105: Race

on November 27, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which Mackenzie Is Hypocritical

Steff wasn’t in the elven history classroom when I got there, which put me in a bit of a dilemma… there were open seats next to Dee, but if I sat by Dee, would Steff think that meant I didn’t want to sit by her?

Though the class was a fairly crowded one, it seemed like there was always at least one empty seat next to Dee, no matter how late I came in. Thinking about the gap which had surrounded me in my morning lecture, I realized that I didn’t really have a choice. I would not give even the appearance of having snubbed somebody for their race.

I don’t know if it helped or hindered my point when two people in the rows around us got up and moved as soon as I sat down.

“Your reputation grows daily,” Dee noted. “Soon I may find my own image tarnished through our association.”

I stared at her, stung… until I noticed a slight pull at the corners of her thin lips.

“That was a joke,” I said, a little uncertainly. “You were joking.”

She gave a small nod.

“Look, is it okay if Steff sits over here?” I asked her. “By me, I mean.”

“I have no overwhelming objection,” Dee said.

“Uh, thanks,” I said. “I need to talk to her before class if I get a chance. I kind of… well, insulted her religion earlier and I need to try to explain.”

“Now it is you who must be joking,” Dee said.

Steff never showed up for class, though. I told myself there was always a chance it didn’t have anything to do with me… but it didn’t seem likely. I could at least hope that she was only cutting this one class to avoid me, and not skipping them all because I’d put her in that bad a funk.

Professor Ariadne began and ended the class with a reminder that Friday was the last day to drop a class without penalty. She looked directly at me the entire time she said it, just in case I’d had any doubt who she meant.

“Do not let it get to you,” Dee said as we rose and picked up our book bags.

“The professor?” I asked.

“Any of it,” she said.

I watched her go, noticing for the first time how the crowd parted around her. It wasn’t necessarily entirely racist, I told myself… it was possible anybody who went gliding that quickly down the hall in a big black cloak with the hood pulled low over their face would have got that reaction.

Then, as if to steal that last little bit of optimism away, I heard somebody in the crowd say, “Freaking cowl head.”

Cowl head… spider jockey… drow; there were all kinds of fun nicknames for the elves who lived underground. The only time they got a positive portrayal in the movies or on TV, it was as an angsty “rebel” who “repudiated the dark practices” of their “black-hearted kin.” The “turncoat drow” had practically become a stock character these days, often inserted into so-called historical dramas to show how wonderfully enlightened the human heroes were that they accepted their new comrade for what was in his heart instead of the color of his skin.

The heavens forfend that they show any peaceful dark elves who still live underground and follow the religion of their people.

Of course, that justified the suspicion and even violence leveled against the rest of the dark elves… look, see? We haven’t judged them for their race after all! We found the one good one and accepted him for who he is before we slaughtered the rest!

Maybe I was being a hypocrite… in the course of a few hours I’d gone from spreading ignorant garbage about a religion to complaining about other people doing the same about a race and culture.

Also, I had to try to remember that even the term “dark elf” was apparently somewhat offensive, though I wasn’t sure how else to refer to them.

On the other hand, if only people without any prejudice could speak out against it, then where would we be?

Meanwhile, back on the first hand, I wasn’t actually speaking out against it. I was fuming silently and impotently about it. Though what was I supposed to do? Catch up to the guy who’d made the remark and try to educate him about dark elf culture? Somehow I doubted he’d be up for a trip to the library.

Okay, so maybe I wasn’t a total hypocrite. I’d at least been willing to learn.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to Steff before history, but the universal forces made it up to me by sending Sooni over to my desk before our logic class began.

“I am so sorry about the posters made by my nekos,” she said, smiling solicitously down at me. “I did not look at them very closely before they went up, or I would never have allowed it.”

“Um, that’s okay,” I mumbled, looking down at my desk, away from that smile. I wasn’t sure where this was going, but I had an idea it was no place good. It didn’t help that impression that I could hear Maliko giggling, over at her desk.

