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To Kill a Mockingbird and Just Mercy: Racism and it’s constant negativity

This week for our media assignment I chose to watch the new Just Mercy film. This movie exhibits the life and career of Bryan Stevenson, whose life goal is not only to defend those wrongly accused and unfairly charged; but mainly to help a man named Walter McMillian. Throughout the entire film, there are many instances of racism and legal troubles that the characters face. As I was watching this movie, I was thinking about which piece we discussed in class this semester would best relate to this storyline. As I finished the film, I realized that Just Mercy relates itself in many ways to another classic piece: To Kill a Mockingbird. I read both Just Mercy: A story of Justice and Redemption (the book the movie was based on), and To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. Rereading/watching these works now in college made me see the deeper themes and therefore made it alot easier for me to see the relations between the two. The main similarity that stood out to me was the theme of prejudice throughout both of these pieces. Prejudice in the form of racism is very prevalent in both Just Mercy and To Kill a Mockingbird, showing how important this issue continues to be. To Kill a Mockingbird exhibits racism in many ways throughout the novel, especially when it comes to people being racist towards Tom Robinson. This is a point I discussed in a previous blog post regarding To Kill a Mockingbird, and I think it is also extremely important that it be brought in this discussion and comparison. It is very obvious that the surrounding community believes that because of the color of Tom’s skin, he does not deserve a fair trial. People ultimately believed that Tom was guilty just by taking one look at him and seeing that he was black. There are many examples that could have proved Tom to be innocent, such as the fact that he had a crippled left arm and essentially had no motive to commit the crime at hand. These examples did not phase the public though because of his skin color in the end. The fact that Atticus believes Tom innocence even ends up causing problems within the community. Scout and Cecil end up fighting when Cecil announces that Scout’s father is defeding a negro. It becomes evident that racism is not only causing problems in the courtroom regarding Tom’s fate, but even sparks controversy between the rest of the people in the community. Atticus ends up being shamed over the sole fact that he believes Tom is innocent, so not only are people being discriminated against, but it leads to people’s thoughts and beliefs leading them to be discriminated against as well. As for Just Mercy, it is very similar in the fact that it includes the case of an innocent black man being accused and charged for a crime he did not commit. But not only does this film include a case of a black man wrongfully accused, but it also includes acts of racism towards Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer recently graduated from Harvard Law who just recently moved to the South. Stevenson experiences racism himself throughout this plot. Even though he is a successful Harvard grad (a very prestigious accomplishment), people still treat him like a minority because of the color of his skin and his career focus, which is helping African American inmates who have wrongfully ended up on death row. Stevenson has many problems starting up his own law firm in Alabama because of these two ideas. For example, when looking for a building to rent for this law firm, he is denied when they learn what his goals as a lawyer are. Bryan Stevenson’s client, Walter Mcmillian, whose case is the main focus of the film, experiences racism in many cruel and serious ways. This man was wrongfully accused of a serious crime, and the reasoning for his arrest is shocking. Police believe the word of a white convict saying he committed this crime over the word of multiple people who were with Mcmillian the day of the crime at a barbeque that was a few hours away. This group of individuals were black, which shows that the police believed one white man over a group of black individuals solely because of skin color. Another and final example of racism in this movie regards Mcmillian’s “cell neighbor” when he is in jail. This man was arrested because the police said “he just looked like a murderer”. His arrest was solely based on the color of his skin, nothing more. In the end, both of these pieces not only exhibit multiple instances of racism, but they show how this continues to be a problem that needs to be solved. These examples are emotional and hit home, they show why it is so unfair to treat people differently based on the color of their skin, and how their prejudice affects individuals and entire communities in the long run. 

Crenshaw and Intersectionality

Intersectionality is the main focal point of Mapping the Margins by Kimberle Crenshaw. Prior to being assigned this piece, I had never heard that term before. I learned the definition of intersectionality is essentially a combination of multiple types of discrimination at once. In Crenshaw’s example, she focuses on violence of women of color, a combination of race and gender oppression. When I came across this, I immediately though of To Kill a Mockingbird. The events that take place in this novel can relate back to Crenshaw’s discussion of race and gender oppression, because this also takes place in Tom’s Life. Crenshaw was discussing the discrimination of women of color, and in Tom’s life we take a look at discrimination of men of color. Not only is Tom wrongfully accused and sentenced to death for raping a white woman, but he is also discriminated because of his gender. The court decision that Tom was guilty mainly rested on the fact that he was black, but the court room also believed that black MEN were savage and sexual predators who were always on the lookout for white women to sexually assault. The discrimination of race and gender intersects – the prejudice that one race is superior to another, and the prejudice that every black man is looking to assault a woman.

