Racism in the book To Kill a Mockingbird

In the book To Kill a Mockingbird there is much racism, which is not okay. But go back to the to the time period when it was. The problems in the 1930’s Great Depression was affected virtually by every group of Americans. No group was hit harder than African Americans, however. By 1932, approximately half of black Americans were out of work. In some Northern cities, whites called for blacks to be fired from any jobs as long as there were whites out of work. Racial violence again became more common, especially in the South.

The 1930’s were a tough time for race relations in America. Despite the decline of organizations like the Ku Klux Klan which was a secret society of white Southerners in the United States; was formed in the 19th century to resist the emancipation of slaves and used terrorist tactics to suppress black people, racism was as strong as ever in the Southern states. The increased presence of Black Americans in Northern cities, which was where many had migrated during WWII and especially during the Depression, resulted in greater tension between the races there as well.

Life for blacks in the 1930’s were known as “American Hell”. They had no civil rights which meant they couldn’t vote or take part in major economical decisions. Land ownership was very rare but possible. For example, if a black man owned a piece of land and a white man saw it, liked it, and could find great use for it then they could easily take it. Formal education was not given to blacks and if you got caught reading, going to school, or going to a library you could be arrested, and possibly hanged. Work for blacks was very strenuous but limited. They would have to be enslaved to a family and work for them to do all their chores with little to no pay.

If you had decided to do this kind of work, you weren’t allowed to stay in the house of your owner, you have to stay in a shed or barn with no running water or heat. The food they were given were straps of items the owner did not like or want such as pigs feet, pigs tails, pig intestines, or rotten vegetables from the garden. Crazy, disturbing and unfair would be an understatement.

Lee did a very good job at depicting how slavery was in the 19th century, but, he could have made things seem a little harsher. Here’s a few quotes with a meaning from the book:

“I’d rather you shoot at tin cans, in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit them, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat gardens or nest in corncribs they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us that’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (94 Atticus, Miss Maudie)

This is one of the quotes that is the focal point of the entire book. Reflecting on the fact that Tom Robinson, a black man did nothing wrong, he did not rape Mayella Ewell and still he was blamed for it, tried to escape and was shot. Tom Robinson was the mockingbird.

“The main one is. If I didn’t defend Tom Robinson in court I couldn’t hold my head up in town” (80 Atticus)

All of the black negroes in Maycomb were depending upon Atticus to get Tom off of the charges that he raped a white woman. If he didn’t try then he would be guilty of not defending him in court. A white man defending a black man was not looked kindly upon during the 1930’s.

“Yes, suh. I felt sorry for her. She seemed to try more’n the rest of them.” “You felt sorry for her, you felt sorry for her?” (200 Tom Robinson, Mr. Gilmer)

How could someone with a house and with good friends feel sorry for someone without a very good house, and no friends. When he, Tom came from a good family and she, Mayella came from an abusive one. A black man feel sorry for a white woman… She was the one that tempted a nigger…

There were many instances in which a black man or woman was treated unfairly in this period or time. For example, the killing of the freedom marcher. Medgar Evers was an African-American civil rights activist from Mississippi involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi. After returning from overseas military service in World War 2 and completing his secondary education, he became active in the civil rights movement. Evers was shot by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens Council because of his civil rights protest. As a veteran he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Another example is the killing of MalcomX. Malcom was a very wise man who had been many places to teach about racism and hate. He became part of the NOI (Nation of Islam) where he taught with Elijah Muhammad. Malcom soon received criticism and said to Muhammad “Kennedy never foresaw that the chickens will come home to roost soon.”, and Muhammad then “silenced” him for 90 days. In that same year, Malcom had gone to Saudi Arabia, and he had a completely different view on things. He wanted to make a statement about how unfair racism was.

After the trip, him and the NOI were on very bad terms, so bad that Malcom didn’t go anywhere without body guards and protection. One week later however, Malcom’s enemies had gotten what they wanted. At a speaking engagement at the Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21st 1965, three gunman rushed Malcom on stage. They shot him 15 times at close range, and was pronounced dead.

I don’t think white racists in the South had to “pay the bill” for their oppression of blacks.

Should they have? Yes, most definitely. What they did was so wrong and disturbing. People want us to forget 300 years of slavery, but no. That will never happen, because those whites didn’t have to pay for all the pain they caused those people.


Cliffsnotes.com. (2017). To Kill a Mockingbird: Study Help | Famous Quotes | CliffsNotes. [online] Available at: https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/t/to-kill-a-mockingbird/study-help/famous-quotes-from-to-kill-a-mockingbird

Shmoop.com. (2017). To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes. [online] Available at: http://www.shmoop.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird/quotes.html

Topics, Sample Papers & Articles Online for Free. (2017). To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes. [online] Available at: https://studymoose.com/to-kill-a-mockingbird-explanation-of-the-quote-essay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *