What are conflicts in the black and white communities in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Harper Lee provides few examples of discontentment between African Americans within their own community. Perhaps the lone example is provided when Jem and Scout join Calpurnia at her church, and the obstinate Lula is the lone dissenter for allowing "white chillun in nigger church." The rest of the congregation backs Calpurnia's decision and welcomes the children, pushing Lula into the background. Needless to say, there may have been trouble with the white community if the First Purchase congregation had forbidden Jem and Scout from entering, and this may have been a factor in their polite allowance for the white children to visit their church. Of course, they were the children of Atticus Finch, the Negroes' best white friend in all of Maycomb, so the children's acceptance is not all that surprising. The congregation may have reacted differently if Bob Ewell had tried to enter with Mayella and Burris.

Atticus is certainly in the Maycomb minority when it comes to his liberal views toward race relations. Atticus has his friends and supporters--Miss Maudie, Dr. Reynolds and Link Deas among them--but most of the white community is solid in their segregationist attitudes. The jury's decision is not welcomed by Jem or Scout or Tom's friends, but the rest of the spectators seem happy. Jem's

... face was streaked with angry tears as we made our way through the cheerful crowd.

Most of the town was not bothered by Tom's death, despite the strong editorial from B. B. Underwood.

     Maycomb was interested by the news of Tom's death for perhaps two days... To Maycomb, Tom's death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw. Funny thing, Atticus Finch might've gotten him off scot-free, but wait--? Hell no. You know how they are. Easy come, easy go... Nigger always comes out in 'em.

One character who seems to unify the races is Boo Radley, who both whites and blacks fear.

A Negro would not pass the Radley Place at night, he would cut across to the sidewalk opposite and whistle as he walked.

Yet, Boo was still a white man, and when he was arrested, the rule of segregation applied to him, too.

The sheriff hadn't the heart to put him in jail alongside Negroes, so Boo was locked in the courthouse basement.

Dolphus Raymond, on the other hand, was a white man who was not accepted by his own community. A wealthy plantation owner, he chose to live with his black mistress apart from white Maycomb, but even he was not accepted fully by the black population. He had several "mixed children.

     "They don't belong anywhere. Colored folks won't have 'em because they're half white; white folks won't have 'em 'cause they're colored, so they're just in-betweens, don't beling anywhere." 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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