To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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In the novel To Kill A Mockingbird, what are some examples of rights and privileges that the white people had that the black folks didn't? Give at least three examples.

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favoritethings eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The white citizens of Maycomb had the privilege of being able to sit on the ground floor of the courtroom where Tom Robinson's trial takes place. Relegating the entire black population to the upper floor does a couple of things, but mainly it establishes that they are of lesser importance because they are further away from the proceedings. Not only are they further away, but because heat rises, their seats are automatically going to be less comfortable than the seats on the cooler ground floor.

Further, there are no black men on the jury. Whites apparently had the privilege, again, of wielding control over the lives of individuals who many of them viewed to be less than they. After all, they convict Tom Robinson without any real evidence—of course, because he is not guilty—and when there is most certainly reasonable doubt.

Remember, too, how Bob Ewell followed Tom Robinson's wife to work, harassing her daily? If a black man had done the same thing to a white woman, or even been rumored to do the same thing, he would probably not have lived to deny it. I think about Emmett Till, a boy from Mississippi who a white woman claimed to have whistled at her (though I believe she recanted that statement a couple of years ago), and how he was lynched within days of the alleged incident. This boy was murdered because he was accused of whistling at a white woman, so there's no way a black man could have done what Ewell did. So, I guess that means that white men had the privilege to harass women without repercussion, and that is not a privilege shared by black men.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The are numerous examples of Jim Crow laws limiting and prohibiting the rights and privileges of African Americans throughout To Kill a Mockingbird. African Americans were prohibited from sharing public facilities with white people in the Deep South. An example of racial segregation takes place during Tom Robinson's trial. The African American community is forced to sit in the balcony, where they cannot sit next to white citizens. African Americans were also forced to have their own separate church, which Jem and Scout visit in chapter 12, when Calpurnia takes them to First Purchase African M. E. Church for Sunday service while Atticus is out of town.

African Americans in Maycomb's community are prohibited from marrying or engaging in sexual intercourse with anyone of "pure white blood." This law prohibits Dolphus Raymond from marrying his African American mistress and is one of the reasons Tom Robinson is on trial for his life.

African Americans were also prevented from receiving an education. In Maycomb, the vast majority of the African American community is illiterate, which directly corresponds to the fact that they were prohibited from receiving a public education like white children. African Americans like Calpurnia, Reverend Sykes, and Zeebo learned to read at home, not in a public school.

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Three rights whites had that blacks were denied were the right to an education, the right to a fair trial, and the right to live where they wanted.

The most significant right and privilege that whites had that colored people did not was the right to an education.

When Scout and Jem visit Calpurnia’s church, they realize that most people can’t read.  Calpurnia can read because the Finch Family provided her with an education.  Her son Zeebo can read because she taught him.

There wasn't a school even when he was a boy. I made him learn, though." (ch 12)

Calpurnia has an education because Scout and Jem’s grandfather was forward thinking enough to teacher her.

Another right that whites have that blacks do not is the right to a fair trial.  Tom Robinson is appointed a good defense attorney, Atticus Finch, but even that is not enough.  Atticus tells the jury that a court is one place where everyone is equal.

A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.  (ch 20)

Atticus proves not only that the defendant is not physically able to commit the crime, but that the crime did not even happen.  Tom Robinson is still convicted, because a white woman’s word is better than a black man’s.

The third important right that blacks were denied is the right to live where they wanted.  Most blacks live off by themselves, near the dump.  They live there because they are poor, since they have so few opportunities, and because the whites won’t let them live in their neighborhoods.

Atticus describes it as the “little settlement beyond the town dump” (ch 9).

The poor whites live there because they choose to, but the blacks live there because they have to.

In Maycomb, blacks and whites did not have equal rights.

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