Racism: Black vs. White

During the 1930s in Maycomb County, everyone treated each other differently. People judged traits other people based on their skin color. White people thought that all black people were not smart. Blacks did not want whites in their social circles. Both groups kept each other at a distance, mostly due to ignorance, each not willing to understand the other as a real person. Atticus Finch was an exception in his defense of Tom Robinson. He treated him as a man, not a black man. During the trial he made the jury look beyond the color of Tom’s skin.

Throughout the novel, readers can see various forms of discrimination in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Blacks who are not willing to understand or socialize with whites is portrayed by Lula’s comment to Clapurnia: “You ain’t got no business bringin’ white chillun here – they got their church, we got our’n. It is our church, ain’t Miss Cal? ” (158) When Scout heard Lula’s statement, she sensed that the people did not want her Ferro 2 and Jem there. Scout assumed that they were not welcome until Zeebo, the garbage collector, tells them that everyone is glad to have them, and not to worry about Lula.

During this time period in the South, the expectation was that whites did not like blacks, but whites never expected that the reverse was true. Scout also wonders why Calpurnia speaks differently to the black members of the church than she does to Whites in their neighborhood. Calpurnia said that if she spoke the same way she did to white people in a black church, the church would think she believes herself better than them, in the same way that if she spoke to the white people the way she speaks to the black members, they would most likely ridicule her and treat her poorly.

This is a prime example of racial discrimination. Another form of discrimination demonstrated in the book is Atticus’ case with Tom Robinson. Tom is accused, and later convicted, of raping Bob Ewell’s young daughter, Mayella. Atticus addresses the jury: She was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards. (272) Ferro 3.

Not only is Tom discriminated against, but Atticus is as well, merely for defending Tom. Atticus feels he could not face his family in the same way if he did not defend this innocent man, and in turn he is mocked not only by his friends and neighbors, but also by strangers and family. Atticus does prove Tom’s innocence, but Tom is ultimately convicted and sentenced to death because of the town’s ongoing racial issues. Scout does not understand why Tom was accused in the first place, other than simply because he is black.

After Tom is sentenced, Atticus teaches Scout to react to the people belittling them is inspiring and should be used as an example in other cases In the discussion amongst Jem, Scout and Dill about their family history, Jem points out that maybe everyone is related: “Uncle Jack Finch says we really don’t know. He says as far as he can trace back the Finches we ain’t (black), for all he know we mighta come straight out of Ethopia durin’ the Old Testament. ” (216) Jem uses this as an example that there are not really differences between black and white.

The children are trying to understand, against the backdrop of the trial, why whites feel the way they do about blacks. In their minds, Tom is innocent and it should have nothing to do with the color of his skin. How can the adults decide he’s guilty only because he is black? The children are more attuned Ferro 4 to good and evil and that is not a direct connection to the color of one’s skin. Scout, Dill, and Jem are most concerned with what is reflected in a person’s heart. The story shows varying points of view between blacks and whites, especially as they react to the trial of Tom Robinson.

Those perceptions show that each group has assumptions about the other. Those assumptions are the basis of racism. As people read, they can see the various forms of discrimination in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. From the innocence of the children, to the determination of Atticus Finch, the novel shows that blacks and whites could be equally prejudiced, without consideration given to the real person. Every character has an element of the story that demonstrates a different form of racism. The sum of all the characters gives the reader a picture of the life in American South when the differences between blacks and whites was at their greatest.