What does the quote "Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad and be so ugly about folks right at home" mean?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 26, Scout notices her third-grade teacher's hypocrisy during a Current Events activity. Miss Gates mentions that there is no such thing as prejudice in America after she comments on Hitler's oppressive reign over the Jews. Scout recalls seeing Miss Gates leave Tom Robinson's trial and make derogatory comments towards African Americans. After Scout comes home from school, she approaches Jem to discuss Miss Gates' hypocrisy. Scout brings up how Miss Gates ridicules and criticizes the way Hitler treats the Jews unfairly, yet at home white people continually discriminate against African Americans. Scout says,

"Jem, how can you hate Hitler so bad an' then turn around and be ugly about folks right at home---" (Lee 151).

Unfortunately, Jem is still touchy about the subject of Tom Robinson's trial and tells Scout to never bring it up again. Scout was simply questioning Miss Gates' hypocrisy and wanted Jem to confirm her thoughts. 

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 26, Scout was at school and Miss Gates,her "hypocritical third-grade teacher who condemns Hitler's persecution of the Jews even as she discriminates against her own students and complains about blacks "getting above themselves." was teaching about the lesson about Hitler and how terrible he was to the Jewish people.  She made a point to talk to the children about prejudice and that it was wrong.  Scout had over heard her make that remark about the black people in Macomb.  Scout did not understand how Miss Gates could talk so badly about Hitler for hating the Jewish people during WWII, and still make terrible remarks about the blacks living right there in Macomb.  Scout couldn't grasp the difference.  This is a great section of the book and I have used it often to teach against the hatred of any group or person because they are different than we are.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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