In his book To Kill a Mockingbird which was written in 1960 and narrated by the perspective of Scout Finch who is one of the major characters , Harper Lee tells the social life and social problems in Maycomb where people from different ethnicity live. In this mixed society, there have been many problems because of this difference. The most cruel one is racism. Racism is the main issue in this society. It causes inequality and chaos among people. It has a huge effect on Negro people . In To Kill a Mockingbird, racist attitudes are done towards Tom Robinson and his family who are African-American. Because of these discriminatory behaviours, they have many difficulties in proving themselves to the society and they try to survive in these hard conditions. Therefore, racism has social, economic and psychological consequences on African-American people.
First of the most important consequences of racism in To Kill a Mockngbird is social one. In society, black people are alienated by white citizens in United States. Even though they live in the same society, black people are ignored and white people go on seeing them unacceptable. They do not want to share the same environment with them. Since black people are seen violent, dangerous and rude in this environment. Therefore, they are always thought to be guilty and possible murderer. For example; Tom Robbinson is a black man in the book who is judjed and is accused of raping a white woman. No one behaves him sceptical about his guilt. Not only people but also court approaches black people discriminatory steps. Court’s members attach importance what Mayelle says who is a white woman and they find Tom Robinson guilty without enough proof. And they say that ” in our courts, when it is a white man’s Word against a black man’s, the white man always wins.” (220) and after the trial Mr. Underwood says that ” Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayelle Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.”(241) This is the reflection of a belief that white people are superior to black people. Because of these discriminatory actions against them, black people are neglected from society and left alone. Therefore, throughout history all black people from young to old, normal to politician are affected and they have tried to prevent themselves from these hard conditions. For example; on his ” I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, Martin Luther King emphasizes the condition and hardships that black people are exposed to with these words;
“… But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the monacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
On the other hand, not only black people but also whites are not satisfied when a white man gives a black a back and he defends him. For instance; Atticus is a lawyer and he tries to defend Tom Robinson. Because he thinks that Tom is not guilty and he is aware that it is his job to prove his innocence and make him free. However, because of his support to Tom Robbinson, he is thought and behaved as they do black people. Because people from Maycomb society think that defending a Negro is a unacceptable action. Not only Atticus but also his children are affected by their father’s belief in justice. For instance; during a school day, Scout encountered Cecil Jacobs and tells that “Atticus had promised me he would ear me out if he ever heard of ne fighting any more… I soon forgot. Cecil Jacobs made me forget. He had announced in the schoolyard thee day before that Scout Finch’s daddy defends nigger.” (99) At the same time white people show their reactions and opposition with the words which are told by Mrs.Dubose, “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for.” However, white people reject to accept black people as a human. Therefore, they can do everything against blacks easily. It is a forgotten issue that with this discriminatory actions, they cause disagreement and inequality in their society, but they blame black people for distorting the shape of Maycomb society.
Second essential issue in the book is economic consequences of racism on black people. In Maycomb society, white citizens are so prejudiced that black people are disadvantageous group. Because of their skin color and origins, they are not given job. Since they are seen violent, lazy and noneffective in a job. Because they are not worked, they cannot be professional and earn enough money to provide themselves a good life. Therefore, there is a economic gap between white and black people. Since they have less opportunities than white people. White people can find a job easily, but black are not able to work wherever they want. For example; after Tom Robinson’s death, his wife Helene cannot a find easily, because she is a black woman and in addition to his color, her husband is a man who is guilty. Because of discriminatory actions as they are done against Helene, black people have been living in poverty and they do not have a prosperious lives. However, they are trying to do better things for themselves. For example, they are working more than white people, but they are given less amount of money. They have more effort and struggle, but they do not be awarded with what they deserve. In the book, Mayelle wants Tom Robinson to help her and says hom that she will give a some amount of money, so Tom feels shame to her and accepts to help her. However, because of her bad feelings and ideas towards Tom, she blames Tom and she puts him at risk. While Tom is trying to help and earn money, he loses his freedom and life.
In addition to surviving in life in this society, black people need some lifely things such as healt care and education. Because they do not have enough money for themselves, they cannot use the health opportunities and they do not be cured well. In United States, private schools and hospitals are well equipped. Therefore, people need to have much money in order to take a proper education and health care. However, black people are not able to have these values in there. Since, they cannot effort to pay much money to be educated and take health care programs. Because of being less educated, their words are not attached importance. In addition to being seen uncivilised, they are seen uneducated and rural. However, it is not known that this is not their own choice. They are not given enough opportunity to educate themselves and have a good job to maintain their life properly. However, in Maycomb society, people do not want to believe an idea that all people from black to white, wealthy to poor are citizens of this society and they have equal rights. In this society little people can do this. One of them is Atticus. Atticus is an unprejudiced lawyer and perfect father who is aware of the fact that education begins in family. He teaches his children how to behave people without any interruption and effect of society. As an example of this, he says his children that “You never really understand a person… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”(Chapter 3).
