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I Did not Like To Kill a Mockingbird… At All

I am a black lady in a majority white faculty and, like many individuals in America, needed to learn TKAM for my English class.

Earlier than studying it, I heard it get known as THE ebook on racism in the direction of black individuals, timeless, life altering, and a should learn. Soo, I used to be fairly excited to learn it and likewise see extra individuals at my faculty change into extra understanding of points within the black group.

It was not that.

It is loopy to me how this ebook continues to be praised in American faculty techniques. The ebook focuses primarily on white characters, sympathizing with racists, “wanting previous” (not a quote from ebook) racism, and has black individuals take a backseat in their very own historical past and combat.

In my view it additionally diminishes the have an effect on of different forms of racism, verbal with the n* phrase, members of the lyn**ing occasion being known as good individuals, and the okay** being known as “nothing greater than a political occasion”

I really feel prefer it provides a barrier between THAT time and OUR time as a “that was again then factor” that permits individuals to disregard present points.

Sadly, im quick on time-

Thanks for studying, I am going to add extra element within the feedback if there’s any dialogue!

Im on the lookout for a mature dialogue, not for hate and rudeness. If you happen to resolve to remark, please be civil!

(Written on telephone and never proofread 😔)

Comments ( 28 )

  1. I don’t think the book was ever intended to ‘solve’ racism or have the characters win over racism or anything. As for diminishing racism, I think it was showing just how casual and everywhere it is. Harper Lee, as far as I’m aware, wrote the book roughly based on her own experiences.

    In my opinion, what it did was highlight clear injustices and was never meant to have this triumph at the end. It was clearly meant to be uncomfortable.

    Now, I myself am neither black nor American, so our experience of the book may differ and you are of course welcome to your opinion. I haven’t read it in years either, but it is one of my favourite fiction books (and I don’t easily like fiction). I do remember it making me angry at the injustice and putting things in a new perspective for me.

    In that case I think the book succeeded for me? As for you, perhaps people oversold it or you were expecting something different going in. I just saw it as a portrayal of life at that point in time, with all its flaws.

  2. Interestingly, Harper Lee originally wrote the novel with a focus on Atticus, and one of the main points was that Atticus was a hubristic, self-regarding white savior who couldn’t solve racism even though he saw himself as someone who was doing so.

    The editors pushed her to re-write it from a child’s perspective. The child, naturally, sees her father through a simple lens.

    At the end of Lee’s life, the original text was republished, apparently against Lee’s wishes (basically, elder abuse was happening), and it was marketed as a sequel. The text was somewhat controversial because it showed Atticus in three dimensions, including some of the racism you’re talking about.

  3. It’s part of a lexicon of American literature about race relations. I’m not sure it’s possible to fairly evaluate its contribution in isolation.

    As an aside, you shouldn’t judge books based on misrepresentations or assumptions that you made about the book before you read it. It’s not a useful way to approach analysis because it means you’re comparing a book to something it never was in the first place.

  4. I’ve read it a dozen times at least, and like it better each time I read it. An incredible book.

  5. I think it’s important as ONE resource. It’s valuable to understand racism in terms of the time frame in which it was written. It paints a realistic picture of what it was like. Looking back at history gives us a clearer picture of how we came to be in any given situation and may lead to better thought processes on how to move forward. It also makes quite clear that we haven’t accomplished much in the intervening time. It’s important to see that the bigotry, the hate, the fear, the cruelty, the downright abuse and terror afflicted on people of color was not only accepted, it was encouraged. And in too many places, it still is. Learning about the past in no way dimishes the modern challenges we still force people of color to face, and no, a lot of the story isn’t relevant in the modern world, but we didn’t get where we are now overnight. It would have been good if your class read a more modern novel as well, and then had discussions about them both.

  6. i love to kill a mockingbird 💜 one of my favorite books

  7. I am curious to what end you think the book is sympathetic or looking past bigotry. You should be wary of being too quick to judge how characters in the book speak to each other compared to what is happening or what the author intends. Of course the adults are all pleasant enough, they don’t exactly have a problem with the Klan as they were most likely part of/ casually affiliated with them. Most people struggle to admit their traditions/heritage is wrong.

    Scout and her brother are meant to be the lens to focus on as far as the author’s intent, as they have little to no understanding of the systemic racism. They react pretty strongly to the injustice and can see it for what it is.

