To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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What are 3 quotes from the book that show racial discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Quick Answer

“My folks said your daddy was a disgrace” (Cecil to Scout in chapter 9, referring to Atticus’s defense of Tom Robinson).

“I thought they must be cold-natured . . .” (Scout’s narration in chapter 15, when a lynch mob comes to the jail to attack Tom Robinson).

“Secretly, Miss Finch, I'm not much of a drinker, but you see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that's the way I want to live” (Mr. Raymond to Scout in chapter 20. He pretends to be a drunk so that the townspeople won’t object to his black mistress).


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Blaze Bergstrom eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the challenging things about reading a novel set in the early 20th century is the constant use of the N word, and the frequent stereotypes that accompany the characters’ use of the pejorative term. Racist attitudes are shown as dominant in Maycomb, so much so that Atticus was sure that Tom would not receive a fair trial. Harper Lee shows some more nuanced occasions of racism as well, involving people who do not neatly fit into racial categories.

Scout’s teacher, Miss Gates, who is white, describes the marriage segregation that many people assumed was preferable and also was legally mandated in many states through the 1960s. Alabama was actually the last state to remove the “anti-miscegenation” laws from its constitution—in 2000. Miss Gates speaks about black people trying to “get above themselves" and sarcastically states, “the next thing they think they can do is marry us.”

Dolphus Raymond, a white man who has an alcohol problem, occupies an ambiguous place in Maycomb society. With a black partner, he has several “mixed” children. Jem comments on their situation.

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...

Race is a major issue in Tom’s arrest and trial. Bob Ewell had become so incensed at the idea of his daughter having a sexual relationship with a black man that he beat her senseless, then blamed Tom for a rape that never happened. In the courtroom, Bob is the most outspoken in his racist attitudes. He calls the African American neighborhood the “n----- nest,” and says its proximity to his home “devalues his property.” Mayella as well rarely uses Tom’s name, referring to him merely as “that n-----.”

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Three examples of racism are the townspeople bullying Atticus's children, the lynch mob that tries to kill Tom Robinson before his trial, and Mr. Raymond pretending to be drunk so people won't question his marriage to a black woman.

Atticus's children bullied by children and adults alike because their father is defending a black man.

Scout comments that she has been bullied at school by kids who are annoyed that her father is defending a black man.

"Do all lawyers defend n-Negroes, Atticus?"

"Of course they do, Scout." (ch 9)

Cecil tells Scout, “My folks said your daddy was a disgrace” (ch 9) and even her own cousin Francis picks fights with her about it.

It is not just children. Mrs. Dubose tells Scout that her “father's no better than the … trash he works for!" (ch 11)

The entire town seems to turn against Atticus and his children because he is defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of attacking a white woman. The fact that adults and children are attacking Scout and Jem with words and fists demonstrates how deeply rooted racism is in the town of Maycomb.

A lynch mob tries to kill Tom Robinson before he can come to trial.

Scout, Dill, and Jem see their father sitting outside the Maycomb county jail, and go to investigate. Soon, a lynch mob of white men arrives to kill Tom Robinson. Atticus has been protecting him.

I thought they must be cold-natured, as their sleeves were unrolled and buttoned at the cuffs. Some wore hats pulled firmly down over their ears. They were sullen-looking, sleepy-eyed men who seemed unused to late hours. (ch 15)

The men are ready to attack Atticus to get to Tom Robinson. They even threaten Jem and Scout. It is not until Scout’s innocent chatter brings them back to their senses that they finally leave. This demonstrates the lack of maturity in the racism the town displays.

Mr. Raymond pretends he is drunk so people can explain the fact that he married a black woman and lives with her.

Mr. Raymond has a reputation for being drunk. He cultivates this reputation carefully, coming into town rarely and weaving like a drunk while drinking out of a bottle in a paper bag. He explains to Scout, Jem and Dill why he does this.

Secretly, Miss Finch, I'm not much of a drinker, but you see they could never, never understand that I live like I do because that's the way I want to live. (ch 20)

The fact that a man would pretend to be drunk just so he could live with the woman he loves and have children with her is a perfect example of the clear racism prevalent in Maycomb. Mr. Raymond knows that the people of Maycomb won’t understand him, so he gives them something to understand.

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