The most important consequences of racism is psychological consequences. In a society, people live and share the same place with one another. Different people, beliefs and points of views form a country. All these aspects affect country’s situation and liveability. One of the most important aspects is a citizen’s psychology. Psychology is a term which is used for health. Therefore, if a country is formed by pschologically healthy people, this country can become an appreciated and coveted country. However, in Maycomb society, black people have been psychologically bad because of discriminatory actions against themselves. They are not happy in the place where they live and have to maintain their lives. White people have power on them and they feel that they are inferior, so the do not have a right to make a voice in this society. However, this situation is contrary to Amerian Dream belief. In his article, Kimberly Amadeo describes American Dream and happiness of a citizen as ” The American Dream is an ideal that the government should protect each person’s opportunity to pursue their own idea of happiness.” And also he emphasizes the importance of Declaration of Independence in United States’ history. In Declaration of Independence, there is a will to declare equality and happiness in society with the words that ” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness.” However, black people cannot reflect their thoughts and inner worlds to the white people. As they know that they have no importance for white man. This problem is reflected in the book. In an article which tries to deal with the racism, social class and discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird, author says that;
“In the book, Scout’s father, Atticus, tells Scout and Jem that ‘I’d rather you shoot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.'(69) The mockingbird is a symbol for two of characters in the novel: Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. The mockingbird symbolizes these two characters because it does not have its own songs. Whereas, the blue jay is loud and obnoxious, the mockingbird only sings other birds’ songs.”
At the same time, they are made to be guilty, murderer, rude and uneducated. Lots of bad steriotypes are applied to black people. Even if they do not have a characteristic like these word, they are seen as they have them. This problem causes a harsh condition for black people. Because they are judjed even if they they do not do anything illegal or bad. Moreover because of these judjements and prejudices, they are alienated from society. Due to these attitudes towards them, they do not feel that they are a member of this society. They are alien and they have to obey what white people say them. They cannot reject on the contrary they have to accept everything that they are made obligated.
On the other hand, because of unfair attitudes and behaviours, black people become unhappy citizens of this society. If a society is formed with sad citizens, it cannot be a great place to live. Tom Robinson is a character that has a moderate life and he tries to do best for his family. When Mayelle Ewell wants him to help her, he just help her in order to make earn money and make her job easier. He feels shame to her. However, he is accused by this woman. This event causes an idea that black and White people should not help each other. Because they can come across with a crime that you do not know. This belief is an proof that while you are doing something on behalf of a person, you should think twice. Because of these pressure and injustice, black people lose their hope and good feelings about this life. Moreover, they lose a lot of values they have. For example; Tom Robinson is a good man, but he is accused of a crime that he did not do. As a consequence of imitated crime, he loses his life. His family loses their fathers. All black people their hope to be judjed equally. Most importantly, society loses its innocence.
There is a interesting controversial issue in this society that not only black people but also white people are exposed to discriminatory and prejudiced behaviours. In the book, Boo Radley is a character who is mysterious neighbor throughout the story. In the beginning of the novel, Boo Radley is reflected as never bothering anyone, never gets out of his home. Therefore, he is shown as a dangerous, mysterious and cruel man. He is told such a horrible man that even chidren come close to his house, they start to be afraid . However, in reality he is a very kind man. This is understood by Scout and Jem when Boo Radley rescue Jem who is attacked because of his father’s defence to a black man. Atticus always teachs his children not to judje people by looking how they seem and they are told by other people. Later his chidren become aware of its importance and Scout says that ” Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing in the Radley porch was enough.” In an article, this change is told that ” A shift in perspective transforms Boo from an evil into a guardian angel.”
Moreover, there is a sexist discrimination in the novel. In this society, women are perceived that they have to do their domestic duties, take care of their children, stay at home and behave like a lady-like. Their appearence must also be proper to these norms. As an example of this task, Scout is the most important character in this novel. Scout is a child and at the early ages, she is being tried to be made as a lady. However, it is not her desire to be and act like other women. Due to her unwillingness, she is judjed by her family member and environment. For instance; Jem tells Scout that ” Scout, I am telling you fort he last time, shut your trap or go home-I declare to the Lord, you’re getting more like a girl everyday! With that, I had no option but to join them.” Women’s Words have no importance for men. When Scout tells her idea or plan about something, Jem underestimates her and he does not take into acount her ideas. On the other hand; even in courts women do not have a right to make a voice. We do not see that the jury has a woman. It is said that ” For one thing, Ms. Maudie cannot serve on the jury because she is a woman.” That is to say that women cannot express their thoughts and feelings easily. Thay can just make voice in their kitchens.
In modern day, women are in better condition. Because ther right are guaranteed and they can vote, express their thoughts and beliefs much more easily and they have equal rights as men have in United States. Women have been in life much more. They do not have to obey domestic rules in order to be accepted and honored by society. They are free to do what they want. Their existences have much more importance. Because they are educated professionaly and they become professionals in their jobs. However, black people’s condition have not changed much. They are still seen as how they are reflected in the last centuries. They have more rights, but there is still unequality between white and black people. They still cannot have the trust of white throughly.
In conclusion, racism has higly huge effect on black people. They are affected by racism socially, economically and psychologically. Thoroughout history they are exposed to racist actions and even today they been been trying to deal with these problems. However, it must be known that it is wrong to judje a person by looking his color, appearence or belief. We must see him as a human-being. In order to judje a person, firstly we must judje ourselves. If we do not do, we should be ready for unequality and unfair life. Racism is not a problem just for United States. People from all around the World are seperating people from one another because of their religious beliefs or their origins. By seperating and showing racist attitudes towards innocent people, we just reveal our hatred sides. Similar to this, black people are the victims of hatred side of American society.