What are some examples of racism in the story To Kill a Mockingbird?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 9, Lee reveals the predominant prejudice throughout the town by illustrating Cecil Jacobs's comments about Atticus. Cecil announces on the playground that "Scout Finch’s daddy defended niggers" (Lee, 77).

In chapter 11, Jem and Scout walk past Mrs. Dubose's home when she begins to make derogatory, racist comments about Atticus. Mrs. Dubose reveals her racist personality by telling Jem,

Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for! (Lee, 105).

In chapter 15, the Old Sarum bunch arrives at the Maycomb jailhouse the night before the trial and attempts to lynch Tom Robinson. Their actions reveal their racist ideology. Fortunately, Atticus prevents the mob from lynching Tom Robinson.

In chapter 16, Jem and the children are sitting outside of the courthouse discussing the backgrounds of various citizens when Jem mentions that Dolphus Raymond has mixed children. Jem goes on to comment that mixed children are "real sad." He tells Scout:

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 belong anywhere (Lee, 163).

Following Tom's unfortunate death, Scout reiterates the town's racist reaction by saying,

To Maycomb, Tom’s death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger’s mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw. Funny thing, Atticus Finch might’ve got him off scot free, but wait—? Hell no. You know how they are. Easy come, easy go. Just shows you, that Robinson boy was legally married, they say he kept himself clean, went to church and all that, but when it comes down to the line the veneer’s mighty thin. Nigger always comes out in ‘em (Lee, 244).

In chapter 26, Scout recognizes her teacher's hypocrisy when she mentions that people in America do not believe in persecuting anybody. However, Scout recalls overhearing Miss Gates make a racist comment while leaving the courthouse. Scout tells Jem:

I heard her [Miss Gates] say it’s time somebody taught ’em a lesson, they were gettin‘ way above themselves, an’ the next thing they think they can do is marry us (Lee, 251).

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

EXAMPLE OF RACISM IN  TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Bob Ewell.  Bob refers to Tom Robinson as "that black nigger yonder" on the witness stand, and calls Atticus a "nigger-lovin' bastard" after spitting in his face.

Mayella Ewell.  When Mayella requests Tom's help to "bust up this chiffarobe," she calls out: "I said come here, nigger." According to Tom, Mayella told him

"... she never kissed a grown man before an' she might as well kiss a nigger."  (Chapter 19)

Nathan Radley.  According to Miss Stephanie, Nathan claims to have scared the intruder on his property "pale."

"Says if anybody sees a white nigger around, that's the one."  (Chapter 6)

Horace Gilmer.  The prosecutor in the Tom Robinson trial repeatedly addresses Tom as "boy."

Lula.  Showing that Negroes can be racists, too, Lula tries to prevent Cal from "bringin' white chillun to nigger church."

Cousin Francis.  Scout's cousin calls both Atticus and Scout a "nigger-lover."

Mrs. Merriweather.  "The most devout lady in Maycomb," Mrs. Grace Merriweather refers to her maid, Sophy, and Tom Robinson as a "darky."

Scout.  Scout uses the "N" word herself until Atticus directs her to stop saying it because it is "common." Scout brandishes the word more out of childish immaturity than racism, however.

The Jury.  Tom is found guilty because of the jury's preordained belief to never accept the word of a black man over the word of a white man.

The Courtroom.  Only white people can sit in the main section of the courtroom; blacks must sit in the balcony.

The Idler's Club.  Its members prevent the black spectators from entering the courtroom until all of the white people are inside and seated.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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