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Prejudice and Discrimination Problems in To Kill A Mockingbird, I Have A Dream, and Letter From A Birmingham Jail

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America was founded on July 4, 1776. We celebrate this holiday known as, “the 4th of July”, or as “Independence Day”, every year. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subject to the monarch of Britain and were now free. This resulted in the Declaration of Independence signed on this day. This document included the unalienable rights; Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. This concept has been true for most people, but not all. Native Americans, African Americans, and other immigrant groups have experienced discrimination expressed in many ways. Novels, speeches, letters, and more have pinpointed not only this problem, but other types of prejudice within the world.

First, “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is a novel written about prejudice in the 1960s. The novel includes many messages, such as discrimination and judgement. The main message of the novel is people should not be judged according to their race, religion, what/who they are, and more, but should be judged on their actions and conduct. For example, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (page 117). In other words, innocent people are destroyed by evil. Boo Radley is an example of a mockingbird. He’s mistaken as a “monster” and does not harm anyone, but shows acts of generosity. Boo leaves Jem presents, covers Scout with a blanket during the house fire, and eventually saves the children from Bob Ewell’s attack.

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Next, messages about discrimination appear in speeches. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and became a major leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a world famous speech, “I Have a Dream”, published in 1963. To summarize, the speech called for jobs, freedom, economic rights, and an end to racism in the United States. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for a large number of immigrant and racial groups. For example, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). Martin Luther King was saying that those who are being prejudiced will fight for their rights until they experience justice in their everyday lives. Martin Luther King’s, “I Have A Dream”, speech was not his only approach at certain rights for immigrants and racial groups.

Also, messages about discrimination and prejudice appear in letters. An example is, “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”, written by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. To summarize, King argues that he and his fellow demonstrations have a job to fight for peace and justice. King includes four steps of nonviolent protest: fact finding, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. The letter includes, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” (Martin Luther King Jr.). King is pointing out that freedom is to be fought for. It is not just given by those who hold power or authority, so we need to take it ourselves.

The messages expressed in these three forms of literature still appear in today’s society. Everywhere we look we see differences in wealth, status, power, and more. There is often unfair treatment towards individuals or certain groups. For instance, people assume that someone who is physically disabled, is also mentally disabled. Today, job wage inequalities occur. On average, men earn more than women. Some corporations hire women, but do not advance them to higher positions. Stereotyping occurs in our society today more than anything. Examples are, “All powerful women are single and lonely”, “All Muslims are terrorists”, “All White people are racist”, “All African Americans are poor”, and more.

In conclusion, speeches, novels, letters, and other forms of literature can address prejudice and discrimination problems within our society. In order to prevent this, it is important to take a stand and acknowledge this problem more. Other ways to reduce this problem would be to bring awareness and gain public support. By making others aware, the problem becomes more recognized and shamed upon or avoided.

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