How do you feel about racist innuendos in classic novels?

I'm reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The main character, Mary, and the servant, Martha, are discussing people from India, referring to them as "blacks", and Mary is enraged to hear that Martha thought she might be black when she heard Mary was coming and before she met her. Then... show more I'm reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The main character, Mary, and the servant, Martha, are discussing people from India, referring to them as "blacks", and Mary is enraged to hear that Martha thought she might be black when she heard Mary was coming and before she met her. Then when speaking of her clothes, Mary says she hates black things. Now, I know she has a nasty little personality to begin with, so do you think the writer just put this in to show just how nasty she is?

Also, last year I had started reading The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White, and this hawk or falcon (I forget, it may have been a goshawk or gyrfalcon, not sure) actually used the word "n****r". I think he was going to be killed or something and was getting angry. I didn't understand why a bird would use that word, and I was upset to read it, so I didn't finish the book.

If anyone has read these books and remembers these parts, or if you happen to have a copy of one of the books and look this up, I'd really appreciate your opinion on this topic. Personally, I don't like to read books that would condone or brush over racism. I think it sucks. Let me know what you think. Am I overreacting? Is there another meaning behind the text in these books? Thanks.
Update: Thanks for the answers so far. Yes, I guess it was just "a sign of the times".
14 answers 14