Black Like Me Essay, Research Paper
The black man in the Deep South of America was greatly despised during the 1950’s. The world that the Negroes lived in was not the same as whites in their society. In this book, John Howard Griffin Sacrifices his life as a middle-class white man and becomes a dirt poor Negro, trying to survive in the South. He simply did all of this in order to bring out the truth about what it is really and truly like to be a Negro in the South during the 1950’s.
John Howard Griffin is a white journalist with a wife and three children. He began his project of being a Negro, while he was reading a chart about suicide rates. This chart displayed that the Southern Negro man had a rapidly increasing rate of suicide, because they could not see a reason to go on as the second class citizens that they had become due to their skin color. The whites thought that the Negroes had it made since they had given them “so much” during reconstruction. Griffin realized that the only way to really see the truth about what the Negroes had to endure from day to day was to become a “Negro” himself.
While Griffin was expecting prejudices against himself as a Negro, he went into his project with an open mind trying to discover the truth. He took note of all the prejudices of whites against and took in consideration any acts of kindness. Therefore Griffin’s journal was straightforward and unbiased.
Griffin’s main goal in writing this journal was to break the gap between blacks and whites. He was not trying to totally offend whites, but aware them of their injustices towards the Negroes. The fact that he wrote his whole adventure as a journal clearly shows his intentions. He went into the world of the second class Negro, wrote a straight out account of every event that happened by writing a journal. Then the reader saw what his experience was like and believed it more so since it was in a journal setup instead of a story setup.
The entire approach of Griffin’s research was ingenious, very creative, and even a bit daring. Not many people would like to experience that drastic change of lifestyle. However it was a very efficient way of discovering precisely what it was like to be a black man in the 1950’s. There really was not any other way for Griffin to have researched his project and get more accurate results.
John Howard Griffin mentioned throughout his journal some social and economical problems that the Negro in the South was facing at that time. He had a critical concern about the Job opportunities of Negroes. He noticed that the economic gap between whites and blacks was enormous. It was very rare for a black man to find a decent job during this era. A black man with exceptional intelligence and aptitude for a job would lose it to a white man even if the white man incompetent and half as qualified. These are the social problems Griffin was troubled by.
The black man’s economic situation also left a lot to be desired. The Negroes go out seeking employment with constantly shutting in their faces. They come home, discouraged and find a low paying job that barely pays off rent. The white people call them lazy. Whites wonder why there is so much crime in the black neighborhoods they do not realize what some of them deal with everyday. Blacks could not be expected to keep up with white society when they only got about five percent of the opportunities and options that whites had.
Through this book, John Howard Griffin has successfully portrayed a black man in the South as honestly as he could. Griffin initially set out to see if his hypothesis was correct. He also wanted to dig as deep as he could for answers. His compassionate spirit and big heart could not rest until he saw with his own eyes what he hoped was not true. The trials and tribulations he experienced were trying and sometimes seemed unbearable. It was atrocious some of the monstrous ways that normally polite people would act based simply on his skin color. Though these all occurred to Griffin, he took it completely in stride.
The point that Griffin is trying to make does not need to be argued. The evidence is their, plain as day. No one could read the book and not be affected somehow. There are no questions that you could ask to get around the truth of the matter. All of the proof of prejudice is based on real life occurrences.
Ok now I am to tell you what I think of this book, Black Like Me. The main reason I chose the subject of racism is mainly because my roommate had suggested the topic when I asked what I should read. He is taking an African Culture Class and mentioned to me how easy it would be to relate racism to American History because of the obstacles and struggles the African Americans endured. So I went to Barnes and Noble’s and Black Like Me was suggested from one of the intellectual bookworms. I enjoyed this book a lot and thought that Griffin’s strategy to discovering the truth was very creative and intelligent. I can just imagine what it would be like to be degraded because of your skin color. Although I am Chinese, I still face racism daily and could never truly understand the difference that blacks go through compared to whites, unless I went to the extreme like Griffin did. He could really understand every aspect of what it is like to be of color during the 1950’s. Griffin now understands how differently he was treated since he was black. His constitutional rights were stripped from him the minute he put the black paint on. I mean John Griffin was the same man black as he was white, yet he was not liked and was treated like dirt. It really amazes me how people let the color of someone’s skin change their feelings toward an individual.
Griffin, John Howard. Black Like Me. New York, New York: Signet Books, 1996.