In chapter 21, at the end of the trial, Atticus speaks eloquently and convincingly on behalf of Tom Robinson. Jem is convinced, naively, that Atticus has won the case, and that the jury will return quickly with a verdict of not guilty. The jury, however, unanimously declare Tom Robinson to be guilty, and in so doing prove that the jury system is as flawed as the irrational fears and prejudices of the individual jurors. The jury's verdict is not based on reason or logic or evidence, but on the simple racist belief that Black men are inferior, predatory, and mendacious, whereas white people are superior, innocent, and virtuous. The jury do not give Tom Robinson a fair trial and defy the golden rule that people should treat others as they themselves would wish to be treated.
When Tom Robinson is led from the court, the Black community all stand for him, and also for Atticus, as a mark of respect. Scout looks around and sees that "all around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet." Under the circumstances, this is about as much of a gesture as these Black spectators could have made. By standing up for Tom and Atticus, they are quietly showing to each the respect that they themselves would likely want to be treated with in the same circumstances. With this small but powerful gesture, the Black community show themselves to be much more decent than the white members of the jury who have just wrongly sentenced Tom Robinson to death.