Mr. Hillary’s Lesson
Copyright 2017, Stephen Coghlan
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Chapter 1 – Introduction
Stephen M. Coghlan
When his student asks “What is Racism?” an elementary teacher must figure out how best to explain such a topic to not only the child, but the entire class.
If you like this, or think it can help in any way to stop hate, bigotry, and / or racism, please feel free to share.
Chapter 2 – Mr. Hillary’s Lesson
“Mr. Hillary,” Tommy’s voice broke the silence of the reading period. His arm was held high, even as his voice carried across the room. “What is Ra-ki-smmmm?”
While normally fast with a response, and even quicker with a joke, Mr. Hillary took his time to answer. “It’s called Racism, Tommy, the C is like an S.” Swallowing against a dry mouth, he continued. “And racism, is a very ugly thing.”
The sound that came from his throat caught the rest of the student’s attention. With slow, ponderous steps, Mr. Hillary walked to the front of the class. “Who wants to play thumbs-up?” He asked, and every student raised their hands. “And who wants to write 1 + 1 = 2, over and over again?”
All the hands fell.
“Sanjay, Mi Na, Matisse, please come to the front.”
The three students stood and each took a piece of chalk that was handed to them. “Start writing the equation, please.”
The trio stared at each other, but then dutifully began writing on the board. Turning his back to them, Mr. Hillary selected seven more students to lead the game, and when all the remainder of the class had their heads’ down, Mr. Hillary walked to Batya’s side. “You can’t chose her.” He ordered, coldly. “She’s no longer allowed to play. Go to the board, please.”
With a whimper, Batya stood and walked to the front, her head hung in shame.
The game continued.
And more students were sent to the board, and when the board was lined with children, elbow to elbow, others were sent to the corners, to stand quietly. The kids with curly hair were next, and when Suzy protested vocally, she was told to follow. Then, the students with long sleeves were cast from fun, then, the students with colored shoes. All the while, the contestants playing the game, dwindled, until there were only three left to play.
Looking at the remaining kids, Mr. Hillary spoke to the one who was standing. “Your shirt is blue, Brian. Get out of the game.”
“But-“ The child tried to argue.
“Go!” Mr. Hillary ordered.
“But it won’t be fun, with only us left to play!” Joanna cried.
“Joanna, go to the corner.” Mr. Hillary said, his voice choked.
She began to cry as she stood. She was always a model student, and being asked to remove herself from a lesson had never happened before. She went dutifully, and stood there, sobbing quietly to herself, but the effect carried, and soon others joined her in tears.
Tommy sat, alone, in his seat, and looked about at all his friends, all of them who were sad, all of them who were upset.
“Do you want a star?” Mr. Hillary asked of him.
“No,” Tommy spat, almost yelling. “I want my friends back!”
“Do you want a star?” The teacher asked again.
“NO!” The child broke. “Give me back my friends!”
“No. I can’t.” His voice was a whisper, and then he coughed into his hand before Mr. Hillary continued. “They’re different from you.”
“But, they’re my friends.”
“No, they’re not. They aren’t like you. They aren’t your friends.”
“Yes they are!” Tommy screamed, and his face flushed, and tears began to roll down his cheeks as he stood from his desk, his little hands balled into fists. “Give me back my friends!”
Bending his knees, Mr. Hillary looked Tommy in the eyes, made sure everyone was paying attention, and then, as he spoke, he wiped a tear from his own cheek. “I can’t. This is racism, Tommy. Racism is hating someone because they are different from you, somehow, someway. Does it hurt?”
“Yes!” Tommy sobbed.
“Does it hurt?” Mr. Hillary asked the other students. They acknowledged with sobs of their own, nods of their heads, or murmured, reserved ‘yes’.
“Are they really your friends, Tommy?”
“Do you want your friends back?”
“A person who likes racism is called a racist. Are you a racist?”
“No, sir. Can I have my friends back now, please?” Tommy choked.
“Yes.” Their teacher answered, his lower lip trembling. “Yes you can.”
With a cheer, everyone returned to their seats. As the game began anew, Mr. Hillary excused himself and walked out the door, hiding his face from the children that once more, laughed and played.
Chapter 3 – End stuff
Thank you for reading my short story. If you enjoyed it, would you please pass it along? Do so freely, please, as it is one of the ways I hope to combat hatred and bigotry.
Words are my weapons, my weapons for peace.
About the Author:
Stephen Coghlan writes from Ottawa, Canada.
When his student asks “What is Racism?” an elementary teacher must figure out how best to explain such a topic to not only the child, but the entire class. Mr. Hillary's Lesson is a story of a lesson that affected the lives of every student who endured it. Complete at less than 1,000 words, it is a flash fiction to be shared.