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Black Like Me

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Cindy
Arpil,
I have never read this but I remember Grandma reading it when I was a kid and loving it.
She was an avid reader, it's funny how I would remember this title.
I might check it out too.


message 2: by TrumanCoyote (last edited Apr 26, 2011 08:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

TrumanCoyote It's excellent. One of my favorite parts is when he first makes the change:

"Turning off all the lights, I went into the bathroom and closed the door. I stood in the darkness before the mirror, my hand on the light switch. I forced myself to flick it on.

In the flood of light against white tile, the face and shoulders of a strange--a fierce, bald, very dark Negro--glared at me from the glass. He in no way resembled me.

The transformation was total and shocking. I had expected to see myself disguised, but this was something else. I was imprisoned in the flesh of an utter stranger, an unsympathetic one with whom I felt no kinship. All traces of the John Griffin I had been were wiped from existence."


Eden I read this when I was 15 or 16. It was a very good book.


D.R. Mayes One of the most intense books I've read. Great novel.


Jack Canada I read it many years ago around the same time I was reading many books on segregation. I found it avery interesting read.There is also a movie based on the bookreleased in the early 60's.


TrumanCoyote Yes, with James Whitmore. It was intriguing (although hampered by the fact that Whitmore never really quite looks legitimately black...at least, I didn't think so).


Valorie I loved this book. I think it should be reqired reading for all human beings. Especially the older generation that still holds on to and rationalized its predjudices. At least thats where I mostly still see the remnants of those things, Im sure its not limited to older people.


Joanne Oh for heaven's sake, ask a black person what life is like.


Jane Carver Just wanted to make sure that people who haven't read the book understand that it isn't a novel, it is non-fiction. The author of the book was a journalist who wrote about what he did. It made the book incredibly compelling. I read it while I was attending an overnight summer camp for 8 weeks. By the end of the summer all of the kids over the age of 11 had read one of the 3 copies that had been brought to camp. It was, an is an amazing book.


Susan Jo Grassi Read it when it first came out. Very good read. Unfortunately the treatments gave him cancer.


Valorie Joanne wrote: "Oh for heaven's sake, ask a black person what life is like."

Are you black? Whats life like?


Farrah This was one of those books I read as a kid and it has stuck with me for life. There are so many life lessons in this book, although I don't remember them word for word, I can honestly say this book played a major role in shaping who I am today.


David Hammond I just finished reading this for the first time (I'm 41). Joanne's point is well-taken. Griffin says something very similar in the epilogue of the edition I read. After the book was published he was constantly being called upon by well-meaning whites to help them understand the black community. His response was always something along the lines of "Why don't you ask them?" But there is something about the immediacy of the book that makes it relevant, especially for white readers, who may otherwise have difficulty making the leap to imagining what it would really be like to be black.


Joanne I'm Hispanic Valorie, and if someone painted themselves brown, and worked in the fields a while, to write about what it's like to be Hispanic, I'd take issue with that too.
I learned a good lesson when I worked for the poet Virginia Adair. I wrote a poem about working for her. She was 80+ and blind. It was published and got nice feedback. In it I mentioned that I would turn off my lights at home at night, and stumble around trying to get a BIT of a feel of blindness. She said it was like putting on my grandmother's hat and saying I knew what it was like to be old.


David Hammond Joanne, this book does not answer, and does not attempt to answer in any real sense, the question of what it was like to be a black man. It's stated goals are more modest and realistic. The 2nd paragraph:
"If a white man became a Negro in the Deep South, what adjustments would he have to make? What is it like to experience discrimination based on skin color, something over which one has no control?"

I would argue that turning off the lights, wearing grandmother's hat, and coloring your skin are all sincere attempts someone could make to understand something that is perhaps unknowable to them. As long as you don't make the mistake of thinking you really know someone else, there is some measure of understanding to be had. I don't think Griffin ever made that mistake, though some of his readers might have.

I would also argue that if instead of turning off the lights for a while you had put bandages over your eyes and kept them there for 7 weeks, that would have been more analogous to what Griffin did.


Joanne Yes David, but I was after feeling a "bit" of blindness. I wasn't saying I really got it.
I think that the idea of the book is patronizing.


Valorie Joanne wrote: "I'm Hispanic Valorie, and if someone painted themselves brown, and worked in the fields a while, to write about what it's like to be Hispanic, I'd take issue with that too.
I learned a good lesson..."


I get what you are saying, but for me the whole beauty of the book is getting to some truth about other people. Not the black man in this book but other people's response to him. I think its a truth you cant see any other way because it will always be through some sort of filter otherwise. Its not a whole experience but it reveals some real truth.

As an example, Im white and never really experienced much prejudice towards myself, but my husband is hispanic and I'll never forget the first time I had it directed at me because I was with him. No I dont now know what its like to be hispanic, but I saw something of his life that I never could see before.


Joanne I understand Valorie, and I'm sorry it happened to him.


message 19: by Greengirl (new)

Greengirl Joanne wrote: "Oh for heaven's sake, ask a black person what life is like."

Problem is, when they tell what it's like, no one wants to believe them:(


Sally Being a woman of color and having read this book,I was not in awe like many people. I had predicted the story when I first read the first page. For me, I wasn't surprised that he would want to go back to being a first class citizen again. After having seen what it means to be a second class citizen. My thing about this book was, what was his reason for wanting to become a black man? Did he want to feel what it would be like to experience racism? Then he failed, because no matter how dark his color was, his blood line was not that of a black man. To be honest, I thought, a black man would never get away with lightening hi skin color and treated as a first class citizen.
Joanne-I agree with your comments.


Joanne I'm glad you wrote Sally. I agree with you too.


