To Kill a Mockingbird paper by emmy seth

What do opposition to gay rights, white southerners during the civil rights movement and the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper lee have in common? They all deal with reactions to equality and the idea that rights are finite. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the main plot is that an innocent black man has been accused of rape by a white woman. White southerners reactions during the civil rights movement were often hatred of what they don’t understand, or at the very least shock. There is a lot of push back to LGBTQ rights by religious conservatives who think that equal rights is an attack on them. Tkm, opposition to civil rights by white southerners and gay rights opposition by religious groups often show how people think equal rights for others are an attack on their rights.

TKM and the book White southerners reaction to the civil rights movement by Jason Sokol both show injustice in southern society and southerners’ reactions to civil rights. In TKM, “all the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearest neighbors was, that if scrubbed with lye soap and very hot water, his skin was white” (Lee 229). This shows how big of an advantage white people had over their african american neighbors during this period. Bob Ewell, who tried to stab scout and jem, barely fed his children and raised them in filth, was implied to sexually abuse Mayella, probably abused or at least neglected his kids and regularly broke laws, was often treated better than Tom Robinson, who had concrete evidence for his innocence. “Whites of the south defined themselves - their status, identities, daily lives and self worth - in relation to these concocted notions of african americans. If blacks were submissive and infantile, whites were strong and dignified. Blackness meant degradation. To be free was to be white.” (Sokol) This shows that before the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, even the most undignified white, like Bob Ewell, was seen as better than the kindest, most dignified African American. This idea shows up in the book in the above quote, and the fact that the Ewells, of all people, get Tom Robinson convicted of rape even when there was a ton of concrete evidence for Tom’s innocence.

Both TKM and the NPR article show how much people cling to traditions even when they hurt others. Infact, people often view a minority getting equal rights as an attack on their rights. For instance, in TKM, scout narrates the following passage “I walked home with Dill and returned to Atticus saying to Aunty ‘... In favor of southern womanhood as much as anyone else, but not in favor of polite fiction at the expense of human life.” (Lee 196) This shows how people in that time period valued “southern womanhood” more than justice. The idea of Southern womanhood and it being very important for a woman to be “pure” ruined Tom Robinson’s life after he was falsely accused of rape. That is not the only context where equal rights is seen as attacking traditional values. Another example is the gay rights debate. On the subject of adoption and religious freedom, “one of the thorniest cases is Catholic Charities, whose agencies long have provided foster care and adoption to children in need, including orphans. Under Catholic doctrine, the sacrament of marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman, and catholic adoption agencies have therefore declined to place children with same sex couples.” this shows how tightly people cling to tradition because they are clinging to Catholic doctrine, despite discriminating against gays and lesbians, and religion is, at it’s core, tradition. This also shows how unwilling to change tradition people often are. Instead of trying to change doctrine or taking a stand by going against it, they just discriminate against lgbt people. This also ties into the idea that people view minorities gaining rights as an attack on their rights, as some conservative christians view having to treat lgbt people equally as against their religious freedom.

In conclusion, people who are privileged often see equal rights for minorities as an attack on their rights, and people are unwilling to change tradition because of equal rights. All three sources deal with injustice and reactions to equal rights. For instance, the historical article is all about opposition to the civil rights movement, tkm shows the reaction to a rape trial against an innocent black man, with a white woman as the accuser and the npr article shows how people use religion and tradition to justify discriminating against LGBTQ Americans. To sum it up, people accustomed to privilege view equal rights as persecution.


Gjelten, Tom. "In Religious Freedom Debate, Two American Values Clash." National Public Radio 28 Feb. 2017: n. pag. Print.

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. London: Vintage Classics, 2007. Print.

Sokol, Jason. "White Southerners' Opposition to the Civil Rights Movement." Free at Last: The US Civil Rights Movement. Vol. 1. N.p.: n.p., 1992. 62-64. IIP Digital. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.


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