  8. I read it as a child and didn’t see anything profound about it. And then when I was older and read more books I realized it was probably better written then I thought.
    But it was so long ago I don’t remember much about it, I just know I didn’t learn anything from it. I’ve felt that I need to reread it as an adult to get a new perspective.
    My 70 year old father who has a degree in literature however loves it and says that whenever he picked it up he reads the entire thing in one sitting. We are both white however and would be looking at the book on that perspective.

    Oh wait. One thing from the book did stick with me. It’s a quote like “you shouldn’t judge a man on how he treats his equals but on how he treats those below him”. I don’t think that’s the exact quote but it’s along that concept. I.e. don’t judge a manager on how they treat their fellow managers but on how they treat their employees, or children, or anyone in a weaker position.

  9. Read “A Time to Kill by John Grisham. Grisham has described the book as “very autobiographical” in that the novel’s “young attorney is basically me” and the drama is based on a case he witnessed. In 1984 Grisham witnessed the harrowing testimony of a 12-year-old rape victim at the DeSoto County courthouse in Hernando, Mississippi.

  10. It was groundbreaking at the time, and the same could be said of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I also
    read TKAMB as a black girl at a predominantly white high school, was also not super impressed with it. But that was back in the 80s. There’re loads of books written since then that can explore the same issues from a less paternalistic viewpoint. TKAMB made a huge impact culturally speaking during the the Civil Rights Movement.

  11. Ooof.

    Whoever told you that it was the book on racism or was timeless was….misinformed.

    Harper Lee was absolutely a product of a particular time and culture and all literature should be looked at through the lens of where and when it came from. Nothing is timeless. *Nothing is timeless*. Atticus is a very flawed hero, also very much a product of his culture and his privilege, and any look at him that doesn’t acknowledge that is problematic.

    I think TKAM is an important piece of literature, but it is only one of many voices from that time and place and should be placed in its proper context, and examined for its own biases and perspectives.

    Like – of *course* Harper Lee wrote that the KKK was just another political party. We gotta look at the time the book is set, and the time she was trying to sell the book – between the fact that she probably came from a demographic that worked very hard to try to believe that and the fact that she was selling to white people…..but a good teacher would have asked you to critically examine why she would have portrayed them that way to see the power structures she was writing about, not present that as a historical fact.

    TKAM isn’t the problem, teaching it as if it is an example of anti-racism or a window onto Black issues is the problem. It is a book entirely about white people. The Black people in it aren’t even characters, they’re just there to give us information about the white characters.

    Sorry you got such a lazy perspective on it. I’d start wondering what other books you got a lazy perspective on.

  12. The book is written about the experiences and from the perspective of a white child growing up during the Great Depression surrounded by extreme racial discrimination.

    It highlights the ignorant, unjust, and deeply flawed thinking and actions specifically of racist white people during that time. It’s clearly demonstrated to the extent that a small child can see the problems with such behavior.

    Idk that I’ve ever heard or read anything that claims it will lead to a greater understanding of issues the black community currently faces. I’ve always seen it as an introspective novel specifically for white people to confront the many issues that are highlighted.

    I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who read the book and came away with the thought that “oh racial slurs are less prevalent so the rest of this doesn’t apply”. There’s still a ton to learn that’s applicable in our time even if someone ignores everything except the criminal case.

  13. I dont see how the use of slurs dimishes racism

    Thats how people talked then and this book was showing us how awful it was

  14. I think what you need to keep in mind is, *Mockingbird* was written in 1960.


    The Civil Rights Act was not passed until 1964. MLK, JFK, Robert – all assassinated within a few years. These were serious, insane times in the US. And *Mockingbird* came out almost five years previously.

    This was a seminal, progressive, heart-rending book ***for its time***. If you read it now, from today’s perspective, then sure – you’re going to have issues with it. But if you read it *through the lens of the 1950s and 60s*, it was ground-breaking.

    You are in high school, I assume? So around 15-16? The thing about these books is, you have to read them CRITICALLY, and within the framework of American society AT THE TIME, which was a solid six-seven decades ago. Your personal point of view is…not that long.

    I’m not saying your take is ‘wrong’. I’m simply pointing out that you are lacking the *critical thinking (or a decent history/American Lit teacher to guide you)* that goes into appreciating or at least understanding such a book.

    My two cents.

  15. Definitely don’t think it is or was “the book” on racism or otherwise.

    IMHO it’s a period piece illustrating the casual and cruel racism of that time period for African Americans when they intersected with the “justice” system.

