Magazine article Working Mother

Race Matters

Magazine article Working Mother

Race Matters

Article excerpt

Most of us have read Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. But how about the author's Go Set a Watchman, released just last year, yet written before Mockingbird? In it, the Atticus Finch we revere is revealed to be a racist. When the NAACP, integration and the black vote threaten his traditional Southern sensibilities, we see his veneer crack-this man, the lawyer who righteously defended black Tom Robinson against false rape charges. Atticus's protective instinct quickly turns defensive at the idea that these "backward" people will have an equal say in the community.

I relate to the emotional journey of Scout, whose childhood naiveté and idealized, perhaps unrealistic, view of her father in Mockingbird is stripped away as an adult in Watchman. Times have changed, and so has she. The adult Jean Louise experiences wrenching events in her hometown of Maycomb through a lens tempered by years working in New York City. The rift goes so deep as to alienate her beloved Calpurnia, the family housekeeper and Scout's surrogate mother.

In retrospect, our collective hope that a black president could somehow ameliorate racial injustice and mistrust was as idealistic as Scout's expectations of her father. In the kumbaya months following Barack Obama's election, nearly two-thirds of Americans believed race relations were generally good. But a recent New York Times/CBS News poll reveals that nearly 6-in-10 Americans now believe race relations are generally bad, and 4-in-10 believe they're getting worse. In addition, African Americans are more negative today than they have been in decades.

The number of people who today believe the Obama administration treats whites and blacks the same has fallen to 66 percent, down from 83 percent in 2010. Only 40 percent of whites now say they approve of Obama's handling of race relations, compared with 72 percent of blacks. …

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