Black Like Me
As I begin reading the story John Griffin introduces himself to the readers. He began with a speculation; if he became an African American he could help understand the difficulties between races as a white man and African American in the south and with this knowledge develop a means to bridge the gap. His desire to know if Southern whites were racists against African Americans population of the Deep South or if they really judged people based on the individuals personality as they said they prompted him to cross the color line and write Black Like Me. The authors purpose for writing this book is simply factual. He speaks of letting it be known about how African Americans in the South are treated due to the color of their skin, and what it felt like for a white man to be an African American in the South. Since communication between the whites and African American races did not exist, neither race really knew what it was like for the other. Due to this, Griffin felt the only way to know the truth was to become an African American and travel through the South. He informs his wife of his idea to change the pigment of skin and stay in New Orleans for a week to conduct this type of experiment. He would not change his name, clothing, or his true identity, but simply only his skin color.
John Griffin did what no white man has ever done. Griffin started experiment with a medication that would turn his skin color brown. John had to be also secluded in a room alone to lay under a sun lamp for hours at a time. While doing this process John is telling himself that he is finally helping the white race understand the race of African Americans. Once John completes his treatments he goes to the south where he expects to be treated differently but is shocked to find out the true prejudice, hardship and oppression that the United States showed to another human being just because of the color of their skin, something that African American people could not help.
His trip was financed by an African American magazine Sepia in exchange for the right to print excerpts from the finished book. After three weeks in the Deep South as a African American he produced a book as he transition into the African American race, his travels and experiences in the South, the transition back into the white society, and the reaction of those he knew prior once the book was published and released. John Griffin entered the African American society in New Orleans through his contact Sterling Williams, a shoe shine boy who used to shine his shoes when he was white. Sterling helps Griffin get accustomed to the African American society by teaching Griffin about the attitude and the mindset of the African American man. As he travels throughout the south he realizes what it is to be a black man in the racist south of 1956. John kept a diary with him throughout the experiment to keep a daily record of his findings. He would use descriptive words that show the true cruelty that some individuals can actually speak to one another. He describes every single setting with such descriptive words, you actually start to feel if you were standing there at the very moment, breathing and seeing what he does. For example John describes a scene on the bus when a white woman has no place to sit and suddenly out of feeling sorry for because she is standing he happens to glance her way letting her know she is welcome to come and sit next to him, then suddenly he states, Her blue eyes, so pale before sharpened and she spat out, Whatre you looking at me like that for? pg. 20 Black Like Me. As I was reading this comment I felt as if I was the one being stared down at and felt his shame and stupidity. He was only trying to show her kindness and respect, but since they did not have the same skin color she had no respect to show him since he was now consider a second class citizen. Some of Griffin main experiences as a African American man were very shocking and even outrageous. He encounter racism and had a personnel encounter with the hate stare, a stare of disgust and hatred shown by the white society to the African Americans, while trying to get a bus ticket which is almost did not get because the lady stated that she did not have change for a $10 dollar bill for a bus ticket. I thought to myself where was the friendly customer service than but I had to reminds myself it was the color of my skin and if someone try to have that nasty attitude today they would be facing a lawsuit. When Griffin starts to hitch hikes on the highway of Biloxi encounters men that would pick him and they would be very curious about the African Americans sex life. They had stereotype African Americans as being more sexually active, knew more about sex, and had larger genitalia and fewer morals. There was the guy who ask Griffin expose himself because he had never seen a African American man naked before. This was very shocking and humiliating to me, in a way it kind of made me disgusted, wondering what I would have done if someone asked me to expose myself. One more experience is when he was walking down the street and he was supposed to stay in a hotel for the night. As he was walking toward the motel a car with a group of young men were screaming obscenities to him and throwing oranges at his head. It brought back memories of the day when some of my fellow coworker were going out to lunch and they were at a stop light on Green River Road and a group of young men pull up beside them and calls one of the coworkers who was white a nigger lover and drove off really fast. My co-worker was upset to find that people are still cruel against the color of your skin.
During adverse circumstances, Mr. Griffin saw the cruel world. On his was to Mississippi, he rode the bus, and there was a ten minute break. He asked the driver whether he could go to the restroom or not. The driver told him no and commanded him to go back to his seat. Then, Griffin tries to argue with him. No sir, but the othersyou mean I cant go to the (Griffin60He did not have a chance to argue, because the driver kept on interrupting him. You realize that the African Americans never had a chance to protest. That is why the African Americans realize that the key to surviving is unity and finding something positive in their situation. We have always tried to provide other African Americans with something to be happy about and something to be grateful for. Being of the African American race we would counter the hate and hostility and encounter it with warmth and kindness toward one another. For example when Griffin shared a bed with an African American and he was offered lodging by a man with six members in his family living in a two-room shack, but he accepted Griffin into his home and refused any money from Griffin.
In addition, after Griffin turned back to being himself, in the same place the same people treated him totally different surprisingly. He was shocked when everyone surrounded him with smiles and courtesy because he forgot that he was not African American. I was the same man who could not possibly have brought his way into this room a week ago(Griffin 124). People should not judge a man by only his or her skin color. Although they have different colors, it does not represent that they have a bad heart.
After returning back to his hometown of Mansfield, Texas Griffin was not accepted back into the community he one knew. Many of the residents of the city were racists; therefore they considered him one of the African Americans. The people were not very open or receptive to the fact that they had one of their own live among a race they consider to be low lifes and scums of the earth who had no morals or education. They hung Griffin figure from the towns stop light one morning. This made Griffin and his family leave town until everything was much calmer. Griffin was interviewed by various television and radio hosts, magazine, and newspaper people around the world after his book went public.
John also made sure that the people that he encounter on his journey that their names were protected because of their kindness toward him and due to their safety. John really wasnt scared for himself but more for his familys safety. He didnt want his children to have to grow up in such an environment of hatred and inhumanities. This book impresses me in many different ways. I love the type of language, terms, description, and truth which he puts into his work. I admire the fact that he was so brave to go and conduct his experiment to help others understand the way they were acting was simply incorrect and inhumane to others. Of all the books that I have read I believe this one is my favorite that I will share with my grandchildren.
By reading this book I would say that it did not change my feeling in any real way but it actually made them stronger. I learned early in life that there are many prejudices in the world very early in my life and sometimes there is really not much that we could do about this. I feel like it all starts with the parents and how they raise their children to feel about these kinds of issues. My family always taught me never to judge anyone by what they are wearing, color of their skin, man, neither, women, nor does child deserve the right to feel this way. Treat others the way that you want to be treated. So far in life I am completely confident with this term because I have past it down to my family and they are now passing it down to their families.
In conclusion the writers lifestyle I believe could be implemented to the present day. It was very effective I think; what John did to take on a task that huge, because even though he knew the consequences he was getting himself into he really didnt care due to the fact that he was a dedicated writer. It would still be implementing to this present day also because there are still many people in this world that are good. If someone tried to conduct this experiment today I think that they would still be able to get it accomplished but it would just be a little harder because more and more people are starting to follow along with their friends. For example in 2007, Don Imus called the Rutgers women basketball team Nappy Headed Hos and Jigaboos. This shows that most racism is the same now as it was back in 1959.