    From the lynching, the lies, and the complete inability to get a fair trial it stands as a perhaps good insight into the ignorance and hate of the time in a post slavery America.

    What it is not, as you say, particularly good or insightful on the lives, experiences, or stories of African Americans of the time. Harper Lee was talking about what she saw while living in the South and the hate and immorality of it all.

    Especially since the story is told from the perspective of a child who wasn’t raised to hate, and gives us a similar experience into trying to understand why everyone’s so hateful.

    I haven’t read the book in a while and can’t comment on the depictions of the klan, but I don’t remember them being particularly good when Atticus is talking about them. More so when he speaks of the father who gets locked up and is insighting the lynch mob. But I’d have to reread it to be certain.

    However, Atticus does talk differently to people in public and at the trial than in his home. He remains sympathetic to the racists and more hateful characters because he’s trying to convince them, ever so slightly. But he won’t win any battles calling them out like people would today. That’s not the only reason he does it but it stood out as a main one when I read it.

  16. >a black girl in a majority white school

    When we read it, I was a black teen girl at a majority black and Hispanic school. However, I didn’t have an expectation that it would shed light on the experiences of being black in America. The author being a white woman, for starters.

    I haven’t reread it since it was required reading, but I recall my peers and I enjoying the book as far as the writing.

    But I do understand your frustration with wanting a book to be part of the curriculum that could give your non black peers some exposure to black authors with stories from our perspectives.

  17. It sounds like your biggest beef with the book is that it has too much nuance, which makes a lot of sense considering how young you are and how completely indoctrinated by culture war bullshit we’ve become in this society. “Racists can be otherwise good people” is for example a realistic statement even if it’s an extremely uncomfortable and dissonance-inducing one. In real life, black and white stances rarely make sense. In addition, I don’t really see the problem with the book being centered around a white family and their perspective on race relations. For one thing America has been a majority white country for about 99.9% of its existence, and so naturally white people are going to have their own experiences and worldviews on the racial strife that’s existed in this country. Secondly, our people would not be in the (improved) situation we’re in today if it weren’t for white people. We absolutely should honor the MLKs and the Malcolm X’s and the Harriet Tubman’s, but there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that there have been millions of white people who have supported black causes, and *to this day* support black causes. Yes it was predominantly blacks getting arrested, beaten and killed in the fight for civil rights, but all of those sacrifices wouldn’t have meant anything if it wasn’t for white voters with empathy for our situation putting pressure on our governments to make change.

    At the end of the day nothing is for everybody, sometimes you’ll resonate with a book a lot and sometimes you won’t. But I feel like the perspective through which you view the story is a big part of why you didn’t enjoy it very much.

  18. I think you missed the point of the book.

    TKAM derives its power from a simple and straightforward message. Written from the perspective of children, they slowly come to realize how their idyllic existence is enfolded in a cocoon of lies, injustice, and brutality.

    I don’t agree that the book is sympathetic towards racists. Sure, there were no grand speeches, no sloganeering. Maybe the point is made gently, but it is done as emphatically as the closing of a prison door. It is an unanswerable indictment of the fake, outward gentility of the small town South that, in truth, has cruelty and racism as its underpinnings.

    You’re right in one sense. African Americans are not the central characters in the novel, and that’s kind of the point.

    Instead, this is a book that grabs whites by the lapels and forces them to examine their beliefs, their motivations, and their daily accommodation with evil. It holds up a mirror to the reader’s familiar world and exposes it for what it really is. By beginning in the perfect world of Scout and Gem, the book slowly becomes darker and darker as the tragedy of Tom Robinson unfolds before them. How they come to realize that even those trusted pillars of the community are complicit with the manifest corruption of an unfair system.

    And how even when a good man, a supposed exemplar of small town morality and virtue such as Atticus Finch, is thwarted by world in which he lives and the attitudes it reveres. It is certainly lazy and inaccurate to call TKAM a White Savior kind of book, because Atticus Finch fails miserably. Atticus Finch is no savior because Tom Robinson is not saved. Instead, the world is a worse place despite Atticus Finch’s futile efforts.

    So here is my challenge to you. Rather than simply condemn it because it doesn’t follow the standard tropes or doesn’t have a satisfying ending, instead deconstruct what the author is really trying to achieve. This is a book that does its work with a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer.