“It is not ‘okay’!” Sooni said. “They spelled your name wrong on some of them. You have my word as a kitsu that I will personally correct that oversight.”

Maliko’s laugh was cut off by a clatter and a crash, and I looked up to see that she had actually topped her chair over sideways in her mirth. A lot of heads had turned to watch her fall, but there were still eyes on Sooni, looking at her with something like admiration or wonder.

“You could just take them down,” I said to Sooni, surprising myself at the metal in my voice. Nobody in the room knew me. They didn’t know Sooni. But they were taking her side because of what they’d heard about me? Okay, yeah, I was part demon, and maybe that was enough reason for somebody to hate me. That didn’t make Sooni any better. She’d managed to be perfectly evil without the dubious advantage of demonic blood.

“The election is not until Friday,” she said, with a patient air, as if she thought I might have forgotten this fact. “I have no reason to take them down before then.”

“Why are you such a… so mean?” I asked. I changed my sentence midstream because I was trying hard to keep a handle on my temper for Amaranth, and because I figured there was something at least a little hypocritical about calling another girl a “bitch” when I sincerely wished my boyfriend would call me one, too.

“I am not!” she said, looking hurt. “I am nice to you. The other girls say you are a slut but I tell them that is not fair,” she said, speaking in a very cheerful, very carrying sort of voice. “I tell them, it is not your fault that nobody likes you enough to be your friend without getting sex.”

Just like that, the righteous indignation died… drowned in the rush of blood and shame and heat which burned in my cheeks. Sooni turned up the intensity of her plastic smile, but the sparkle had drained away from her eyes. She fixed me with a withering stare until, speechless and absolutely defeated, I put my head down on my desk.

I heard Sooni humming a happy tune as she turned and walked–or skipped, if the sound her sandals made was any indication–back to her desk. It was barely a moment later that the murmur of pre-class conversation resumed… a good deal of it concentrated in the area around where Sooni sat.

It sounded like she’d made some friends with her show of bravado, standing up to the big bad demon girl.

Okay, I told myself, enough fucking around… you are not letting her win the election. No more hesitation. No more second guessing. No more fear. If I wanted to be in a position to do something about racism, about anything, I had to win the election… I had to beat that spoiled, stuck-up, smiling, smarmy, stinking Sooni.

Sooni, with her stupid hair that she made her “friends” slave over for hours. Sooni, with her stupid skin, so dark and exotic, and her stupid too-short ruffled skirts that showed off her stupid legs, and her stupid tail that swished back and forth when she wiggled her hips as she walked, and her…

Well, there was no point in going on about her. Amaranth didn’t want me to hate so much, I reminded myself. I made myself stop thinking about Sooni, forced myself to stop picturing her stupid perfect body in my head.

It was probably all glamour, anyway, I told myself… it probably would fade if you gave it a serious, up-close inspection. Like those breasts. I bet if you touched them, you’d probably find out they were really smaller than mine. Well, mine were pretty small, so maybe a little bit bigger… but still, fake. There was no way her skin was that smooth, either. Nobody’s skin was as smooth as Sooni’s looked. Probably if you actually ran your hands all over it…

Okay, that wasn’t going to help me win the election. She might have taken the low road with her posters, but I wasn’t going to engage in negative campaigning no matter how much she tempted me.

Of course, it would probably help things if I engaged in any campaigning at all. I counted down the minutes until the end of class, when I could get back to Harlowe. In the mean time, I didn’t let my mind drift entirely from the subject of Sooni… her cruelty towards me, her brutality towards her so-called friends, her utter uselessness as a political representative, her stupid hair and bronze skin… but I also tried to focus on the treatment of Dee, the pointlessness of the lunchroom rules designed to target me, the exclusion of Harlowe Hall from campus events, the general attitude towards non-human students…

I thought of anything that would keep my resolve up, anything to keep the inner fire burning. Maybe there were only two days left before the vote, but my campaign was about to begin. The race was about to begin.

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