What we bring into our reading of TKAM matters

Growing up in Alabama in the 70s & 80s, I was not ignorant about racial prejudice. No one was.

I remember being in elementary school and spending the night at my friend's house. Her siblings and mom were as white as I. Her stepfather, however, was black. I remember being surprised. It was the first time I had ever seen an interracial couple, much less one up close and personal. They were loving and funny and completely normal in every regard save the fact that their skin didn't match.

And that bothered some people.

It bothered them enough that my friend shared with me about the time a large cross was burned in their front yard.

The front yard of the house I was spending the night in that very night.

She shared how cars would sometimes slow down as they drove by her house so that the occupants could yell obscene things at her family.

I remember when I was in junior high and the neighborhood kids wouldn't allow the biracial child that lived in our neighborhood to play at the playground with them. They called him all sorts of names - names you know they were only repeating because they heard them from their parents.

I remember when I was in high school and my stepfather called me an N-lover because I invited my friend, Angel, to spend the night and he got wind that she happened to be black before the night of the sleepover.

Like I said, I wasn't ignorant about racial prejudice growing up in Alabama when I did.

But the thing is, those were isolated incidents that happened over the span of 15 years. They weren't common for me to experience, not a part of my personal everyday life.

Not like they were for Calpurnia.

Not like they were for kind-hearted Tom Robinson.

And not like it is for so many black Americans.

I think it's worthwhile when we read novels that touch on topics like racism to reflect on our own experiences, to connect in some way with the author's point of view in writing the book.

But I don't want to leave you to sit alone in your thoughts.

Please email me (ericka@prettyliterate.com). I'd love to connect with you about all of your thoughts as you read To Kill a Mockingbird.