To Kill a Mockingbird and the Shadows Beneath

I can hardly believe June is halfway over and I’m just now sitting down to talk about To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper. I started reading TKaM out loud with my family, and I’m still reading it with them, but I figured I ought to get this post written before the book of May was completely forgotten among the flood of information in our daily lives. Also, because of the constant intake of information in my life, I will be cutting back on my blog posts. I will try to keep up with this book club but my other posts about life will have to be put on hold for now. In some ways, reading books right now is an escape from all the articles and blog posts and news clips and it is helping me to process all of the other stuff. So, for now, I will try to keep reading and writing about what I am reading.

Before we dive into the muddy waters of TKaM, here are the books for the month of June: The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes by Donald Maass, and the Alternate/fiction book in case you don’t want to read about how to write: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Just as a reminder all the books for this year are laid out for you in this post from January.

What can I say about TKaM that hasn’t already been said? This book is a classic for a reason. So many people have analyzed it and talked about for the last 60 years. But that’s the point. This is a book that we should still be talking about because either we think, “Well, that was back then, not now,” or we recognize that the system that Atticus had to use back then still has racism built in to it which is a call to talk about it. In both of these cases, I do not feel qualified to make an argument. I sort of feel like Scout right now. I’m just a kid learning about the world I’m living in, one day at a time.

What I can do is talk about how this book is relevant to me today, what observations I have made. In order to do that, I’ve picked a handful of wonderful quotes from the book and will try to talk about what they mean to me and how they relate to what’s going on right now in 2020. It is my hope that if you decide to comment on this post, that you will have an open mind to try and see other point of views not your own. As Atticus Finch said it best, You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. So, let’s dive into the waters and talk about the shadows beneath.

I’m going to talk a little more about walking in someone else’s shoes for a moment because I think it is very relevant to what I have seen on social media lately. I am happy to say that I have seen a lot of people taking the time to listen and to educate themselves. I, myself, am trying to do this with the people I’m interacting with. I don’t always do a good job at it. Most of us don’t, if we’re honest. It’s really hard to see other people’s perspectives when you see blanket statements (from every side) about how the other side just doesn’t understand or how they are x, y, or z (insert name calling, belittling, or assumptions). These are not helpful statements. They add nothing to the conversation except to push the wedge in further, to divide us even more than we already are.

Then, how do we listen and learn? If I take this question and apply it to our education system, the first thing I think about is that every child learns differently. I just have to look at each of my sons to know this is true.

That means when you’re having a conversation with anyone, child or adult, it is helpful to think about how they learn and what works best for you. Sometimes, when we’re online trying to have conversations with people we don’t know very well, this is a very difficult thing to keep in mind. I have seen discussions that just don’t work because the person they’re talking with is literally blind and sometimes the device their using doesn’t convey what a seeing person is saying. Let’s be a little more gracious in how we treat one another.

For me, I learn best through a combination of solitary, self-study, and verbal, mostly in writing and reading. Auditory has been helpful to me too, which is why I’ve been listening to several podcasts to help me understand what it’s like to be BIPOC in America and what it means to be White in America. Which brings me to my next point:

The case of Ahmaud Arbrey comes to mind. Here was a black man just out for a run. But two white men were “looking for a suspect in some alleged break-ins.” When they saw Ahmaud they claimed he was their suspect. They only saw what they wanted to see when they killed Mr. Arbrey. This account of what happened to Ahmaud is portrayed in Tom Robinson’s story in TKaM. He was a black man walking home from work, who was asked by a white woman to help her fix a door. When she attacked him with a kiss and her father saw it, he saw a black man who had raped his daughter. What made both of these far worse than just seeing what these men wanted to see was their hatred of black men. In both instances, that racism harbored in the retired officer and his son and Robert E. Lee Ewell and the rest of Maycomb County killed Ahmaud Arbrey and Tom Robinson. This quote was taken from the lips of the judge. He was referring to everyone seated in that courthouse listening to Tom’s trial. The jury saw and heard what they wanted to see and hear and ruled against the evidence.

Another example though to a lesser degree has to do with when I was sitting in church a few weeks ago. What I heard was not what the pastor was trying to say. My mind had been so wrapped up in the history of racism in the church, having just finished reading The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby (which I highly recommend), that I was deeply upset by his words, “The world doesn’t meet out justice and this is not just a racial thing . . . I don’t get justice in this world because I’m not rich.”

What I heard was that we shouldn’t focus on racial injustices when there are so many other injustices in the world. It seemed like he was brushing off the oppression of BIPOC as insignificant. I’m not one to write to my pastor Monday morning and tell him everything I think he got wrong on Sunday. But for the first time in my life, I couldn’t stop thinking about this. I even re-listened to his sermon, to see if maybe I heard him wrong because I knew that a lot of my thoughts have been centered around the #blacklivesmatter movement. Perhaps I heard what I wanted to hear, so I listened again. I heard him talking about our need to pray. But that still wasn’t enough for me.

“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

My conscience told me I needed to talk with him about what he said. For the first time in my life, I emailed my pastor and tried to convey my concerns. This was his reply, “I wasn’t trying to be dismissive of real accounts of racial injustice.  I was simply trying to point out that injustice is far broader than racial issues, which seems to be THE issue everyone focuses on when it comes to injustice.  Moreover, and more importantly, my point was that this world is not where we will find true justice, nor should you think you’ll find it here . . . Ecclesiastes 5:8 advises, ‘If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them.’ . . .  that is why we as Christians should go to God in prayer because that is exactly why Jesus said we should pray for the Church:  “will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?”  We pray for justice for the Church as the world mistreats us.  We can pray for justice in the world, too, but specifically here Jesus says pray for the Church as she meets injustice.”

It is just as important for me to try and see things from his perspective as it is for him to try and see mine. While we might not see eye to eye on everything (some might say abortion is THE injustice everyone focuses on), he was just trying to preach the text from Luke 17:20-18:8. We do agree that the Bible is the word of God and without error. Let me end this story with the end of that passage, “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

One last quote before the end:

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Thanks for reading. I hope you will leave your comments below. Let’s talk about the book, injustices, or whatever you want to talk about it. I’ll do my best to see your point of view.

A friend of mine is Looking for Beta Readers for a Children’s chapter book- Lilith and the Dreary Inn (about 14,000 words)

Lilith is a bit persnickety, and she idolizes her parents. The family of three doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere until her parents move to a new town to renovate an old inn into a modern gothic retreat. Will Lilith learn how to develop life long friendships with her new neighbors or will they be like the friend she left behind?

If you would like to be a beta reader for Ahren Carscallen, let me know in the comments below.

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