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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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What are some current civil rights issues that compare to the ones in To Kill a Mockingbird?

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I have always found it interesting that there is no mention of black children going to school in To Kill a Mockingbird. Undoubtedly, there were no African-American children attending Scout's elementary school since the classrooms would have been segregated in Alabama circa 1935. But was there a school for Maycomb's Negro children? Harper Lee never tells us. Obviously, this is one issue that would be greatly different today.

Sticking to the educational issues in the story, Bob Ewell would be in big trouble with the Maycomb School Board and local child welfare officials if he maintained his parenting habits in the 21st century. His children routinely showed up on the first day of school and then never attended afterward; parents are prosecuted now for not following mandatory attendance policies in the lower grade levels. He would also be brought up on charges of child neglect for the lice, dirty appearance and threats against the teacher in today's world.

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One issue that, fortunately, is often addressed in modern times that is relevant to the Tom Robinson trial of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is the matter of a person's right to a trial in a venue where there is no obvious prejudice against or for the defendent.

Nowadays, the trial of Tom Robinson would, of course, be different in many ways.  The jury, for instance, would be composed of both men and women and would probably have a larger number of minorities in it than any other people since a town like Maycomb which is located in southern Alabama would have more minorities in it.  So, this situation would better protect his civil rights.  But, above all things, the trial would be moved to another town since protecting a citizen's right to an unbiased trial is paramount. So, the venue of trials is often changed to ensure impartial justice, or at least attempt impartiality on the part of the witnesses.

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For the most part, I think that is is wrong to say that there are any ciivl rights issues that directly compare to those in this book.  There is, without question, racism in American life.  And African Americans are clearly treated poorly in various areas of the country.  However, I do not believe that you see such out and out travesties as the Tom Robinson trial.

The thing that comes closest, in my opinion, is the way in which our capital punishment system executes a disproportionate number of blacks who murder whites.  There appears to be some amount of discrimination involved in this result.

However, you do not generally have this sort of thing where someone is clearly innocent and is convicted solely on the basis of race.

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