Racial Injustice In To Kill A Mockingbird

1357 words - 5 pages

In a desperate attempt to save his client, Tom Robinson, from death, Atticus Finch boldly declares, “To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. This case is as simple as black and white” (Lee 271). The gross amounts of lurid racial inequality in the early 20th century South is unfathomable to the everyday modern person. African-Americans received absolutely no equality anywhere, especially not in American court rooms. After reading accounts of the trials of nine young men accused of raping two white women, novelist Harper Lee took up her pen and wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, a blistering exposition of tragic inequalities suffered by African Americans told from the point of view of a young girl. Though there are a few trivial differences between the events of the Scottsboro trials and the trial of Tom Robinson portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird, such as the accusers’ attitudes towards attention, the two cases share a superabundance of similarities. Among these are the preservation of idealist views regarding southern womanhood and excessive brutality utilized by police.
The paradigm of southern womanhood was a matter of great importance to the people of the early 20th century South. So important was the institution of southern womanhood to the culture at the time when they were willing to lie, and even kill to protect it. Such is the case in To Kill a Mockingbird¸ when Mayella Ewell lies about Tom Robinson raping her to ensure that she is not looked down upon, as anyone known to be consorting with a black man would have been. Atticus illustrates his disgust with this situation when he says he is “in favor of Southern womanhood as much as anybody, but not for preserving polite fiction at the expense of human life” (Lee 196). Atticus is describing an all too common occurrence. Rather than face the truth and the negative consequences that would come to them, white women, when caught in a compromising position with a colored man, would often cry rape, and subject the colored man unfairly to all manners of cruel and unusual punishment. Preservation of southern womanhood at all costs is also an important factor in the Scottsboro trials. It was illegal for white women to consort with black men in Alabama during the 1930s. In order to avoid the legal and social ramifications for coming onto black men, the two girls lied to authorities without any consideration for the pain and suffering they would cause the young black boys and their families. The Encyclopedia of Alabama describes this story, delineating, “In the hope of avoiding vagrancy and morality charges, the women falsely accused the nine young black men…. of rape” (Encyclopedia of Alabama 1). In order to avoid the shame and legal trouble that would arise from their association with colored men, the two girls threw the innocent black men under the bus. The girls, by virtue of their employment as mill workers and prostitutes, were already at a lower than normal social class for...

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