In all my life, I’ve met only a single black person who actually liked this book, and the longer I live, the more I understand why. The novel presents white racism the way white people want to think of it, not the way it actually was. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be an archetype for the Jim Crow South, but that is how a lot of people think of it (that I’ve met, anyway) and I find that confounding.
In the world of the novel:
The town is made up of lovable eccentrics and essentially good-hearted people. The most virulent racists are the nasty, white-trash people who live out on the edge of town. A group of townspeople get together to lynch the accused, and this crowd is shamed into going home by Scout’s innocence and purity. The best lawyer in town has volunteered to represent the accused in the name of justice, and does such a good job that when he walks out of the courtroom, the black people observing stand up out of respect. The white-trash father of the accuser tries to harm this justice-serving lawyer, and is killed by a mentally disturbed eccentric. The local lawman decides to do nothing about this, and it is subtly suggested that some kind of rough justice was done, because of who the victim was and the nature of his killer.
Don’t make me laugh.
In reality, the sheriff would’ve been LEADING the charge to lynch John Robinson (law enforcement contributed plenty of Klan members), and kids like Scout would’ve either cheered them on or stood and watched. This is not hyperbole; pictures of children posing with adults under the hanging bodies of lynching victims are just a google search away. Note that in almost all such photos the people are not the white trash from the edge of town, but average, middle-class people. Racism was not some “low brow” activity; it was endemic. There’d be no real trial with evidence and witnesses, and even if there was any desire to hold one no lawyer in town would be willing to act as defense counsel and take the job seriously, because they valued their careers. And Boo Radley? Yeah, he’d be stuck in a state institution for life, a place built and maintained specifically FOR people like him
Whew! Felt good to get that out.