To Kill a Mockingbird Racism & Prejudice Quotes

Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird speaks eloquently about racism and prejudice. See below for powerful quotes from the book about racism and prejudice. See this page for immigration quotes and here for more To Kill a Mockingbird Quotes.

I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.

– Scout

Background: After observing racism from Aunt Alexandra towards her friend Walter Cunningham Jr., Scout gets into a discussion with Jem about it. Jem says peoples differences are because there are different types of people. He explains Maycomb’s caste system with some types of people who are meant to be in the lower (with African-Americans at the bottom) and some in the upper classes.

Meaning: Scout argues that these differences are more because of the opportunity the lower class people have received, not because of who they are. Scout, takes a more innocent perspective, and believes that people are all born equal, no matter what race or economic class they are in.

For more information: Read this article from enotes.com

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

– Atticus Finch

Background: Scout comes home from school discouraged after having a problem with her teacher, Miss Caroline. Scout got in trouble for trying to help Miss Caroline understand her students. Even though Scout was doing the right thing, Miss Caroline was upset with her. However, rather than condemning Miss Caroline, Atticus tells Scout that Miss Caroline couldn’t have been expected to know what to do when she doesn’t even know her students yet. Atticus then uses the above quote to explain in terms that a child can understand.

Meaning: This statement highlights the importance of not judging other people and is a moral principle that guides the development of the rest of the novel.

For more information: see this article from SparkNotes.

“Cry about the simple hell people give other people—without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they’re people, too.”

– Dolphus Raymond to Dill

Background: During Tom Robinson’s trial, Dill starts crying uncontrollably when seeing how differently (and rudely) Tom is treated compared to the other witnesses. Dolphus Raymond then says the above quote to Dill.

Meaning: While Scout and others seem relatively numb, a young child crying gives them a different way perceive the situation. Dills tears are seen by Dolphus as a more innocent, ideal reaction to the horrible situation of racism in Maycomb.

For more information: see this article from Schmoop.

“There’s some folks who don’t eat like us,” she whispered fiercely, “but you ain’t called on to contradict ’em at the table when they don’t. That boy’s yo’ comp’ny and if he wants to eat up the table cloth you let him, you hear?”

– Cal to Scout

Background: Calipurnia (Cal), and African American, invites someone from a poor family (the Cunninghams) to eat at their table.

Meaning: This shows an African American acting virtuously, challenging the idea that white people were morally superior.

For more information: see this article from Schmoop.

I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.” (11.107-109)

– Atticus Finch

Background: Mrs. Dubose has no filter and just says whatever is on her mind, which includes saying very negative and mean things to Scout and Jem about their father Atticus because he is standing up for an African American man in court.

Meaning: Atticus again goes back to his moral compass, and tries not to judge others. Atticus identifies Mrs. Dubose’s criticism of him as a reflection of her own issues, not his. He doesn’t let Mrs. Dubose’s insults cause him to give up the moral high ground.

For more information: see this article from enotes.

You know the truth, and the 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.

There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.” (20.47-48)

Background: Atticus is speaking to the courtroom in defense of Tom Robinson

Meaning: Here Atticus directly attacks the logic of racism. Just because some people of a given race our bad people it doesn’t justify negative attitudes to the whole race. There are bad people in all races and on top of that, all human beings have done bad things and shouldn’t judge others. Convicting Tom because of the color of his skin is irrational and immoral.

For more information: see this article from Schmoop.

More To Kill a Mockingbird Prejudice Quotes

 

There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads — they couldn’t be fair if they tried. 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.

– Atticus Finch

 

The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying those resentments right into a jury box.

As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it —- whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, the white man is trash.

– Atticus Finch

 

The handful of people in this town who say that fair play is not marked White Only;

the handful of people who say a fair trial is for everybody, not just us; the handful of people with enough humility to think, when they look at a Negro, there but for the Lord’s kindness am I.

– Miss Maudie

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