The Struggle for Equality in To Kill a Mockingbird

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Equality has been sought after by many and Americans have fought valiantly in order to bring equality within reach. The struggle for equality has been depicted by Harper Lee’s book, To Kill a Mockingbird, in the way the characters battle against segregation in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the late 1930’s. While combating segregation, characters in the book face many problems that are out of their control, just as Americans do in the fight for equality. America has made many steps towards equality, but has not even come close to it. The persistent struggle for equality is admirable, but unfortunately America will never achieve true racial and social equality.

To begin, segregation has been ever-present in America and continues to block the advancement of equality. Examples of segregation are present in To Kill a Mockingbird and show how the citizens of Maycomb were divided by race and how those of African American descent were looked down upon by almost all Caucasians in Maycomb. The extent of racial segregation at the time had African Americans sitting on a balcony in the courthouse, separate from Caucasians, that was referenced to as the “colored balcony” (Lee 219). Three Caucasian children had watched a trial from the colored balcony after being invited to sit with an acquaintance and were later questioned by the Caucasian people of Maycomb about why they would sit there and associate with people of color (Lee 287). The Caucasian people of Maycomb had expected these children to feel humiliated and degraded for associating with people of color.

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Segregation carried over to mixed children as well, and these children of both African American and Caucasian descent were not accepted by either race. When a young girl, Scout Finch, questions her older brother, Jem, about mixed children he explains, “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 215). Maycomb may be a fictional town, but this intense racial segregation was the case with many southern states in America at the time. Although this intensity is no longer the case, racial segregation is still persistent in modern society in the ways people of color are treated by individuals who still hold onto the racist ideals of past generations. There is no way to control the racist thoughts of these individuals, and they will continue to keep racism and segregation alive in American society, thus preventing the achievement of racial equality.

Additionally, American society reflects an unfair distribution of power and privilege related to race. In To Kill a Mockingbird, an African American, Tom Robinson, is accused of the rape and assault of a nineteen year old woman, Mayella Ewell. Tom Robinson’s lawyer, Atticus Finch, provides a substantial amount of evidence proving that Tom Robinson did not commit the crime of which he was accused, yet he is still found guilty by the jury. During Atticus’ testimony, he speaks to the jury about how the witnesses for the state presented themselves, “in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption-the evil assumption-that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women,” which implies that Caucasians are aware of their privileges and will spare no thought at using said privileges with bad intentions, such as using them against an innocent man in order to convict him for a despicable crime that he took no part of (Lee 273). After losing the case, Atticus Finch states, “They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again,” in reference to how the Caucasian jury used their power to convict Tom Robinson, an African American, for a crime in which he did not commit (Lee 285). Situations such as Tom Robinson’s are still present in modern society in the way people of color are accused and convicted of crimes which they did not commit, for Caucasians continue to hold power over people of color. Also in To Kill a Mockingbird, an open-minded Caucasian man, Dolphus Raymond, makes a comment about, “the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too,” which speaks on how people of color have been dehumanized by Caucasians (Lee 269). This dehumanization of people of color has decreased substantially over time, but still exists in the present day. Caucasians have been granted privileges based solely on their race that they have used, and continue to use, against people of color. Many Caucasians today still feel as though they are entitled to these outdated privileges and feel superior to people of color. This racial privilege possessed by Caucasians causes inequality for people of color, but there is no way to change the racial superiority complex many Caucasians have. As Caucasians continue to hold this power and privilege over the people of color in America, true racial and social equality will never be achieved.

Lastly, American citizens utilize their freedom of speech and expression to express their many different opinions, but opinions related to topics such as race and society cause controversies that prevent American equality. Freedom is an enormous aspect in the daily life of an American, especially with how racially diverse America’s population is. The freedom experienced by Americans has resulted in a society of extreme individuality, but with such uniqueness spurs an onslaught of disagreements. Differences of opinion have resulted in acts of violence and abuse against individuals who do not agree with each other on controversial topics. For instance, in Charlottesville in 2017, protesters marching against white nationalists at a “Unite the Right” rally at the University of Virginia were injured and killed by white supremacists that disagreed with the protester’s cause (“Charlottesville Riot”). The protesters were peacefully expressing their opinion, yet people that disagreed with them felt that violence was the only way to state their opinion. Atrocious acts of violence, such as the situation that occured in Charlottesville, continue to happen across the country, and what most of these devastating situations have in common is that they are brought on by differences of opinion. Even if racial inequality was solved, there would still be differences in American society that would cause disagreements. If racial and social equality was achieved in America, it would cost Americans their freedom and independence because as long as people are different in some way there will be fuel for disagreements. It is impossible to create a country where everyone is equal because differences in people result in differences of opinion, and unless Americans give up their freedom, their individuality, and everything that makes them unique, people will disagree with each other and look down upon those different from them. It is important to strive for getting as close to equality as possible, but it is impossible for America to reach true equality because there will always be Americans who do not desire equality and stand against it.

In conclusion, America’s history has shown segregation based on race and culture, unfair racial privilege being used in heinous ways, and differences of opinion among society. Even within the past century, substantial progress has been made in getting as close to equality as possible, but unless Americans are stripped of their freedom and rights to individuality there will be differences (good and bad) existent in American society. As desirable as equality is, true racial and social equality is unachievable for America.

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The Struggle for Equality in To Kill a Mockingbird. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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