Can you explain why Miss Gates feels so strongly about Hitler's persecution of the Jews, and yet is herself violently prejudiced against Negroes?

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noahvox2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 26 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the reader is presented with a scene from Scout's third grade class in which the children are supposed to be discussing current events. One of the students brings up Hitler's persecution of the Jews. The teacher, Miss Gates, expresses sympathy for the plight of the Jews and is deeply troubled by Hitler's persecution of the Jews.

I would say that Miss Gates is able to do this because the issue of Hitler's persecution of the Jews is far removed from the life she herself lives in this small Southern town. In a verse from the New Testament, the speaker wonders why a person can see the speck in his neighbor's eye, but can't see the log in their own eye. The same principle may apply here. Miss Gates can easily see the injustices that Hitler is inflicting upon the Jews, but fails to see the injustices that members of her own race are inflicting upon African Americans.

Another reason Miss Gates can have a different view of the two persecutions is because the Jews had the same color skin as she did. As one of the students observes: "They’re white, ain’t they?”

Although Miss Gates does not respond to this question, we can well imagine that color of skin is one of the reasons Miss Gates can make a distinction between Jews and African Americans.


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To Kill a Mockingbird

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