view change mine completely.
The next day school was neither exciting nor dreadful. I told Miss Missy what I did and she was proud. She said I used what I had learned to form my opinion and not what other grownups were telling me. I felt good and more aware of the world. I learned about others' opinions and established my own.