The poster had first appeared on the wall just beside James’ door two weeks ago, and he had torn it down in disgust. Now it was back, and James was seeking official help. He stood, staring at it as the elderly dean of students slowly walked towards him. “End Slavery – Humanize the Fairies” proclaimed the poster in big, bright red letters. Just beneath the words was a poorly executed caricature of someone James could only assume to be a Fairy – fashionable top hat and frock coat flaring out, dragonfly wings sticking out of his back, and spindly fingers reaching out to grab at an adorable human baby. James could tell it was a human because it had no wings. Beneath this were details: “The Society for Unification of Humanoid Races meets Wednesdays at six-thirty in Whitehall Library”
Had the artist ever even seen a fairy? Of course not; if he had, he would have known that they didn’t have wings. How could the shadowy villain even pull on a frock coat with those things sticking out of his back? “Professor,” James heard the aging professor’s labored breathing and turned to him. “See? This is offensive, racist propaganda. It has no place being posted in the University.”
The professor squinted at the poster through inch-thick glasses. James wondered if he could even see it. “You’re not a fairy, are you young man?” he asked in a creaky sort of voice.
James looked down at his threadbare clothes, his six-year-old shoes, and the slight bulge of fat at his belly. “Do I look like a fairy?” he asked, and then shook his head in anger. “And besides, that’s not the point!” He insisted. “I’m human, and I’m still insulted by this drivel!”
The professor frowned. “Don’t support slavery and kidnapping, do you?” he asked.
“Are you insane?” James replied, outraged. “This isn’t about me. It’s about the offensive poster I have to walk past every day on my way to classes.”
The professor sniffed, unimpressed. “I don’t see anything particularly offensive about it,” he croaked. “Everyone knows now, the Fairies steal human children to be slaves – it was all over the papers with that Douglass fellow last year.”
James almost screamed with rage. This was the enlightened faculty at the premier institute in the country? This was the person responsible for the public image and marketing not only of the university but also of the adjoining school of magic, which was populated almost exclusively by half-Fairies? “You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about, bringing that up,” James said, and he knew he should probably have more respect for his elders but enough was enough. “Douglass went to jail for threatening, kidnapping, and attempting to enslave another fairy, not a human. He was caught by a fairy, and he would have been tried under fairy law and executed, as he probably deserved, except we demanded due process and tried him in a human court, and some jury decided that life in prison was a better punishment. Carey Douglass was a pariah of fairy society just as he would be in human society, and is no more representative of them than he was well-liked.” James was shaking with anger, but his diatribe was taking the edge off of it and he slowly realized that he should potentially not be shouting at the dean of student life in the middle of a dormitory hallway.
The professor’s eyes were flint. “Mind who you’re talking to, boy,” he said sternly. “I’m not some two-bit bigoted student, or an assistant professor who wants to josh around with the kids. I have half a mind to report you for insubordination and insolence. Who made you the expert on last year’s court cases, anyway?”
“I was there,” James responded quickly.
The professor scoffed. “You won’t get out of this by telling tall tales, young man.” James almost opened his mouth to insist that he wasn’t lying, and if there was any doubt he would go and get Sergeant Tate to vouch for his involvement, but then he decided against it. It wasn’t universally known that Sergeant Hammond Tate of the Tinia Police used a crack squad of University Students (self-labeled the “magops”, with a soft g, for Mysterious, Abnormal, and Generally Odd Protection Services or Magical Operatives, depending on who you asked) to help with his stranger cases. In any case, the professor only paused for a moment before continuing. “Now, unless you can find me five students other than yourself who are honestly offended by this poster, I’m not going to do anything about it. The Society for Unification of Humanoid Races is a legitimate group and deserves their freedom of speech just like anyone else.”
The professor then turned and hobbled away. James stood, stunned, watching him leave. He knew that calling out and bringing the bigoted old professor back to talk to him further would do no good whatsoever, and might even get him in a fair amount of hot water, so he eventually just sighed, sent one last glare at the poster, and walked away.
So much for that idea.
At dinner that night, sitting in the kitchen of Brenda Christiansen’s new apartment, drinking a beer, he told the rest of the magops – Brenda, Kip Duncan, and Malcolm Jackson – the story.
“Jamesie, you’ve gone fey,” Kip said with a laugh.
“I have not!” James insisted. “This is about an objectively offensive piece of disgusting political propaganda, not my own friendship with certain Fairies! And would you please stop calling me Jamesie?”
Malcolm cast a glance towards Brenda at the word ‘friendship’, and Kip chortled with laughter. “Femininity goes with fey, you know that,” he said, taking another gulp of beer and leaning back to balance on the back two legs of his chair.
“It’s not that offensive, James,” Brenda said. “You’re taking this too personally. You should be glad that people paid enough attention to the whole Douglass-Nerissa-Whatever we’re calling it affair that they’re doing something to prevent it happening again.”
James set his beer down with a bit more force than was necessary. “But the things that they’re doing wouldn’t have stopped him. They wouldn’t have had any effect whatsoever on Douglass – they’re just perpetuating a vicious stereotype!”
“Just let it drop,” Malcolm warned.
James sighed. “It’s not as if there’s anything I can do anyway,” he said bitterly, and took another gulp of beer.
Kip shook his head. “James,” he said with a warning voice. “You are not letting this get you down.” James shrugged.
“Look, if it really is that big of a deal,” Brenda said with a pacifying tone, “Write a petition. Find five students. They must exist.”