Revealing the Truth about Racism in America in Black Like Me
Most people in the world recognize the troubles and prosecution that African Americans receive from people with different color skin, but there is only one man who would purposely position himself to deal with the hate given by people with white skin. While hiding his identity as a white and becoming black John Griffin felt what other African Americans did. As Griffin was exiting a bus an old man makes a gesture that effected Griffin, he said, ‘‘It was a little thing, but it piled on all the other little things it broke something inside me’’ (132). Black Like Me received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and Griffin also wrote The Devil Rides Outside and Scattered Shadows. Griffin said he is, ‘‘Annoyed by those who love mankind but are discourteous to people” (161), and he sadly discovered quickly, many people are discourteous to people and love mankind. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is an autobiography that tells a story about Griffin entering the African American life starting in 1959 in New Orleans. Receiving some support on the way from fellow negroes in various cities Griffin documents this part of his life to share with the reader.
Griffin viewpoint is that people need to treat others fairly, regardless of skin color if you say you love mankind. Griffin wrote this book to exploit what African Americans go through because of the white man. Griffin at the age of fifteen left to study medicine in France. In France Africans were not treated poorly like they were in America. This discovery opened Griffin’s eyes to racism in America. Griffin worked alongside Africans in France while in the French Resistance army. In France Africans were treated like normal people not receiving hate like they do in America. While fighting for the French Resistance army Griffin helped Jewish families trying to escape the Holocaust into Britain, this made him question the reason for racism even more. This left Griffin questioning why is the treatment of African Americans different in the United States of America?
In Black Like Me, Griffin is trying to tell about what African Americans go through in their daily life’s. Griffin wants expose what white people do that make the African American’s life as hard as possible. Also, how the whites did not believe African Americans have morals and think of them as a lesser being. Griffin is arguing that just because African Americans have a different skin tone, they shouldn’t be treated as an animal or second-class citizen. While on a bus Griffin would, ‘‘[Sound] the buzzer, but the driver continued through the next two stops’’ (44). The driver eventually would stop eight blocks past Griffin’s stop and let him out just to make the walk for Griffin longer. Griffin would leave his home to go eat at seven thirty without causing any trouble and would be followed by a young white male who was harassing him. The man would call Griffin names like, ‘‘Mr. No-Hair’’ (34) and, ‘‘Shithead’’ (35). While trying to lose the man Griffin tried to ask for help and he was ignored and looked at like he, ‘‘were drunk’’ (34). Just because Griffin was black at the time he was harassed and made fearful, and for the same reason he was harassed, no one wanted to help him. While trying to move to a new city during his time as an African American, Griffin would be picked up by white drivers all they would want to talk about is the African’s sex life. One man asked questions, ‘‘Entirely sexual, and proposed that in the ghetto the Negro’s life is one of marathon sex with many different partners’’ (88). All these events show that the white man did not think of the African American as a person but an animal who has meaningless sex. Griffin is trying to convey that African Americans are thought of as less than people and are treated with disrespect and hate for no reason. Griffin’s main purpose in his study was to find out how the African Americans were treated and he was shocked, he knew that they withstood discrimination, but he did not expect so much hate from men and women who would go home and love their family without thinking of what they said or did to an African earlier that day.
Black Like Me gave excellent examples of what African Americans go through in their daily life’s and how they live. During his time as an African American, Griffin was able to tell how African Americans had to find their own place to use the restroom, get water, or even eat. Griffin would be told, ‘‘Hey, nigger, you can’t go in there. Hey, nigger, you can’t drink here. We don’t serve niggers’’ (36). These quotes gave a good incite to what inconvenience made it hard for African Americans to live a daily life. Griffin does not however explain what the African American can do to help the situation. Griffin hopes, ‘‘The Negro will not miss his chance to rise to greatness, to build from the strength gained through his past suffering and, above all, to rise beyond vengeance’’ (164). Griffin is praying that the African American will become better people than the whites but does not seem to know how, despite living as one for a significant period. Griffin seems only to hope but does not give tips or information that the African American can use to rise above the cruel racism. Griffin’s work is thorough throughout his documentation of living as an African American. Griffin told stories of old men who hated his own people and claim he is, ‘‘Not pure Negro’’ (56). but his, ‘‘Mother was French’’ (56). Short little stories like this made it easy to follow and gave good information about some of the characters that Griffin met. Griffins work is also very clear, Griffins stories were clear and were easy to read. While staying with a family that lived in a swamp Griffin understood why African Americans had to treat each other with so much love. ‘‘When the swamp and darkness surrounded them evoked and immense loneliness’’ (113). This part of the book made the reader focus on the book forcing him or her to understand more. The work is also convincing and significant. Griffin gave several examples of how African Americans were treated based on skin color, this made the reader realize that all people are the same and should be treated fairly. Everyone should have the same respect that others have, just because of a man has different color skin he should not be treated like dirt. This is an ongoing problem in society today so the message in the book is extremely significant. This work adds to my general understanding of the subject by expressing how Griffin felt at times. Griffin would cry just because of how he was treated based on skin color and not the person he was.
Griffin does not have any bias in his book considering it is his story. Griffin uses his evidence of being treated with cruelty by telling what the racist man or woman would say or do. For example, all the men he rode with asking what his sex life was like, and most of them assuming it was meaningless. Many people of the south treat African Americans poorly because laws make it legal to do so. People of the south keep the racist laws and, ‘‘Haven’t taken them off the dockets’’ (75). This book’s argument is very convincing, Griffin uses pathos to his advantage in his book. Griffin would try to do simple task like use the restroom while at a bus stop but would be told by a white man to, ‘‘Get [his] ass back in [his] seat’’ (60). By telling about the stories Griffin experienced the reader becomes very emotional making him or her feel bad for Griffin.
I believe that a man or woman who think that racism is a small issue or non-existent one would benefit from this book. Being able to read about the daily life of an African American could open the mind of a person who does not believe that racism is real. Also, a racist could benefit from this book, reading about what pain racism can cause might bring sympathy to a racist. Griffin wrote Black Like Me to expose how African Americans are treated by racist for nonreason other than the color of their skin. Griffin gave stories and events that explained how racist tried to make the African American’s life as hard as possible.
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