To Kill a Mockingbird Project Jonathan Zou

This image represents the injustice of some "scales" *(judges/courts), even though courts are supposed to be the epitome of justice and equality

People confront injustice everyday, whether it’s in the form of controversial federal court cases or taking a lollipop from a kid. In modern times, rarely do people relate injustice with racism, as it’s looked down upon. However, society was not always caring, accepting, and welcoming. History has proven again and again that racism can be one of many spawns of injustice. The Plessy vs. Ferguson case of 1896 result of sentencing a black man for sitting in a white man's train car partially contributed to the creation of the Jim Crow Laws. The result was based purely on the fact that Plessy was black. 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 solely because he was African American. These three texts show the injustice that can be caused by racism through assumptions and social values.

This image shows the struggle between races and their struggle for power (the rope)

To Kill a Mockingbird and Jim Crow Laws relate in the sense that one of the causing factors of Jim Crow Laws (Plessy vs. Ferguson) was decided by an all-white judge group resulting in Plessy losing because of his race. Plessy was an African American who was ⅞ white and volunteered to test the Separate Car Act of 1890 (which segregated public transportation). Plessy was arrested for sitting in the “white” car of a public train. Plessy soon lost his case in the Supreme Court, with the white judges claiming “separate but equal”. Plessy lost purely because of his race (even though he was only ⅛ black). We can also see this type of racial injustice in To Kill a Mockingbird. In To Kill a Mockingbird, on pg. 264, Tom Robinson (an African American man) is accused of raping a Mayella Ewell (a white girl). Tom testifies to the court and is cross examined by Mr. Gilmer (the lawyer leading the prosecution). At one point in the trial, Tom states: “I felt sorry for her (Mayella)”. Mr. Gilmer immediately exclaims: “You felt sorry for her... The damage was done… nobody liked Tom Robinson’s answer.” Tom’s answer of feeling sorry for a white girl doomed his case. According to Southern ideals, a black man was not supposed to feel sorry for a white person in any way since white people were the "dominant" race and therefore having no need of assistance from a "inferior" race (the African American race) . Because of this, it is evident that Tom’s case was doomed by his race, much like how Plessy’s case was doomed because of his race as well.

This image represents that the Supreme Court (representing the justice system in America) is unjust in many cases ("outliers"), showing that injustice inspired by racism still exists

Comparing To Kill a Mockingbird and the Buck vs. Davis 1996 case also shows how people are often led to injustice because of race. In To Kill a Mockingbird, on page 274, Atticus gives a lengthy speech about the justice of courts, stating: “in our courts, all men are created equal”, appealing to the jury not to base their judgement on their Southern ideals (all black men are evil). Here, Atticus almost pleads to the jury that courts should be the definition of justice, with no racial or discrimination bias. Obviously, the jury tries and sentences Tom to death, directly contradicting Atticus’ plea. The jury gave in to their Southern ideals and tried Tom purely on the fact that he was black. The Buck vs. Davis was a court case in 1996, where Duane Buck was tried for murder and sentenced to death. Duane Buck had overwhelming evidence for him, yet a defense “expert” named Walter Quijano provided the false report that “black people were more likely to commit crimes later in life”. The jury bought it, and convicted Buck of murder. Currently, the case is being reviewed for the Supreme Court. Reporting on the Buck vs. Davis of 1996, the 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 drives home the idea of racial inequality in courts. The reason Buck was tried in the first place was because the jury believed the ignorant myth; that all black people are inherently more dangerous than white people in all situations. Buck, as well as Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird, were both tried purely because they were black.

This image represents the people who think of the "good ol' days" of the slave days or the times when white superiority ideas were popular

Society has advanced since the “old times” when black people and other minorities were discriminated against endlessly because of 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 and unchallenged. But has it really? Evidently, cases such as the trial in the book To Kill a Mockingbird (1940s) and the recent Buck vs. Davis (1996-) show that racism still exists and is active even within the places we should see without it. Seeing this slow and meaningless progress brings home the question if injustice caused by race can ever be abolished. Or will it remain in society as it has?

The "unjust sentences" symbolizes America's courts (notice the red emphasis on the U and the S; making U.S). It shows that even with the ongoing movements against injustice and racism, they still exist.

Thank you!

Works Cited:

Hinton, Elizabeth. "How a Racist Myth Landed Duane Buck on Death Row." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Urofsky, Melvin I. "Jim Crow Law." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. Vol. 1. New York: Warner, 1960. Print.

"Welcome to Unjust Sentences." Unjust Sentences. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

Saferite, Jeff. "The "Good Ol' Days" Are Just Plain Annoying." ChurchPlants., 30 Nov. -0001. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Gordon, Taylor. "10 Annoying Things Caucasian People Do When Confronted With Racism - Page 5 of 5." Atlanta Black Star. N.p., 05 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

"How To Find Out About A Lawyer Lifestyle." Lawyer Lifestyle How To Find Out About A Lawyer Lifestyle Comments. N.p., 13 May 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

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Jonathan Zou

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