Using the "n"word is quite off-limits for Atticus,and although Scout defends it by saying that all the kids at school say it, Atticus remarks that there will be one less using the word as of right now. Atticus remarks that of course he will defend a Negro, named Tom Robinson, explaining to Scout that if he didn't he wouldn't be able to hold his head up around town, or be able to ask Jem and Scout to do what he tells them.
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Atticus knows about the dirty underbelly of Maycomb Atticus knows that racism is more than ignorance, it is a disease. There is a part of Atticus that thought the trial just might be a catalyst for change but, in the end, people generally remained the same. Atticus knew well how his neighbours, the people he helped, would turn on his children because of the trial. The disease of racism is not logical and, at its worst, is all consuming. Atticus also knew that if there was ever to be change, someone had to step up and do the right thing.