Tonight, his 17-year old son is challenging racism. Not in the way Harrison wishes he would, by defending the rights and essential worthiness of minorities, but by asserting that it’s not actually that bad.
“This country was founded by Europeans,” Will is saying. He finished shoveling food into his mouth and is now using his fork for oratorial emphasis. “There’s where, like, our entire culture came from. If a bunch of immigrants come in and change that, what’s left?” He sits back triumphantly in his chair.
Harrison spears a piece of chicken and then takes some vegetables, another fruitless exercise in modeling good behavior. “What about the Native Americans?” A headache is pulsing behind his eyes, leaking pain out his temples and down the bridge of his nose. There are two or three sips left of the single glass of red wine that he allows himself, but he is afraid of employing them prematurely. Knowing his son, these are still opening salvos.
Will shrugs, dismissing an entire nation and their history with a jerk of his shoulders. “They were too busy hunting buffalo or whatever.”
“Are you forgetting about the slaves who literally built this country, who –”
His son makes a disgusted noise. “You make everything about race.”
A muscle pops into twitching life over Harrison’s left eye. His therapist is always telling him not to engage, that the worst thing he can do is allow his son to provoke a reaction. He forces himself to take another piece of chicken.
“Racism’s over, Harrison. Maybe you’re the racist one, did you ever think about that?” The fork stabs the air between them.
Calling him by his first name instead of dad has been a recent development, another example of pushing boundaries. His son, whose fragile infant skull he had held in his palm and wept over how easy it would have been to crush it like an egg. Not because he wanted to hurt him, but because it was the worst thing he could image.