Racism In To Kill a Mockingbird
Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird is focused through the various interactions between the characters. Scout, the protagonist of the story, is shown through her eyes. Scout lives in Maycomb in Alabama with her father Atticus, and brother Jem. Diverse aspects of vice are shown in the novel, mostly the conflict between whites, and African-American communities. The stereotypes shared by people from opposing races are responsible for most of the misunderstandings in the town. The narrative explains how prejudices and injustices along race lines can cause social conflict.
Racial prejudice can be defined as discrimination that is based on one’s skin colour. Tom Robinson was convicted at his trial. Tom was convicted for being black and his word wasn’t considered as valuable or truthful than a white man. To Kill a Mockingbird exposes Atticus’ and his children to this type of racial prejudice both before and during Tom Robinson’s trial.
Many white characters are portrayed in a negative light in the novel. Aunt Alexandra and The Ewells are two examples that show how white characters freely assert their superiority over black people. Bob Ewell is a clear example of racial prejudice towards black people when it comes to Tom Robinson’s rape of his daughter Mayella. Bob Ewell mocks Tom Robinson, another form of racial prejudice. He called Tom Robinson “a nigger”. It’s offensive to call blacks “niggers”.
He cursed black people the same way he cursed animals. Blacks were considered trash in his town. Aunt Alexandra expresses her distaste for Maycomb and Maycomb in many ways. Aunt Alexandra says that Atticus’ children cannot visit Calpurnia’s house because it is inappropriate for white children and black neighbors to interact. Aunt Alexandra says that black and brown people are not equal 13 and she tries to force this view onto the Finch family.
Another example is that Blacks are required to be in a section of the courtroom where they can sit separately from whites. White people feel superior to Blacks and they have to be in a separate section. Maycomb already has Blacks who are in a lower social class than any other white man simply because they have darker skin. Whites feel superior to Blacks. They are blinded to the belief that Blacks cannot sit in the same congregation as them. They create their own churches to worship together, even though Blacks are not permitted into the same church as Whites.
Discrimination against people based upon their race was a widespread phenomenon in the 1930s. People of color, and especially the blacks, have never been accepted into white society. The majority was white and held a superiority over the minority of black people, who were mainly engaged in manual labor. Lee et.al. state that the discrimination against African-Americans was most severe because they are the largest ethnicity in the white society (13).
To Kill a Mockingbird reveals the practice through a variety of characters who express different views. Scout’s family, which includes her father, Atticus, brother Jem and cousin Francis, is depicted as being neutral to racism within a community that is heavily divided along racial lines. Scout’s Cousin Francis portrays Atticus, a “nigger lover”, and it sounds like an awful abuse. Scout acknowledges she doesn’t know what it means but does not like Francis’ use of it.
Atticus explained that the term doesn’t actually mean anything. “Nigger-lover” is one of those terms, which don’t even refer to snot nose it’s been used by people like themselves, who want a common, unattractive term to describe someone (Lee 113). It was not only derogatory of people of color but also meant to be disparaging of Whites who supported them.
To Kill a Mockingbird was written in the 1930s. It was a time marked by the Great Depression, economic hardships, and the Great Depression. Maycomb was small and inhabited by people of lower social status and different ethnicities. Scout lived in a selfish society that only favored their own interests. Many atrocities were committed against African Americans, since whites were the majority.
Atticus’s relatives did not view a person’s race as something that could cause social division. The family lived in harmony with other races, showing sympathy and respect for those who were oppressed. Atticus even offered to help in a rape case against Tom, a poor African man. This causes the Maycomb society to anger.
Chapter nine, Cecil, Scout’s classmate, screams Atticus is protecting a “Negro” “Does Atticus defend niggers?” I asked him that night. “Ofcourse I do. Scout, you don’t have to say nigger. That’s common” (Lee 79). Cecil and Scout get into a fight over this assertion. Scout was so offended by the racist claim that Cecil made, she lost her temper and went to confront Cecil. Critically, this incident corresponds to several connotations in Cecil’s book.
In the nineteenth century slavery was abolished. The colored members of society were treated as equals with whites but separately. The result was that segregation continued by inequalities in the facilities offered to different ethnicities. As minority groups were seen as inferior, their rights were also violated. Tom’s example is a perfect example. Tom was accused of rape in front of his white father and daughter. He was ultimately convicted even though he didn’t commit the crime. His race and color can lead to him being unfairly convicted.
Lee adopts an antiracial approach to condemn injustices perpetrated against minority groups by an overly prejudiced community. Irony is also used to illustrate the ignorance of certain community members and further the theme. Atticus is partially blind in his left ocular, so he needs glasses to see clearly. He has the best knowledge about equality in Maycomb, despite being partially blind. Scout, Jem, Dill and other children are fair to all community members regardless of their race and despite not being well-versed in societal virtues. According to the author, people who are open-minded about racial differences may be able to live harmoniously with others, regardless of their ethnicities.
Maycomb residents have racism deeply ingrained into their culture to the point that people of different races are unable to socialize or engage in activities that involve them. Scout questions her father about why he decided to represent Tom Robinson at court because he was from the Black community.
