“What are you?” A simple yet inevitable question filled with years of confused identity, a question that I have been conditioned to answer repeatedly. Whenever I find myself with the other half, I’m made aware of my confusing pronunciation or how I find myself bowing for just a little too long in an attempt to copy others. The cries of the frustration of not understanding the language. The inability to relate to the personal, yet intertwined experiences of being Asian. A constant cycle exercised by guilt and neglect on either side. I’ve become a malfunctioned chameleon, failing to blend into the background, literally. So, why don't we apply the color-blind ideology to end the assumption of where you come from, as your only defining characteristic? Have we simply moved on from our need to write about racism? Or are we merely in denial?
Harper Lee’s novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” 1960, is written through the eyes of a young girl, Scout. Through her, we see the incorporated themes of systemic racism within her relationships and community. As Scout and Jem grow older, they are compelled to understand the existing racial segregation of their town and learn the harsh reality of the world around them. Harper Lee demonstrates the significance of racism and its ability to destroy innocence, childhood, and the people who are exposed to the unjust reality racism creates.
Tom Robinson's trial represents the climax of racial prejudice in the novel. We witness the end of Jem and Scout's innocence when they sit and watch the trial unfold before their eyes. The evident bias against Black Americans in court is brought to light by Atticus, “In our courts, when it is a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly but those are the facts of life.' (Lee pg. 240). Racism usually originates from an individual's surroundings or upbringing. Atticus acknowledges that racial equality can never be achieved if generations are continually raised, racist. He informs both Jem and Scout that segregation will always exist if the root cause is still there. Despite having been ostracised for defending a 'Negro', he proceeds to remark on the injustices faced against Black Americans within his prejudiced society. As a result, Atticus' words remain true, as the bias faced within the court, is embodied through Tom Robinson's inevitable conviction.
When questioned by Scott about why he would represent a 'Negro' in court, Atticus replies, 'For a number of reasons...the main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my hand in town, I couldn't represent this country in the legislature, I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something again... simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects in personally'. His response clearly explains how Atticus perceives the subject of racism. Atticus is the epitome of a 'color-blind'. Contrary to those around him, he is the only person in the town who outwardly expresses the racism displayed. Ironically, being somewhat blind in his left eye, he has the best insight into the inequality present in Maycomb. He sees beyond the 'literal sight' of people his only differentiation between people is through character, not skin color.