Chapter One Hundred and Eighteen: Privilege
Charlie stretched and yawned, toothpaste drooling from the side of his mouth where his toothbrush hung.
“Charming look there.” Betty frowned at her son as he picked up the mail and looked through it.
“Hmmmpph…HMMMPH!” Charlie found a letter addressed to him! “Hmmmppphhhhh hmmmph!”
“Whatever that meant.” Thomas watched as Charlie bolted back up the stairs.
Charlie came back down a minute later fully dressed and toothpaste cleaned up.
“It's a letter from the PRO!” Charlie waved it around.
“Have you actually READ the letter?” Thomas asked drily.
Charlie grinned sheepishly. “Might be a good idea eh Dad?”
“My son the font of intelligence.” Thomas sighed as Charlie tore open the letter. “Well?”
Charlie scanned the letter, his face falling.
“Well?” Thomas asked again.
“There's only ten business owners in the PRO. I mean, they've all pledged their support…but only ten?” Charlie slumped.
“It takes privilege to own a business Charlie, you know that.” Thomas said. “A lot of the PRO don't have that privilege, which is why they want change.”
Charlie growled. He picked up his wallet, phone and keys and stalked off.
“See you later too.” Thomas frowned at the slammed door.
“PRIVILEGE. My arse.” Charlie grumbled as he sat with his friends at the tip as Daniel prepared to hit the ball out of the country.
“He's right though.” Belle said.
“Oh get off it Belle.” Charlie snapped. “All you need to open a business is hard work.”
“And the right skin colour.” Sammy piped up before bowling an extremely nasty bouncer.
“ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!” Daniel roared.
“Oh come ON.” Charlie groaned. “I know the cops are racist but you can't blame everything on racism!”
The fight stopped before it even started as everyone stared at Charlie.
“You're coming with me.” Belle grabbed her best friend by the ear.
“Ow ow ow!” Charlie cried as Belle dragged him away from the group.
“I can't believe you!” Belle cried as she threw him into a pile of old bikes. “You were in my BP class, and you STILL say stuff like that?!”
“Belle-,” Charlie started.
“You KNOW that trying to register a business in Pleasantville is down to whether or not City Hall likes you!” Belle snapped. “And you REALLY think they'd let someone of colour register a business?”
“Sammy's parents run the garage!” Charlie tried to defend himself.
“They RUN it, they don't OWN it!” Belle cried, exasperated. “They tried to buy it years ago and got blocked!”
“Well that's not because of the colour of their skin!” Charlie fought back.
“YES IT WAS.” Belle snapped. “I've read the documentation.”
“Well, my Dad was hated by City Hall, but HE managed to open up his own business!” Charlie tried.
“At THAT point, Jones didn't have half the power he has now for a start, plus your father went all the way to Brisvegas to get the money required.” Belle countered.
“So why aren't these so-called less privileged people doing that then?!” Charlie tried.
“Don't be an idiot. Do you know how many days it took for your father to get those loans and approvals?! The only reason you didn't starve while he was gone is because you owned the house you lived in and didn't need to pay rent!” Belle pointed out.
“Charlie, our families have it really easy compared to most. Both of our families have homes that were paid off generations ago, so we don't have to worry about a roof over our heads, and if we get desperate we can get loans against the houses. A lot of people in Pleasantville don't have that. Look at how hard TJ and Petunia have it. They've been saving up for years, but still can't buy their own home.”
Charlie felt the familiar feeling of the Improbability Clause in the back of his brain as all the pieces came together to tell him he was an idiot.
“So you look at someone of colour in Pleasantville. They have next to no chance. Those are the bulk of the people in the PRO.” Belle sat down.
Charlie sighed. He knew that Belle was right, and he owed Sammy a huge apology.
“I guess I still have to learn not to be racist after all.” He said.
“We all do.” Belle replied.
Charlie got up and headed back to the group, who had resumed hostilities.
“Maybe if you'd learn how to actually hit the ball you wouldn't have to worry about a bouncer!” Sammy yelled at Daniel.
“Maybe if you'd learn how to actually bowl you wouldn't have to resort to bullying tactics!” Daniel fired back.
“Hey guys.” Charlie said.
“Hey Charlie.” Sammy and Daniel said, before returning to trying to kill each other.
“Get him Sammy!” Tammy cheered.
“Get over it!” TJ fired at her.
“You know, maybe we should wait it out before your grand apology.” Belle scratched her head.
Crusader Daryl Jones was sulking.
“I mean, trying to poison Roger?” He heard Alex on the other side of the wall laughing. “What an idiot.”
“Yet had it been any one of us, we'd have been killed where we stood. Daryl just gets away with it because of who his Daddy is.” He heard Alice say bitterly.
“That's all he is really, a Daddys boy who never got told no in his life.” Alex said.
“Well, he's getting an education here, that's for certain.” Aiden said.
Daryl continued to sulk. He hated all of them! The moment he figured out how to get rid of Roger, he'd then get rid of the rest of them!
He just had to find a way to do it that wouldn't get traced back to him.
“And so I'm sorry for what I said. I was way out of line.” Charlie said to the group who had finally stopped trying to kill each other again.
“It's ok.” Sammy shrugged.
“It isn't.” Charlie sighed. “This whole time all I've been worried about is getting revenge on Demon for messing up my business. I forgot there's a bigger picture here, and that bigger picture means making things fair for everyone.”
“It's okay, really. We're used to it.” Sammy said.
“Well, you shouldn't be. No one should be.” Charlie said. “And if I have privilege, then it's up to me to use it responsibly and make things right.”
“Exactly.” Belle said.
“And I know you guys can do it.” Tammy smiled. “We're gonna land the first blow on the corruption in Pleasantville!”
“Yeah!” The team cheered together.
Charlie grinned, but inside he chided himself. Just because he didn't want to be a racist, it didn't mean there weren't parts of him that were racist. It was up to him to be on the alert and make those changes to not be racist.