Racism implies prejudice, bias, or discrimination directed either at an individual or an entire race or group of people belonging to a different ethnicity. The novel To Kill a Mockingbird presents racism in Maycomb society where most of the people belong to different races. Harper Lee projects racism and details how social injustice, prejudices, and class discrimination ruin social harmony. Although the whole text depicts racism, a few prominent incidents of racism in the novel have been discussed below.
Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird
Tom’s trial is the major incident of racism as the entire novel revolves around it. His arrested for rape and assault on Myella Ewell, a white woman. This incident turns the whole population of Maycomb against him. He becomes an easy victim of racism just because of the color of his skin. Everyone in the town believes in Myella’s side of the story except Atticus. Although there is no proof of his crime, yet he faces hatred from the citizens of his own community as well as the court. This trial provides an opportunity to examine the racist stance of an entire community.
The second incident of racism involves Atticus and his defense of Tom. He decides to stand with Tom because he believes his innocence. This decision invites the wrath of the Maycomb society. In chapter nine, Scout’s classmate, Cecil Jacob, announces that Scout’s father is defending a ‘Negro’ which causes a brawl between Scout and Cecil. Racism has poisoned the atmosphere so much so that Scouts forgets her promise and loses her temper. The association of this incident of racism becomes prominent here for supporting an innocent.
Another incident of racism involves a white character, Boo Radley, who stabs his father with a scissor. Despite his crime, he is not locked up with the dark-skinned criminals in prison. He is, instead, locked up in the courthouse basement. The sheriff thinks it will be a harsh treatment if he is imprisoned with the black people. You can notice the difference in the justice system as Boo, a white teen, receives a prejudicial treatment even after confessing his crime. On the other hand, innocent Tom faces ill-treatment because of his dark skin. This incident shows how prejudice discriminates people, and how people in authority lose the sense of justice and decision-making process.
Incident – 4
The fourth significant incident of racism involves verbal abuse when Mrs. Dubose confronts Jem and Scout. When they pass by Mrs. Dubose’s house, she yells at them and expresses her hatred because of their father’s action of defending Tom. Also, because Tom is black and Atticus is white, she along with many other people from the society disapproved Atticus’s choice. Jem gets furious at these remarks, and in response, he destroys Mrs. Dubose’s Camellia bush. This incident shows the negative attitude of Maycomb people toward Atticus, who loses his esteemed position after believing in Tom and deciding to defend him.
The fifth important incident of racism involves a description of black people’s love life often called Nigger-love, a term prevalent at that time. Scout’s inquiry about this term foreshadows the treatment of African-Americans in Maycomb society. Atticus’s explanation of the term in a positive way is remarkable. He explains that people who hate black people use foul words and offend each other. Atticus restores Scout’s confidence, explaining to her that she is above all the negative things she hears. This incident shows that in the racist society of Maycomb, people like Atticus, dare to uphold the slogans of equality, justice, and fair treatment.
Another incident of racism involves the negative treatment experienced by Jem and Scout in a church. One day, Calpurnia, their caretaker, takes them to her church where they face social hostility and prejudice. On seeing them, a black woman expresses her anger saying whites have their own church. Jem and Scout appear as enemies of the blacks at that very moment because of their white skin. This hatred is caused because of the way the dominant white people treated the black community during that period. This incident shows how people have become hostile in their attitudes, even towards children, they even cannot stand together in their worship places.
This incident of racism involves Atticus and the angry mob. Throughout the novel, Atticus tries to prove Tom’s innocence in the eyes of court but fails. One day, the society of Maycomb stands together outside the jail to punish Tom but Atticus, as always, tries to protect him. The lynch mob threatens him and his children, however, Atticus does not give up. At this, Scout jumps into the situation and turns the angry people back with an impressive response. This event also signifies the racist mentality of the people of that time.
Another unusual incident involves the description of a mixed-child. In a racist society like Maycomb, even a mixed-child faces the same treatment as the black people. Despite having one white parent, they receive the same biased treatment like blacks because even a single drop of other ethnic blood makes them all black. Jem also explains that the lines of strict division in racism are less active in North but in South the mixed-race is considered trash. This incident displays Jem as matured teen, Jem and also explains the treatment shown towards the mixed-race people.
One more incident involves Atticus and Tom’s defense in the courtroom. In chapter 23, Atticus says to the court that Mayella Ewell is taking advantage of her white privilege by accusing an innocent man, Tom. She does not provide any proof of her innocence to the court yet Tom becomes a victim of the crime he did not commit. He proposes that decisions of the court should be free from discrimination because the court is a place where justice exercises supremacy regardless of color, caste, or creed. This incident shows that even the judicial system in Maycomb is not free from racism.
Another incident of racism includes Atticus and his understanding of the judicial system after Tom’s trial. He strives to win justice for Tom but fails. His decision of defending Tom proves a revolt against society. Throughout the novel, he keeps on transferring positive values to his children. However, when the court system proves biased, he admits that in prejudicial societies white man words have credence and black man’s words are unreliable. This incident proves that no matter how honest, truthful and committed you are, and you cannot go against the accepted social norms.