  19. It’s a well-written book. Like, Harper Lee uses words good. It’s deftly plotted, carefully observed, thoughtfully organized. It is a fine example of the writer’s craft.

    I agree with all of the criticisms of its place in schools. There’s limited time in a year. I wouldn’t spend the time on TKAM.

    But I feel like this discussion should acknowledge the fact that beyond its subject matter the book has significant technical merit.

    The author Flannery O’Connor once gave a reading at a college. She noticed that among the college-aged students, there was one older woman.

    Later, after the reading there was a reception and O’Connor noticed that the woman was standing by herself so she went over to keep her company. It turned out the woman had been a housewife and had returned to school after her kids were grown to get the degree she hadn’t been able to get when she was younger.

    O’Connor asked her how she liked the story she had read.

    “It was alright,” the woman said, “It showed how some folks would do.”

    And that, according to O’Connor, is the best praise you can give a story: it shows how some folks would do.

    I think TKAM shows how some folks would do. That’s all.

  20. You are ignorant of context and that is colouring your understanding of the material. Sort of how All in the Family was extremely progressive for its time but is now just seen as “that racist TV show”

  21. You kind of whooshed on the point of the book. The book is about Scout realizing the dynamics of the community she’s in, watching her father deal with the fallout of going against what they expect of him, and the pressure that comes at you sometimes when you do the right thing.

    At no point are any of the racists in the book sympathetic, either. They are ignorant, stupid, and violent. It also hints at the fact that the whites that are somewhat left behind by “polite society” cling to racism as a means of social acceptance.

    The book is not about the effect of racism on the black community, it’s about systemic racism, what happens when people in the dominant group push against it, and how the people who face the brunt of the racism are pawns in the process.

    The Scout coming of age thing is really borne out by the character of Boo Radley. He’s a shy, reclusive man who has all these horrible murderous rumors about him, but Scout comes to realize he is kind, sensitive, and heroic.

    Expecting a work of art to express what you want it to, to be about what you expect, or to be critical because it doesn’t address what you think it should not only leads you to is the point of the book, it is in many ways what the book itself criticizes.

    EDIT: That is not to suggest that you’re “wrong” to not like it, for any reason you want. That’s what art’s all about, really.

  22. TKAM isn’t primarily a novel about racism, it’s primarily a coming-of-age story about a young girl realizing both the evil and the (much weaker) good of the adult world. From that perspective, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.

    Also, I don’t remember that “political party” quote about the KKK, and couldn’t find it when searching through an electronic copy. Do you mind saying where it’s from in the book?

  23. The invisible man by Ralph Ellison is an excellent book from the fifties that is from the perspective of a black man during basically the same time period that is way more realistic. Not sure if this really fits in the discussion but when you mentioned perspective I immediately thought of this particular novel.

  24. Don’t think of it as a story of black history, think of it as it is, a novel about white people trying to find morality.

  25. I feel like this is more of a critique on your English teacher not conveying the book to your class in a more understanding way. Many kids need direction for literature and without context, yeah this book can be seen exactly what you described. I suggest doing a little deeper researching on the themes, criticisms, and author.

    Sounds like homework but you seem to be taking an interest in literature and maybe being able to see this novel from a different perspective will sooth the feelings you have toward it currently

  26. Thats not even close to what it is realistically you came in with weird preconceived notions.

    Its really a good look into how things used to be and how people approached things.

    Of course it has nothing to do with current times. I would say it does show that when compared to modern times overall racism has declined.

    Its not gone and never will be sadly but idk i saw it as what it was.. a look into the past. Gave me better understanding of where things used to be

  27. To Kill a Mockingbird was written to get white people to stop and practice some self awareness about the intrinsic racism that is continually upheld by white people and the institutions we built. It wasn’t written to tell Black people anything, they’re all very familiar with the subject already. I don’t blame you for not getting anything out of it. I do think it’s very important for white students to read. But also, your perspective absolutely matters and is one that may just drive the point home for your white peers.

  28. I think this may come out weird, but have you considered that you might not be the audience for the book. As a white kid in the 80s who grew up in an area where it was mostly white kids, I felt like this book did a great job activating empathy for people we didn’t see a lot of.

    I grew up with adults who had lots of racist things to say. I think I knew deep down it was wrong, but books like these, TV shows like Star Trek, and even stupid movies like Soul Man helped fortify those feelings in me that yeah, just because grownups around me are acting in a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s right. I totally contemporized it with my own formative years.

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