Black Like Me: Racism Essay, Research Paper
John Howard Griffin encountered several incidents of racial discrimination in the South as he posed as a black man. Griffin felt that most of the incidents occurred not because the perpetrators were mean people, but that they were ignorant of tolerance and acceptance. Several examples of discriminating incidents that Griffin encountered were the time when a car full of white boys drove by and threw a tangerine at Griffin; the time when a white “bully” pursued Griffin for no reason; and the time when a Louisiana bus driver refused to let Griffin off the bus at his stop.
First, an example of racial discrimination is the time when a car full of white boys drove by and threw a tangerine at Griffin. Griffin was in Mississippi walking down Mobile Street when a car full of white boys drove by and yelled obscenities at Griffin, who was walking alone. One of the boys proceeded to throw a tangerine at Griffin’s head, but it missed and splattered on a wall behind Griffin. Although the tangerine missed his head, Griffin felt the “insane terror” of the incident, and realized how intense the tension between blacks and whites was in Mississippi. Griffin also learned that racists don’t always realize how stupid and childish their stereotypes and actions are.
In addition to the drive-by incident, another example of racism is the time when a white “bully” pursued Griffin for no reason. Griffin was in New Orleans, in search of a caf , when a white man much stronger and younger than Griffin got up from his seat and started to follow Griffin. The man yelled things like, “Hey, Mr. No-Hair,” “Baldy,” and “Shit-head” to Griffin but Griffin only quickened his pace. Griffin approached a bus stop where a few Negroes were seated, told them of his situation, asked for their help, and turned around to point out the white man; however, he was not in sight. The Negroes seemed annoyed with Griffin and assumed he was drunk. Griffin, amazed at their heartlessness toward his circumstances, continued walking. He soon realized that the white man had started to follow him again. Griffin finally got the courage to call the white man into an alley to fight him. Griffin walked into the alley, afraid that the bully would actually follow him, and turned around to see if the bully was coming. The bully, however, did not follow Griffin into the alley. Griffin was extremely relieved but still nervous. The significance of the situation was that Griffin learned that bullies are weak inside, and their weakness can be proved when they are fairly challenged.
In addition to the drive-by incident and the bullying incident, another example of white racism is the time when a Louisiana bus driver refused to let Griffin off the bus at his stop. Griffin was ready to get off the bus and rang the bell at his stop. The driver stopped and opened the door. Griffin walked all the way from the back of the bus to the last step when the driver shut the door in Griffin’s face. Griffin asked politely to be let off, but driver refused. Griffin was careful not to lose his temper because he thought it might jeopardize the Negroes’ status in the area. Griffin, unable to exit the bus, returned to his seat. On the way back to his seat, Griffin noticed a white woman who watched him with sympathy but would not advocate for him. Without avail, Griffin sounded the buzzer at every stop. Eight blocks past Griffin’s original stop, some whites wanted to get off the bus so the driver stopped to let them off. Griffin got up to exit as well, but before he got off, he asked the driver if it was ok, and the driver answered yes-as if he was tired of the game. Griffin was astonished by this deliberate act of cruelty, and realized that some whites were racist just because it was fun.
In conclusion, Griffin feels pity for the Southern white people because they have the typical racist-mentality. Griffin feels that they are not necessarily bad people, but that they are ignorant of the ideas of tolerance and acceptance. The time when a car full of white boys drove by and threw a tangerine at Griffin; the time when a white “bully” pursued Griffin for no reason; and the time when a Louisiana bus driver refused to let Griffin off the bus at his stop are all examples of white racism towards Griffin in the South. These examples illustrate that Griffin realized what it felt like to be judged based only on his skin color, not on his capabilities, qualities, or intellect.