Sexism and Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Whether one likes it or not, discrimination has been and is a huge part of human existence on Earth. Discrimination between various groups of people can be traced back to the earliest days of mankind. While the severity of discrimination has certainly improved over the many years, it still very much so exists in different forms. This can be seen frequently throughout the coming of age novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and in society today.

The novel To Kill a Mockingbird has frequently been regarded as one of the best literary works ever written. The novel, which is narrated and seen through the eyes of Scout, a young girl growing up in the American South, tackles many forms of discrimination. Throughout the novel, readers discover the prejudice world of 1930’s Maycomb, Alabama that Scout and her family live in. While Scout’s father Atticus has a more progressive outlook on the world, the other townspeople in Maycomb do not necessarily agree with his views.

When Atticus is asked to defend a black man wrongfully accused of rape because of his race, the town is forced to pick sides, and Scout and her brother Jem are stuck in the middle. This case allows Scout and Jem to form their own beliefs and opinions on racism and allows readers to dive deeper into the shadows of Maycomb to discover the other forms of discrimination that lurk besides that of racism. More specifically, in the fiction work To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, two forms of discrimination that can be seen that are still prevalent today are sexism and racism in the court.

For example, in the novel, one form of discrimination that can be seen that is still prevalent in today’s society is sexism. More specifically, when Jem and Scout get in trouble for making fun of and discriminating against the Radley’s, Scout says, “I was not so sure, but Jem told me I was being a girl, that girls always imagined things, that’s why other people hated them so, and if I started behaving like one I could just go off and find some to play with” (Lee 45). Here it can be seen that Jem has a very negative view towards women and femininity. One can also insinuate that many other men in Maycomb feel this way as the words “other people hate them” are used to force Scout into acting more appropriate in their eyes. With this, sexism against women is still a huge issue today.

Many a time, this sexism and discrimination occurs in the workplace and throughout adult life. In an article by John Gray, Ph.D, he wrote, “their [men’s] behavior tend to exclude women from informal networks, limit their chances for mentoring and sponsorship…” (Huffington Post). While hatred between men and women may not be as common today as it was during the Antebellum era, old prejudices that have lasted since long before the events of To Kill a Mockingbird can be and have been passed down from person to person and still exist today. An example of this outdated discrimination can be seen in a news article by New York Times. Throughout this article, many stories from working women are shown that uncover the sexism that lies beneath the surface in our society today.

A woman named Jennifer Kelly claimed that at her workplace there have been many instances where she hasn’t been taking seriously just because of her gender. She said, “I offer suggestions and comments during meetings, and often my suggestions do not even get acknowledged. Then, moments later, a male in the room offers up my suggestion and claims it as his own, and everyone acts real supportive and cheers it on, so to speak” (New York Times). This sexism in the workplace is far too common throughout our society. It is clear that Jennifer Kelly is overlooked at her place of occupation due to her gender and this proves that men still have a negative view towards women. Unfortunately, women all over the world still suffer from discrimination and it does not seem to be ending any time soon.

Furthermore, in the novel, another form of discrimination that can be seen that is still prevalent today is racism in the court. In particular, when Jem was talking to Atticus about the Robinson case, Atticus said, “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads-they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s against a black man’s, the white man always wins” (Lee 251-252). Here, it is apparent that during the early 1900’s in the American South, blacks were regarded as inferior in comparison to a white person. They were treated as inhuman, “creatures” that were on a completely different side of the scale in relation to whites.

In addition, it is obvious that in a court of law, blacks would never win solely because of their skin color. This racism in court is a huge problem in our judicial system and society today. In an article by Bennett L. Gershman, he wrote about a case called the Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado. In this case, a Hispanic man of Mexican origin was being charged with sexual assault against a white woman. During the case, a former police officer who happened to be white said, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want.” The same person also told the jury to vote guilty because he is Hispanic (Huffington Post). This horrendous case has many similarities to that of the Robinson case in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Some of these distinct similarities include the fact that the cases are both about an allegation of an act of sexual assault committed by a non-white male. With this, in both cases there is little to no factual support to back up the claims of sexual assault made by the two white women from each case. The blatant racism in both of these cases connects them. While the Robinson case was about 80 years ago, this modern case of Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado demonstrates how the racism shown throughout the novel is not a problem of the past. Racism is a problem that continues to live and thrive throughout the world, especially throughout our country, today.

Hence, in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, two forms of discrimination that can be seen that are still prevalent today are sexism and racism in the court. Today’s society needs to step up and make a change as problems from about 80 years ago are almost as prevalent right now. Discriminatory actions toward a single person or group of people for something they cannot control is purely evil and should be abolished. One inch in the right direction is all that is needed to start a worldwide movement.

Cite this paper

Sexism and Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird. (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/sexism-and-racism-in-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

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