“In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life” (295). In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson, a black man, in court because he was accused of a crime that he did not commit. Although the town of Maycomb told Atticus that it was a bad idea and that he could never win, his dedication never wavered.
However, even though Atticus’ evidence seemed like solid proof that Robinson was innocent, the jury declared him guilty. Because Tom Robinson’s conviction and eventual death, despite accumulating evidence, led to many people’s sense of fairness and justice being questioned or violated, Lee established the concepts of racism, social inequality, and unfairness.One of the ideals that was customary in Maycomb was the stereotype that white people were better than black people. For example, in Chapter 22, when Jem was crying about Robinson’s conviction and Aunt Alexandra questioned the decision to let them watch the trial, Atticus says, “This is their home, sister… We’ve made it this way for them, they might as well learn to cope with it” (285). By saying this, Lee showed that the racism that plagued the town had been around for a long time. Atticus showed that he was true to his practice of law by defending Tom Robinson, even though he was black, because he believed that all men are equal. This is also shown in Atticus’ courtroom speech, where he said, “The witnesses for the state… have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted… that you gentlemen would go along with them… You know the truth, and that truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women?black or white.
But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men” (273). In this quote, Atticus said that Bob and Mayella Ewell were sure that their testimony would not be doubted, because it went with the stereotype of black men being untrustworthy around women. Because of the bigotry of the town, those who believed the stereotypes about Negroes, like Mrs. Dubose, thought Atticus was silly or just as bad as the “niggers and trash he works for” (135). These displays of racism and bigotry in Maycomb’s community made it difficult for people to contradict the customs to do what was right and give Negroes a fair chance.In addition to racism, social inequality was shown in the courtroom as well. “The way that man called him ‘boy’ all the time an’ sneered at him, an’ looked around at the jury every time he answered… it ain’t right, somehow it ain’t right to do ’em that way.
Hasn’t anybody got any business talkin’ like that?it just makes me sick” (266). Dill cried during Mr. Gilmer’s cross examination of Tom Robinson because it wasn’t right that he accosted him like that.
However, Mr. Gilmer got away with speaking disrespectfully the way he did because Robinson was black. Moreover, Tom was convicted of raping Mayella Ewell because of the social injustice that allowed racism to corrupt a courtroom. In Chapter 22, Atticus said, “They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it?seems that only children weep” (285). This shows that it was customary for courtrooms to show inequality towards Negroes. Like Atticus said, it seems that only the children cried out at the unfairness in the way black people were treated.The unfairness in the Tom Robinson case was justified by the law. Atticus said, “I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system… a court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.
I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family” (274). In this quote, Lee established that a court is as fair as the people on its jury. That being said, the quality of fairness in courtroom justice depends on the jury. For example, a black man being sentenced to death by a jury would be as just as a white man getting to walk free, even though it is unfair.
Because of this, Atticus was confident in his ability to help Tom Robinson, since the verdict depended on whether the jury saw that he was innocent or not. He depended on his belief in fairness because he knew that there was still the possibility of the jury looking past Robinson’s skin color. Through the results of the trial despite Atticus’ confidence in a fair jury, Lee showed that the degree to which justice was fair fluctuated depending on the people on the jury.To conclude, the unfairness shown in Tom Robinson’s conviction and eventual death established racism, social inequality, and unfairness in Maycomb’s community. Racism towards Negroes made people assume the stereotype that they were violent and untrustworthy, yet, it was the social inequality that allowed them to get away with it. Because of this, the verdict in Tom Robinson’s case was unfair even though it was just according to the court. Consequently, Tom Robinson went to jail and perished because of these societal norms, and all people said was that it was typical for a “nigger” to run the first chance they saw (322).
These concepts that Lee communicated in To Kill a Mockingbird bring awareness to the faults in today’s society and how they affect individuals.