Friday, June 1, 2012

Black Like Me - John Howard Griffin

I haven't done this in a while, but one of the books I'm currently reading has compelled me to do so. This book is "Black Like Me" by John Howard Griffin. I heard of this book many years ago when I used to watch the show, Boy Meets World. In it, the English teacher assigns it to the class and using the concept the main characters do a parody to teach some guy a lesson and call it "Chick like me." Needless to say when guys dress up and pretend to be girls, it is quite funny - as was that episode of the show. However, the book is anything but funny. This is a very serious book - and no, the way it is written and the language used flows quite easily and it's a simple book to read. But the meaning of everything, the truth of the matter, when these things sink in you, it leaves you with a pit in your stomach and an urge to be nauseous. I have only gotten 20% into this book (gone are the days with page numbers when you use a kindle to do reading), but already I know I'm going to have to be strong to get through this book. I'm going to have to keep believing in humanity and have faith in the good of people while reading this book. Because I know it's going to shake me. IT is one thing to know what used to happen (or what might still happen) - to have some vague concept - but to actually read it, to be swept away into a book is an experience matched by no other. Let me leave you with a gist of the book, something I'm sure the flap of the book will tell you too, but put it together with my initial reaction and you will be compelled to read this book sometime in your lifetime too. John Griffin is a white male writer from Texas in the 60's - he wanted to know what it was like to be a black person in the South in that time. He finally got frustrated with the urge to know and decided to do something about it. He died his skin black and went and lived in the deep south (New Orleans, Mississippi, etc.). His experiences and findings were published as research elsewhere - This book was his personal diary (yes, perhaps a little reminiscent of Anne Frank, but very different). I hope to get through this short book soon to see how these experiences changed Griffin - could you just imagine if your skin color changed, how would people react to you? What would it be like to live life as someone whom you have only observed? If someone did this today, would it make a difference? Are we still racist or just stereotypical towards different races? So many questions and yet the answers could go on forever.


  1. I remember Tyra Banks once did a show where she dressed up as obese and walked down a regular American street. Needless to say, she got a very different response from passers by that the supermodel is used to... Not to say being black is like being obese but discrimination I don't think is going away soon...

  2. That's a great experiment to do as well! I think you are absolutely right, as much as we advance in technology and life we still discriminate against people - the reasons change - race, body type, gender, etc. There is always a new type or reason to discriminate against, but the core concept of judging others in a harmful way just doesn't seem to catch up to our advances in society.