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In the 1940?s, Malcolm Little (also known as Malcolm X) stood up against racism towards all Black people. This courageous act becomes even more courageous when it is considered that he was following in his Fathers footsteps, even though his father was murdered because of his philosophies about equality. It often takes great courage for one to stand up for their individual beliefs. It is courage that offers hope for equality in the generations to come.
Society in general tends to oppose anything they don?t understand or anything they may be ignorant about. A lot of this has to do with conformity. People don?t like to center themselves out, or be seen as different, so they modify their behavior to fit in with society around them. Young children absorb the views of the older people and adapt them as their own. This Prejudice and its destruction, along with demonstrations of courage is shown in the books, Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Gutterson, and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
Society today, is still somewhat like society was in the early 1940?s. People still believe all of the stereotypes about other people, and even develop their own stereotypes. Just like Athletes and Cheerleaders are stereotyped as being somewhat unintelligent, and black people, as being natural Athletes, and even teenagers as being rebels, the Japanese people, around the time of World War Two, were stereotyped as being peasants and lower in class than the white Americans. The Japanese American Citizens in Snow Falling on Cedars also experience the prejudice aspect of stereotypes.
: Fujiko saw Ilse Severson there, leaning against the railing with her hands clasped in front of her, she waved at the Imadas as they passed by. Ilse, a Seattle transplant, had for ten years purchased strawberries from Fujiko and spoke to her as if she were a peasant whose role in life was to make island life pleasantly exotic for Ilse?s friends who visited from the city. Her kindness had always been condescending, and she had always paid a bit extra for her berries with the air of doling out charity. (Gutterson 216)
Ilse Severson had stereotyped the Japanese family as peasants, and showed prejudice towards the Japanese people when she treated them with no respect and thought that they should be thankful that she was taking them on as a charity case.
When one person mistrusts another, it means that they are unsure about that person?s loyalty or credibility. Most people are mistrusting of anyone that they don?t really know. Since people strive to be accepted by their peers, conformity becomes a problem when a person?s cultural or racial background is socially accepted at that particular point in time.
?Well, you?re the man of the house, you wear the pants, go ahead and sell our property to a Jar and see what becomes of it.? (Gutterson 121)
This demonstrates both how people will treat a person who is different in any way, and also how a person will exert a prejudice nature because of social acceptance. Etta, the speaker of that passage, know that people will talk if a Japanese man buys her land so she tries to convince her husband that it is a bad idea.
In accordance to this, the prejudice that is shown causes much damage and destruction amongst everyone involved. In Snow Falling on Cedars, Ishmael Chambers
was very bitter towards the Japanese people because of an immoral relationship with a Japanese woman who told him that she didn?t love him and that she never did. She went to an internment camp, and because he could not ask why or make peace, he turned his feelings into bitterness and hatred for all Japanese people. His life was ruined. This was more or less self-destruction on Ishmaels part, however, most of the time, these prejudice acts affect people who are innocent.
?It?s because you?re from Japanese folks? You figure because you?re from Japanese folks nobody will believe you anyway.? The conversation continues, ?I?ve got a right to think that way. Or maybe you?ve forgotten that a few years back, the government decided it couldn?t trust any of us and shipped us out here.? (Gutterson 391)
This demonstrates how the Japanese people felt about the way they had been treated. They felt bitterness towards their government, which was supposed to be of service to them, yet were shipping the Japanese people away because they posed a threat to them in the war.
Even though in Snow Falling on Cedars, there was much hatred between the two races, there were also some acts of kindness that in the end proves the statement ? Good conquers evil.? In the novel, Ishmael Chambers pronounces, ? Accident ruled every corner of the universe except for the human heart.? This shows how even though mass opinion believed that kabuo, the man accused of Murder, was guilty, Ishmael knew in his heart that Kabuo as a person, was not capable of committing such a crime. In turn he found enough courage in him to go against everyone else and find a way to prove
Kabou?s innocence. Carl Heine?s Father, the father of the man who was eventually killed, is an even better example of this. He was a friend with Kabuo?s family for a long time, even though it was socially unacceptable to have a casual relationship with a Japanese person. Even his wife ridiculed him for doing so, yet he believed that they were good people, and he had enough courage in him to go against everyone and stand up for them. He treated them like regular human beings, and did not believe that they were any kind of threat when the war began. He offered his own services to the family in order to help them.
: But right now you got deeper things to think about. You don?t need us bending your ear about payments. You got plenty to do ?thout that. And anything I can do, help you get your things all ready, you let me know, Zenhichi* (Gutterson 132)
Similarly to Snow Falling on Cedars, To Kill a Mockingbird deals with some of the same issues. However, unlike Snow Falling on Cedars, To Kill a Mockingbird deals with the issue of religion.
People with strict religions always seem to be trying to push their beliefs on others. They look down on anyone who does not conform to their religion. For example, Miss Maudie explained to Scout why some people don?t like other people because of their religion.
?Did you know some of ?em came out of the woods one Saturday and passed by this place and told me me and my flowers were going to hell?? (Lee 49)
Miss Maudie is demonstrating to Scout how some people can be prejudice towards other people thru strict beliefs in their own religion.
Similarly to that situation, the people of Maycomb County did not accept Arthur Radley because he stayed in his house all day. No one ever saw him come out. In Maycomb, people?s doors were always open, so when The Radley?s doors were closed, the people would assume they were doing something they didn?t want anybody to see. Stephanie Crawford, the town gossip would often make up stories about Arthur to make him seem like a monster.
?According to Miss Stephanie, Boo was sitting in the living room cutting up some items from the Maycomb tribune to paste in his scrapbook. His father entered the room. As Mr. Radley passed by, Boo drove the scissors into his parent?s leg, pulled them out, whipped them on his pants and resumed his activities.? (Lee 15)
Tom Robinson is also a victim of prejudice in To Kill A Mockingbird, because he is black. At that time, it was socially unacceptable for a white person to associate with a black person. Because he felt sorry for Mayella Ewel, she took advantage of his kindness and tried to kiss him. When she got caught, she blamed him and said he tried to rape her. Because she knew that the jury would take her word over his despite the lack of evidence.
Because of this prejudice, and people not taking the time to learn about another person?s beliefs, these innocents got harassed, ridiculed, and stomped on. For example,
Boo Radley?s religion requires him to stay inside all of the time because he believes that anything that brings pleasure is a sin.
?Foot-washers believe anything that?s pleasure is a sin.???Thing is, foot-washers think women are a sin by definition. They take the Bible literally, you know.? (Lee 49)
Similarly to the situation in Snow Falling on Cedars, there are people in To Kill A Mockingbird who could contradict all of the prejudice actions people committed. These people had a lot of influence over others, and were greatly respected by most of them, because of their open-mindedness.
?I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It?s when you know your licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.? (Lee 116)
Atticus became Tom Robinson?s lawyer not only because he had to, but also because he wanted to. He didn?t feel like he could tell his children to do anything ever again if he didn?t try to help this man. Having an open mind opens up a whole new world of possibilities for everyone. If everyone had just conformed to what his or her peers believed, society would not be as civil as it is today. Look at all the great black athletes, doctors, or historians, like Malcolm X. If people had not gone against conformity, these people would not exist today.
Atticus said it best when he spoke the words ?it?s a sin to kill a mockingbird.? (Lee 94). In this he meant that because a mockingbird doesn?t do anything but good, it would be a sin to kill one. This could also be a symbol for his beliefs on racism. He believed that it was wrong to be prejudice towards someone without good reason. People, who were prejudiced without reason, were just ignorant.
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