“The witnesses for the state, with the exception of the sheriff of Maycomb County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption – the evil assumption – that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their caliber.”
“Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men cannot be trusted around women – black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.”
– Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 20. Atticus Finch’s impassioned speech to the jury at the climactic trial of Tom Robinson, in which he tries to appeal to the jury’s moral compass. He exposes the unfair assumption that in court a white man’s word is more credible than a black man’s. He challenges the jurors not to convict simply because Tom is black and because black is bad, but to see him as a man and human being like themselves.