To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel written by Harper Lee. The novel takes place in a small southern town in the U.S. during the 1930s. The story is about a white lawyer named Atticus who defends an African American man who has been wrongly accused by a white woman of rape. In the end, the African American man dies after losing the case and going to jail. This is all told through the perspective of Atticus’ young daughter Scout. A recurring theme throughout this book is discrimination, which will be discussed below with quotes from the book.
The kind of discrimination many Maycomb citizens engage in is blind, and inconsiderate of others’ feelings. Just like what Dolphus Raymond says, “Cry about the simple hell people gives other people — without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give coloured folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too (Lee 201),” Maycomb citizens discriminate without stopping to think that African Americans are people too, and they discriminate without looking inside themselves first to find the real reason that is triggering the discriminatory feelings. It is ignorance.
Discrimination in Maycomb is so widespread; it exists amongst white people too. This can be seen when Aunt Alexandria tells Scout why she couldn’t play with Walter Cunningham: “‘I’ll tell you why,’ she said. ‘because — he — is — trash, that’s why you can’t play with him (Lee 225).'” Racism in Maycomb isn’t just the standard racial discrimination so common in the 30s, but also classism. The Cunninghams are really poor and do not bathe often. Walter is not very educated because he has to help out his father’s business. This causes people like Aunt Alexandria to look down on them.
Lastly, the biggest issue with Maycomb’s discrimination is that the citizens themselves do not see nor understand their discrimination. When a student asks Miss Gates why Germans dislike the Jews, she answers, “I don’t know, Henry. They contribute to every society they live in, and most of all, they are a deeply religious people (Lee 245).” The very same traits for the Jews could be applied to African Americans. If the citizens of Maycomb cannot understand where the prejudice against Jews is coming from, how can they understand where their own prejudice is coming from? Their hatred towards African Americans is based on something insubstantial and weak.
“Once upon a time they was two girls," I say. "one girl had black skin, one girl had white."
Mae Mobley look up at me. She listening.
"Little colored girl say to little white girl, 'How come your skin be so pale?' White girl say, 'I don't know. How come your skin be so black? What you think that mean?'
"But neither one a them little girls knew. So little white girl say, 'Well, let's see. You got hair, I got hair.'"I gives Mae Mobley a little tousle on her head.
"Little colored girl say 'I got a nose, you got a nose.'"I gives her little snout a tweak. She got to reach up and do the same to me.
"Little white girl say, 'I got toes, you got toes.' And I do the little thing with her toes, but she can't get to mine cause I got my white work shoes on.
"'So we's the same. Just a different color', say that little colored girl. The little white girl she agreed and they was friends. The End."
Baby Girl just look at me. Law, that was a sorry story if I ever heard one. Wasn't even no plot to it. But Mae Mobley, she smile and say, "Tell it again.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help