Racism Then and Now

Feb 18, 2016
by: Katie J.

Racism/Race Relations Back Then and Now

You may have heard or thought yourself about how race relations and racism have gotten much better than how it was compared to back in the day, when racism and discrimination were very common among our society . However, how much has racism really changed? Some people may remark that we have finally reached equality between races but many say that we are far from what we define as “equality”. Now, how true are these statements? Have we really reached the idea of equality people fought for, for years? There is indeed a huge difference in the treatment of races and racism from back then decades ago to now, there is no doubt about that. But how far have we come, how have we changed throughout the years? Relations between race back then was a rocky road, we segregated the citizens of America as much as we could and there was no respect towards any race other than people we considered from the “right” countries, or were thought of as superior to other races as well. We had continued calling black citizens the n-word and being concerned about other races negatively influencing our country back in that time period. However, as decades went past, we, “white people” have come to be thousands of times more compassionate towards minorities, not daring to say the n-word, not judging someone on their culture, and decreasing the amount of times we make a racist remark. Whereas back in the times of an abundance of racism, there is exactly the opposite of what is stated above. However, we are still far from the equality that we speak of today. In To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, there are plenty of examples of the relations between race in the mid 1900s.

Back then with the account of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, race was a big issue amongst American citizens. Although slavery had ended and a new life had begun for African Americans, they still could not get away from racism and discrimination. In To Kill a Mockingbird, African Americans were highly looked down on. We have Tom Robinson, who was falsely accused for the rape and abuse of a young white girl, Mayella Ewell, and convicted because of the color of his skin. In To Kill a Mockingbird, it states that, "She (Mayella) was white, and she tempted a Negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: she kissed a black man. Not an old Uncle, but a strong young Negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards." (Lee, 272). This shows that even though the town of Maycomb has liable evidence that Tom Robinson did not commit this crime, they would rather believe the rape of a white girl than a white girl wanting to kiss a black man. Another example would be the quote, “To Maycomb, Tom's death was typical. Typical of a nigger to cut and run. Typical of a nigger's mentality to have no plan, no thought for the future, just run blind first chance he saw. Funny thing, Atticus Finch might've got him off scot free, but wait-? Hell no. You know how they are. Easy come, easy go. Just shows you, that Robinson boy was legally married, they say he kept himself clean, went to church and all that, but when it comes down to the line the veneer's mighty thin. Nigger always comes out in 'em.” (Lee, 322). This states that the death of a black man was not uncommon, it happened quite often. It gives a reminder that the relations of race and racism in the 1930s was still at its very high point. The trial of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird was very similar to the real event, the Scottsboro Trial, where nine African American teengagers were convicted of the rape of two white women on a train in 1931. These men too, were declared guilty as was Tom Robinson. We also have the example that people started to lose respect for Atticus after they found out that he was defending a black man, calling him a “nigger-lover” as an insult. Schools in that era were also extremely segregated as well as public facilities. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Calpurnia had to go to a colored church so she could practice her beliefs. Slavery was a big part of society with the conception that blacks were lesser humans than whites. Although slavery had ended, that conception had stayed with us for years and years. When immigration boomed in America, a sense of “nativism”, or a favoritism toward native born americans, had formed. Americans were not accepting of minorities and wanted to push them away, afraid that they were corrupting the country and stealing all of our jobs. Race riots and organizations against other races were common as well. There was even the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that almost completely sealed off Chinese immigration to America because of the fear of loss of jobs. At that point in history, White people had an extreme difference in rights compared to minorities, especially African American people.

Compared to back then, race relations and racism in modern day has reached a very low point. Americans have learned to be more compassionate toward people of color and actually advocate with them for their full equality. There are also no segregated areas anymore, anyone of any color can freely go wherever they want to. Saying racist remarks is now looked down upon and shamed for and the “n-word” is now considered a word that cannot be said by anyone other than African Americans. Anyone who is rude to someone because of their race is immediately put down by others as well. Although we do all these things, we are not quite to the equality everyone speaks of. Many people say racist things as a joke without thinking much of it. However, just because these remarks are considered as jokes doesn’t mean they’re okay to say. Many Americans are unintentionally racist because we have come to joke about what happened in our history so we can cope with it. However, the best way to cope with it would be to not repeat what we have said in the past to minorities. We also still judge people off of their skin, we have created stereotypes for many different cultures and sometimes take those stereotypes too far. Recently, on August 9, 2014, there was the shooting and death of a black teenager at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. This caused weeks of constant protest, and drew attention to a brand new civil rights campaign; “Black Lives Matter”. Black citizens have not only been shot once by a white police officer without reason, but there have been many incidences where black people are met with death without answers to as of why. This shows that we have not achieved full equality nor the idea of a society without racism yet, and maybe we never will. The good thing about this new movement, however, has strengthened the bond between races so we protest together. However, with that shooting happening, it still causes an increase in racial tension throughout the country at the same time. That doesn’t mean we won’t keep going on and learning from the hurdles we have to go over. There will be many bumps on the way, but we will continue going forward.

From having slavery, segregation, race riots, racism and more to almost not having any of that is a huge accomplishment done by the people of the United States of America. Equality as it is has been achieved to a certain degree, but I believe we can keep walking forward toward an even better society. Race relations and racism back then compared to now has greatly improved, we have come very far. In modern day, the color of others and your skin is embraced and accepted rather than oppressed. This was a complete 360 from what America was decades ago and I know we will continue to keep changing in the right direction.


Very good writing with intelligent points.

Submitted by Roan522 on Thu, 2016-02-18 19:17.

Katie, I enjoyed your piece very much. You brought in points from multiple classes (I saw that history class tie in!) as well as from current events and news. You acknowledged intelligently the differences between then and now, and drew attention to how much we have improved as a society, all formatted in a concise, formal style. However, I feel that you could tie into your counterpoint more than you did. Obviously, racism is less so than it was then, but people still fly confederate flags and still view anyone "different" as inferior. And while I do agree that we as a society and as the human race have improved so much, it is naive to say that racism is nearly gone and you should not forget that.

Very nice piece! I really

Submitted by tina188 on Thu, 2016-02-18 23:47.

Very nice piece! I really liked how your essay was set up with the first body paragraph about the book and then it connects it to recent events.Just a note, in the conclusion where you wrote, "I believe...." You don't need to write that, just plain out state it because it is your piece so you don't have to write 'I.'

Racism Then and Now

Submitted by aneliesebaker on Fri, 2016-02-19 07:44.

This piece is incredibly eye-opening and awakens sense of hope inside me, hope that the days to come will never be measured up to the days before this. You did a phenomenal job of intertwining both real-life situations as well as examples from To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as both past and future forthcomings. As to whether our country has made a complete 360 or not, I suppose we will never know until we truly live a day with a complete absence of racism.

You wrote an amazing

Submitted by TravisA on Fri, 2016-02-19 12:14.

You wrote an amazing introduction! It grabbed and held my attention very well. Great use and break down of evidence. Even today, I feel like racism is very much less than it was back in the 30s, of course, but instead it's more of an all around thing. It doesn't target just one group nearly as much as it did.