To Kill a Mockingbird: Old and New Perceptions

When I was. junior in high school, I read To Kill a Mockingbird. Although, I did not read this novel as an assignment in school, I read it on my own in my free time because my father continuously suggested that I read it. My first reading of this novel was definitely a lot different than the second time around, that second time being for this class. The main difference is that I can much better understand now, whether it be because I am older or just noticing more the second time, a lot more of the symbolism that occurs in this novel. One main thing I came to realize during my second reading is that the “Mockingbird” in the title most plausibly referring to innocence; that being said “To Kill a Mockingbird” means “The loss of innocence”. When discussing this book when I was in high school, my father would always say this was one of the most important ideas of the story but I never truly understood until now. The majority of the characters in this story lose their innocent nature in some way. The characters change of view which intrigued me most was when Jem realizes after Tom’s trial that the world is an unfair place. Because of the racism in this trial he comes to understand that not everyone acts from the goodness of their hearts, and that is when the world becomes real to him.

A New Way to View Yourself – Death and the Maiden

Act III Scene 1 of Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman contains a very interesting symbol towards the end of the scene which involves a set of stage directions involving a large mirror which is facing the audience as a whole. A giant mirror drops down on to the stage and makes the audience look at themselves and the crowd of people around them as well. This prop is a very momentous staple to the story, and a unique way to have the audience reflect on the acts they have just seen. It is extremely unexpected that the audience would be forced to look at themselves in this way, because usually the audience just reacts to themselves and don’t truly notice or think much into their own reactions. this surprise which engages thought, and changes audience perceptions. When the audience stares into the mirror, this is a way to not only see their own reactions regarding what they have just witnessed, but also the reactions of others around them. In class it was mentioned that we can all have a different “side” we take in this play, and it is very much possible to become uncertain if that is the right side to take at certain points in the piece. When the mirror drops down, it is easy to see all the different opinions and “sides” going on within the audience and within the individual themselves. This shows that everyone in the audience plays a part in how the play is perceived, which further connects to the big picture of how the population as a whole all have a say in how the “norms” of society and the world around us is perceived.

Eichmann in Jerusalem

Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt is a report on the trial of Eichmann, a man involved in the torturous acts of the Holocaust. There are many different opinions and responses to the writing by Arendt. Her tone of voice in this piece can be understood differently by different audiences. But, Aredt’s tone of voice is not as intriguing as what she focuses her writing on. Arendt does not put much focus on the audience in the courtroom that day, but more so on Eichmann himself. It is interesting to ponder why she has such an intense focus on Eichmann, and in taking a deeper look, it can be assumed that Arendt speaks mainly about Eichmann because he can not speak for himself. The audience/jury had their own voices and opinions, but Eichmann seemed to not feel guilty about his actions, or spiteful towards the people in the courtroom, he seemed to feel nothing at all towards the subject. Arendt’s focus on Eichmann is important because he does not himself give much for people to work with when forming their opinion , so this piece is helpful in getting information and in coming up with an opinion of their own about Eichmann and what he has done.

The Furies and Gender Inequality – Alli Alberti

Gender is an important topic that comes up constantly in The Furies. To begin with, in general the time period in which this piece takes place (the Archaic period)  did not favor women or their opinions. Government was not meant to include women or slaves opinions, ideas, and feelings about any topic. Women were unable to vote, inherit fortune, own land, etc., and in general their main purpose was solely to take care of the home and the family, as is prevalent in many generations to follow. Discussing a specific example of gender inequality and how women were considered to be less valuable than man that occurs in The Furies is the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Agamemnon has upset Poseidon, whose assistance is needed in the commencement of the war. Because of this, Agamemmnon is required to sacrifice his daughter. This sacrifice explores the idea of gender inequality because of the sole fact that it was Iphigenia that was the one chosen to be sacrificed. After some deeper research about Greek Mythology and Iphigenia’s family, I found that she had a brother named Oreste. This means that Agamemnon had a daughter and a son. Ultimately, either one of his children could have been chosen to be sacrificed; but of course, the female was chosen. This is most likely because of how women were thought to be of lesser superiority and value than men were, so Iphigenia being sacrificed would be less drastic to society than Oreste.