Black Like Me – by John Griffin

So I was browsing in Barnes & Noble, looking for something to read.  I am ashamed to admit it’s been months since I picked up a book, and I haven’t looked at any book lists or reviews in ages. So I was basically unarmed.  Whatever I choose would be completely hit or miss,  until I came upon a table with Summer Reading List books, which is safe to say would have at least some literary merit.  Some of these books I have read, and some I hadn’t, but as I started to browse through them, I realized, that reading these books as a middle or high schooler, and reading them as an adult with some different life views and experiences, would be completely different.  Many of these books are classics in their own right, so I picked up a few to get me through the next couple of weeks. 

The one I am currently reading (and thoroughly engrossed in) is Black Like Me, by John Griffin.  It’s a nonfiction book first published in 1961.  This book chronicles his six-week experience as a white man, disguised as an African-American, in the racially segregated South.  Its courageous and eye-opening.  It makes you have a new understanding of how bad racism had been, and how many indignities the black man has suffered.  So many things we take for granted – having a place to stop and get a bite to eat, or get a drink, or go to the bathroom, were repeatedly denied!  It’s not even necessarily that African-Americans wanted to use the “white man’s” facilities, it’s that SO few were made available to them, that it made life so difficult.    Some of these men would have to travel blocks, or miles just to do any of these things, when perfectly good accommodations were right in front of them, and denied them.  Something SO basic that you had to plan your day around these basic human needs.

It also showed me the strength of so many African-Americans under those conditions. Their patience  and dignity in the face of blatant taunting, threats of various sorts, and total disrespect.

 In many ways, it parallels and gives further understanding to the Palestinian struggle.  Being denied basic human rights has a way of gnawing away at one’s dignity and self-worth.  It’s immoral and inhumane and utterly disgusting that one human being can inflict such pain and disrespect onto another and think it’s justifiable.

John Griffin’s account is really touching.  It’s a relatively short read, so if you get a chance, pick it up.


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