Our book club recently read this book. I have been reading it every April or May since I was 24 years old. That means that I've read the book approximately 26 times. Why? Well, there are a lot of reasons. The main one, is that this book reminds me of who I am, and where I come from. I have an older brother, and in our childhood, we played together all of the time. I was a bit of a tomboy. I spent summers at my grandma's house, in a tiny town, where everyone knew everyone else. The book is familiar. The characters ring so true. All of the characters are authentic, from the main characters, to people like Heck Tate and Mrs. Dubose.
During our meeting, we discussed racism. A question was asked, "Do you think that racism still exists as strongly today?" There were many examples given by book club members. My personal opinion is that it most certainly does. It's in the heart of all of us. We all like ourselves the best, and those who remind us of ourselves are our favorite people. Those who are different often become "the other". I remember reading a novel called Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle for a previous book club. It was so ugly, and dark. But, it rang so true in it's depiction of racism in California. And, not just racism, but elitism, as well. It's in us, and it's lurking. I hear racist conversations frequently. I try to redirect them, and I feel appalled, but then I realize that I have misconceptions and prejudices in my heart, as well. We all do.
One of the clearest examples of racism that comes to mind, was the news that a former supervisor at my old school district won an award for being "Administrator of the Year" for the state of California. How could that happen? This is a person who actually enforces segregation of Spanish speaking students. And, continues to have a program where children are placed in classes based on the color of their skin, and their economic status. There you have it. I don't think there is any region or part of our country that is less racist than another. There is just a lot of pretending going on.
Anyhow, as I finished up To Kill a Mockingbird this year, I felt a hopefulness that I always feel when I finish. It is a tale of change, of baby steps being made towards the greater good. A tale of Atticus Finch, standing firm in his personal convictions. A reminder for me to do the same, in every way that I can.