Atticus responded, “For several reasons… I couldn’t hold up my nose in town, I could’t represent the country in this legislature, I could’t even tell Jem or you not to do it again. Every lawyer only gets one case in his life that affects him personally.” This case is mine, I think” (Lee 80). Atticus’s perception of racism is demonstrated by the incident. Atticus believed that everyone should be treated the same regardless of color.
Contrary to Atticus’ situation, discrimination against one ethnicity is the most common result of the color-line problem. The oppression is applied to the most vulnerable members of the community, and they are often denied access to justice, amenities, and opportunities.
The authors note that people of non-white skin have suffered oppression from the Whites, as they were considered inferior and uncivilized because of their skin colour. 48). Black people were viewed as inferior and uncivilized. This illustration shows how societies perpetuate stereotypes of their counterparts. It is also the case in To Kill a Mockingbird. Racism is therefore a topic whose definition matches the novel’s primary theme.
The novel says that Maycomb could be described as a microcosmof modern society’s practice of racism. Because of its multicultural approach, Maycomb’s choice of character traits and his selection of characters seems to have stood the test. It is still relevant today. While there have been many international efforts to foster equity and diversity, racism and stereotyping persist in some areas and among certain individuals within the community. Lee also uses Maycomb Town to spread an anti-racism message. However, it can equally be argued the book encourages white supremacy which may lead to prejudice
Atticus and the rest of his family are heroes for saving Tom from rape accusations. However, they were subject to a threat by Maycomb’s angry society. Scouts offer a surprising answer to mad people. This is a sign of the racist mindset of people from that time. Macaluso says that Atticus (a white man) is the hero while Tom (an African American man) is the helpless and crippled victim (280).
The plot continues around Atticus’s family heroisms. This might be criticized because of the bias of the author towards undermining racial diversity. But, this critical perspective might not be as valid because To Kill a Mockingbird conveys Maycomb’s intended message, which is applicable to most modern neighborhoods.
Scout, Jem, Dill and Jem are all fascinated by Boo, the shy character who lives with Mr. Radley. Boo is a strange character who drives three children to his yard in an attempt to steal a glimpse. Radley misunderstands Jem’s shadow as a person, and shoots at it. Maycomb assumes Radley had shot an African American and so they believe that Radley shot at the Negro in his collard. (Lee 11).
These racists claim that the “blacks are guilty of any crime committed in the community and see them as inferior. Similar incidents have occurred in contemporary societies where minority group members are wrongly killed or injured due to their ethnicity. Following the killing of several African-American teenagers by police officers, protests were held on “Black Lives Matter”.
Studies also show that certain races are more likely be treated differently than those of whites in similar situations. “Whites see themselves as more sophisticated and more human than those with darker skinned “others”, whether they are African or indigenous, whom they control” (Salter and al. 153). Claudia Gomez, a young Mexican lady was shot and killed by an officer in 2018. He assumed she was armed as she was with other migrants. Some residents orchestrated the prejudicial events that led to the murders in Maycomb.
People accused blacks of any crime or questionable act, even though there was no evidence or report against them. When anyone was victim to violence, the people blamed blacks directly without looking back at what actually happened.
The majority of people made a quick judgement whenever there was any relationship with blacks. They believe that all bad things are their fault. However, they also believe that blacks can be dangerous and criminals (Faizah 2016). White people who accept racism or are racist would never have a relationship or work with black suspects. Tom’s husband was refused a job offer by anyone.
A dissimilar skin tone has led to African Americans being subject to racial discrimination, prejudice, and inequality throughout history. Due to their status as unwelcome and uncivilized people, they were discriminated against and verbally abused.
Racial segregation was seen as a great veil that conceals the humanity and potential of African Americans. White people were unable to realize their good nature, which is why they were accused of illegal or criminal acts that occurred in the environment of white people without investigating their innocence.
The lives of blacks in To Kill a Mockingbird can be greatly affected by discrimination and bias. Lee’s efforts to end segregation and racial prejudice are almost tangible. The moral message of this novel is to communicate to the world that people should live together in peace and harmony through kindness, cooperation, and respect. Lee asks the children who are not yet aware of these prejudices to ask sharp questions. On the other, Lee challenges adults who have been taught to accept racial prejudices to think about them and respond to the children.
What has happened since To Kill a Mockingbird. 60 years later, Americans still face racial profiling, discrimination and lack of opportunity based on skin color. Injustices have been committed by police and judicial actions against blacks, leading to mass incarceration and exile of young black men. Institutional racism persists.
Racialization, categorization, and the classification of fellow human beings are social constructs without which certain groups can be oppressed. Every one of us must, professionally and personally decide what action to take to reduce disparities in health care, and the root cause, institutional racism. To do so requires grace, humility and a growing sense o responsibility
- Lee H. to Kill a Mockingbird. HarperCollins Publishers. New York. NY, NY2006
- Sarat and Austin Umphrey. Martha, “Temporal Horizons”, in Reimagining to Kill a Mockingbird. Families, Communities, and the possibility of equal justice. (United States of America : University of Massachusetts Press 2013), pp. 20-1.
- Faizah S. (2016) Racial prejudices in Lee’s to Kill a Mockingbird. Skripsi: Fakultas Ilmu Budaya.
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