“Thoman Jefferson once said that all men are created equal… We know all men are not created equal in the sense some people have more opportunity because they are born with it, some people are smarter than others…- But, there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal- the institution of court.” (To kill a mockingbird, Harper Lee)
In modern times, one may proudly claim that now we have achieved equality for all human beings in all spheres of life; and that racism and colour discrimination are ideas of the past. But recent events- the inhumane and brutal murders of Mr George Floyd, Ms Breonna Taylors, Mr Elijah McClain, and many other members of the black community- have jarred us back to reality. We have been forced to open our eyes to the fact that racism still exists in the modern world- and in such extreme forms.
The book ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee is set in the 1930s in America. It is both amazing and shocking how relevant the issues discussed in this book are even a century later.
The racist and sexist ideas of that time are blatantly obvious to the reader from the repetitive use to the N-word and crude comments made by the people of Maycomb in the book. In this blog, I will be addressing only the racist ideologies and actions in order to highlight the recent events that have shaken the world.
We see in the book, prejudice and stereotypes toward the black community are the causes of all the conflicts between the white and black communities. The same is the case today.
In the 1930s, members of the black community were always regarded as uncivilised and inferior, as well as savages and criminals. While the way they are treated now is much better and everyone is viewed as equal, there still remain stereotypes of black people being criminals and savages- which is VERY clearly displayed in Mr Floyd’s case.
He was suspected of paying for his purchases with a forged dollar bill (the claim was proven to be false later). If it would have been a white man in Mr Floyd’s place, he would have been asked to pay with another bill and let go with a gentle reprimand. But, just because Mr Floyd was a man of colour- prejudices and stereotypes led to him being put in handcuffs and being inhumanly murdered.
These events show us that while the white community is no longer oppressing the coloured community, white privilege is still very much real. Even today, colour discrimination deprives the coloured community of opportunities such as jobs, education, etc.- just because of the colour of their skin.
Thus, one of the clearest similarities between the book and life today is that just being born as a member of the white or non-coloured community gives one privilege, access to opportunities, priority, etc.
But, in the book’s timeline, there was only one Atticus Finch standing up for Tom Robinson and today, there are millions who came together to stand up for Mr Floyd, Ms Taylor, Mr McClain and the entire black community. There was collective global outrage after these events came to light and the Black Lives Matter movement became one of the biggest revolutions ever- even with a pandemic in the backdrop- with protests in all the states of America, countries from all the continents and a massive social media presence- and I think that this is hope. We- globally- are realising our mistakes and recognising that we still have a long way to go.