Injustice in “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

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Injustice is a matter that a person faces every day. It can be seen in the form of court cases or grounding a child from video games. In the contemporary era, people seldom ever think about the injustice a person goes through with racism. Nevertheless, society was not always caring, gracious or humble. History especially the US History has proven repetitively that racism can be one of the major “parents” to social inequality as well as social class. The 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson case resulted to the sentencing of an African American. Plessy was tried for sitting in a white train cargo just as Rosa Parks was tried for refusing to give up her seat to white man on a bus. The Plessy vs. Ferguson had partially contributed to the creation of the Jim Crow Laws, laws that would doom nightmare to the lives of typical African American. The verdict of the very controversial trial decided due to the fact of Plessy having “black blood” in his veins.

In Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, racism alone decides the fate of an innocent black man Tom Robinson. Even in recent times, Duane Buck, a young African American, was convicted to death merely due to the fact that he was of African American origin The following three texts show the injustice that can be caused by racism through social values and social inequality. To Kill a Mockingbird has several parts throughout the book in which the Jim Crow Laws are used indirectly to prove Tom Robinson guilty. Just like Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird, Plessy a black man was sentenced to jail for sitting in the white only portion of train. The ruling was decided by an all-white jury which had resulted in Plessy losing because of his race. Plessy was called an African American despite being mostly white. Plessy had protested against the Separate Car Act of 1890. The Separate Car Act of 1890 was a law which had segregated public transportation between white people and colored. Plessy was put under custody for sitting in the white cargo of a public train.

Despite several pleas to the all white jury, unjust was sown to Plessy and he soon lost his case in thetop notch court of the USA, Supreme Court. Plessy lost the controversial case wholly due to his race (despite being ? black). We can also notice the same type of racial injustice in To Kill a Mockingbird. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson, an African slave is accused of raping a Mayella Ewell, white woman. Tom pledges his innocence to the court yet is cross examined severely by Mr. Gilmer. During the trial Tom Robinson states, “I felt sorry for her ”(Lee 201). Mr. Gilmer immediately responds to Tom’s words by saying harshly, “You felt sorry for her...nobody liked Tom Robinson’s answer”(Lee 201) Tom’s answer of feeling sorry for a white girl had “demonetized” his case. According to Southern stereotypes or “rules”, a black person was not supposed to feel sorry or have feelings towards a white person in any way since white people were the "dominant" and “supreme” race and therefore had no need of assistance from a "shoddy" race or in this case the colored. Due to the Jim Crow Laws as well as the social inequalities, it is evident that Tom’s case was ended due to the color of his skin just as how Plessy’s case was doomed because of his race as well.

To Kill a Mockingbird and the Buck vs. Davis 1996-2017 case is just another example of how ordinary people or races are often led to injustice because of their skin color. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus gives a speech about the non bias and justice found in no other place except the courtroom. “ our courts, all men are created equal”(Lee 274). This quote is meant to tell the jury not to base their judgement over a black man on Southern ideals or Jim Crow or bias towards one person over the other. Atticus pleads to the jury that courts should be the definition of justice, with no racial or discrimination bias. Eventually, the jury tries and sentences Tom to life, directly contradicting Atticus’ plea of the courtroom having no sense of bias. Black men during that era had no way to prove themselves innocent to the law against a white person despite being innocent morally as Tom Robinson was. The jury dipped into their Southern thoughts and tried Tom purely on the fact that he was black. The Buck vs. Davis was a court case in 1996 in which Duane Buck, a black man was tried for murder against his girlfriend.

Duane was sentenced to death(later on reduced to life in 2017). Duane Buck had several numbers of evidence against him which proved he was guilty, yet a defense “expert” decided to rub more salt into the wound of the case. Dr. Walter Quijano was a psychologist who provided the false report that “black people were more likely to commit crimes later in life”. The jury believed this report and thus convicted Buck of murder. On October 3rd, 2017, Buck was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 40 years plus two concurrent 60 year terms for attempted murder by the Supreme Court. Buck will become eligible for parole in 2035. Los Angeles Times columnist Elizabeth Hinton wrote a quote directly from Duane Buck: “Basically, because I am black, I need to die.” Buck’s quote and statement proves the idea of racial/social inequality in courts. The reason Buck was tried in the first place was because the jury believed the irrelevant myth of all black people being more dangerous than white people in all situations.

Buck, as well as Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird were both tried due to being black. Society has advanced since the times when black people and other minorities were discriminated numerously because of the “life ending” Jim Crow Laws. The times when Social Darwinism (the idea that if one race was technologically superior, then their race was also superior) was promoted. Has the perspective of thinking stereotypically about a certain race really changed drastically? The controversial cases such as the trial in the book To Kill a Mockingbird (1930s-1940s) and the recent Buck vs. Davis (1996-2017) show that racism still exists in the “equal” great America. Social inequality is active even within the places where it should not be such as at jobs or schools. Seeing this slow and possibly never ending process brings the question if injustice caused by social inequality can ever be eradicated. The question I ask to myself is will I always live in a place with inequalities and be critiqued harshly due to my race?

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Injustice in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. (2019, Feb 20). Retrieved July 15, 2024 , from

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