Black like Me
This paper gives an informative analysis of Black like Me. This is a book published by John Howard Griffin in 1961. It reports on the six-day research done by this author about the plights of the African Americans in Southern America. During this time, Griffin changed his complexion, hairstyle and lifestyle to live like a black. His travels in Mississippi, Georgia and Carolina gave him the first hand information on the discriminative nature of southern America (Gayle, G., 2007). The following are some of the questions addressed in the paper:
Why did John Howard Griffin decide to undergo this experiment and write the book?
Griffin decided to perform this experiment in order to know the kind of problems the Black Americans were facing in the southern America. It was a common knowledge that these people were treated as second class citizens in this country. So, griffin wanted to prove this and write a book that would enable the other like minded people to rise up and advocate for them.
Did Griffin see similarities between blacks in America and Jews in Nazi Germany? How so?
According to his writings, Griffins did not find any difference between the Jews in Nazi Germany and the black Americans in South America. These were all immigrants who were really discriminated because of their races. Just like in Germany where the Jews were exposed to all forms of humiliation, the Black Americans were also subjected to similar conditions (Gayle, G., 2007). This was happening because they were perceived to be inferior to the native whites.
What was the common view that many whites had toward race relations in the South?
The southern Americans believed that they were more economically empowered as compared to the immigrant blacks. In fact, they thought that the blacks were thwarting their economic growth. This is can be proved by their inability to acquire the basic necessities such as food and shelter.
What did his dermatologist mean when he said that Griffin, once black, “would now go into oblivion?”
Saying that Griffin would go into oblivion simply means that he would be forgotten. In other words, he would lose his physical identity and become very difficult for other people to recognize him. Surely, if it were not for this doctor- friend, Griffin would not have succeeded. He assisted him to change his complexion by shaving him and giving him dyes and body creams. As a result, he could not even be recognized by his friends like the shoe shiner.
What kind of racial etiquette did Griffin have to learn after becoming “black?”
He learnt that it is important to respect others and be truthful. Despite going into physical oblivion, he became so truthful. At the same time, he learnt to respect others especially the whites. For instance, when travelling by the bus, he decided to offer his seat to a white lady who ironically never appreciated him.
What kind of daily indignities and insults did blacks have to face every day, especially in common every day activities?
The blacks would be abused by the whites even when they did not do anything offensive. For example, when Griffin whole heartedly offered his seat to a woman white in the bus, she really abused him. Instead of thanking him for the offer, she decided to abuse him refer to all the blacks as sassy fellows. Besides, the blacks were also jeered. As griffin reports, the whites gave they hate stares.
What kind of treatment did Griffin receive from blacks that he met, for example the New Orleans shoe shine guy, or the man who picked him up and took him home in Alabama?
Griffin received a mixed reaction from the blacks. While other like Sterling Williams was friendly and supportive, others were so ruthless. For example, all the blacks rebuked him for offering his bus seat to a white lady. This means that he did not please them by his ‘generous’ action.
How was treatment in New Orleans different than say Mississippi? Why?
The treatment in New Orleans was harsher than that in Mississippi. The Northern Americans were friendlier and less discriminative upon the blacks as compared to the southerners. This is why they even decided to hang Griffin’s effigy.
What kinds of shocking things did white men want to talk about to Griffin while he was black?
The whites wanted to discuss about his sexual life as a black. They also told him a lot of things about the blacks such as bathrooms. They discussed about the difficulties involved in getting bathrooms in the restaurants. It was shocking to learn that only the whites could get such facilities. However, the Africans only had to pray for long in order to get them.
How was Griffin treated when he went into a place black, then white?
When he was black he was really discriminated upon by the whites. However, some of them liked him for his creative efforts. At the end of his experiment, he became a celebrity. Nevertheless, he was mistreated. His effigy was hanged in Mansfield, Texas before being forced to flee to Mexico where he stayed for nine months.
Griffin said that racism bore down on you psychologically, in what ways?
Once a person is brought up in a racist community, he becomes a party to it. In other words, it is born in the people’s mind because they will always feel it as long as they think about it.
What was the “hate stare?”
A hate stare is a contemptuous look at someone. It occurs when a person is looked at by another in a way suggesting that they are in a disapproval of their actions. A person who is not liked is looked at with contempt. This is what the whites did to the ‘black Griffin during his experiment (Gayle, G., 2007).
How did a black man experience racism as an individual but also because you simply had the wrong color skin?
An individual black would not be given an opportunity to go enjoy political and social freedom. They would not get a chance to get jobs from which they would get food and clothing.
How did Griffin find the South’s religion as being in many ways hypocritical?
The religion of the southern America preached about love and justice, but never practiced the same.
How did Griffin’s experiences personally affect him?
First, he became a celebrity. Unfortunately, the large doses of Oxsoralen caused him a skin cancer. This later affected him because it was rumored that it was the sole cause of his death.
What did Griffin mean when he said whites condemned blacks for the low position in life not realizing that whites had contributed to this condition?
He meant that the blacks were living under poor conditions which the whites were responsible for. It is the whites who had oppressed them and denied them any opportunity of prospering economically.
Did Griffin find that blacks and whites had the same desires and problems? Explain.
Yes. As human beings, everyone is equal. Despite the intensity of their demands, both the whites and blacks had similar problems.
How was Griffin treated after people found out he had lived as a black man for 6 weeks? How other whites were treated who tried to tell the truth that blacks deserved equal rights?
After his six-day experiment, Griffin was liked and loathed in equal measure. While some people supported and appreciated him, others really condemned him. In fact, the discontented whites mocked and chased him out of his Mansfield home. On the other hand, those who imitated him also received the same treatment.
Gayle, G. (2007) Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-century U.S. Literature and
Culture. Duke University Pres.