Sally Joanne-thanks for agreeing with my comment. I knew someone would agree with me.


message 23: by Farrah (last edited Nov 21, 2011 07:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Farrah I am a white woman and don't often feel like much of a "first class" citizen and know quite a few that feel the same. I think if the OWS movement has done anything, it is has made us realize we are a 99% unified regardless of our race, color, religion, etc...

Although I agree with you Sally that the author might not 100% experience racism because it isn't in his blood. What he did do is experience racism as a white man, changing the color of skin, and being treated differently. That was the point. Is there really a difference? Is there really a divide in the human eye? Because there shouldn't be if we are all human beings. But he saw that there was. He saw a need for change. He saw how sad and pathetic it is that there is a difference. He saw how sad it was that we humans created the difference and now have to live with the difference.

But things have changed a bit. Not perfectly but a bit. I think Obama does well as a "first class" citizen.
The book is about bringing to light--to the public eye-- that there is a reason for change. To accept what was and move forward with peace.


Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.


Joanne Maybe people of color view the "posing as" thing differently. Your comments are thoughtful Farrah, and I appreciate them. Still, the differences can be seen without the pretense.


message 25: by Farrah (last edited Nov 21, 2011 07:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Farrah The differences were not paid close attention to in 1960. No one wanted to see anything in 1960, especially whites being shown their racisim and cruelty. Hell, we still don't take responsibility for what we did to Native Americans! That was why the book was so essential. So controversial. It was a mirror.

I see this similar "ignorance is bliss" mentality fighting for animal rights. When I explain to someone the dangers and cruelty of factory farming, they want to turn a blind eye. That want to pretend it doesn't exist and maybe it will all go away.


Sally I am not saying that white people are considered first class citizens but back in the days, Blacks were considered second class citizens and this goes all the way back to slavery. That's why there were was a movement of black leaders wanting equality for all men. Regardless of skin color. Martin Luther King said it best." I have a dream that one day, my four children will not be judged my the color of their skin rather by the content of their character. His dream is yet to come through for humanity. Sure there is some progress but not to the extent where it should be.


Joanne My son was just appointed to be on the State Of Washington Supreme Court. The only Mexican-American to ever be on that court. That's progress. Let's hope to see more.


Farrah That is awesome! Congrats!


Sally Congrats Joanne. Changes are ahead.


Joanne Thanks. He worked hard to get where he is.


Sally Hard work pays off. Good on him


Jimmy Joanne wrote: "Oh for heaven's sake, ask a black person what life is like."

The reason this book was needed in 1959 is that you couldn't ask a black person what life was like. Even if he thought to detail the minutiae that Griffin encountered, he wouldn't tell it to a white man.

We can be thankful that much has changed since then. But that is the reason this book is needed now. The particulars of that time have passed, but their effects have not.

And congratulations to your son! You must be proud.


message 33: by Ange (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ange Shimarenda wrote: "Joanne wrote: "Oh for heaven's sake, ask a black person what life is like."

The reason this book was needed in 1959 is that you couldn't ask a black person what life was like. Even if he thought ..."


Shimarenda, you are only the second person to bring up the fact that this book was written during a time when it was still very segregated in this country and white people did not generally care (or show that they cared) about black people's feelings, rights etc... For Griffin to do what he did for the sake of a book and to prove that there is a NEED for change and to show that people needed to stop skirting around it, took tremendous courage 50 years ago.

Unfortunately, with all the advances we have made there is still a long way to go until we get to the point where people will not be judged or treated differently based on race/sex/religion/age etc...and no matter how you look at it, women (no other factor needs to be added in) have always been, and most likely will always be, the most oppressed "people" in history.


Denise Turney Poignant. A true eye opener to see the difference that the same man experienced when he changed his skin tone. Same man, different skin tone -- entirely different experiences.

Denise Turney
Author - Love Pour Over Me


message 35: by Ange (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ange Shimarenda wrote: "Joanne wrote: "Oh for heaven's sake, ask a black person what life is like."

The reason this book was needed in 1959 is that you couldn't ask a black person what life was like. Even if he thought ..."


One more thing I have recently encountered. I am white and I work in a large law firm with a great deal of black women. For the most part we all get along but there is this one woman whom I thought was a friend of mine until I recently found out that she is really not a fan of white people. She actually asked another woman in my office (who is also black) why she gives away their "secrets" when talking to me and the other white woman in our office. We ask questions about each other's lives/culture - from cooking tips to raising children to the differences in our hair and more. We are a close-knit group, at least I thought we were. Anyway, I was pretty shocked to hear this from my co-worker. Apparently she feels as though I can't be trusted because I'm white. It's strange. I've dealt with racism before due to the fact that my daughter's father is black and we dated in the late 90s. His mother was TOTALLY against it, but she was open about her dislike for me from the beginning and I could handle that. It's much more difficult to swallow when a person pretends to be your friend, but secretly they do not trust you. Anyway, I'm not sure how relevant this is to the book. I guess I just wanted to point out that even now some black people today feel the way the did over 50 years ago - just as some white people do. It's not right on either side but I guess there is nothing that can be done, really. (I do not like the terms African-American or Mexican-American or Asian-American etc...as I believe that we are all American in the USA - we are different skin tones)


Etoilenoire That implied "Black people are racist too" is faulty logic. There is no equivalency between one person's mistrust of a group of people and another group's place in the world based almost entirely on the premise that another group is less than human. In other words, a black person not trusting white people does not lead to systemic institutionalized racism against you.


message 37: by Ange (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ange Etoilenoire wrote: "That implied "Black people are racist too" is faulty logic. There is no equivalency between one person's mistrust of a group of people and another group's place in the world based almost entirely o..."

Are you saying that I am not entitled to feel the way I feel because I have not ever felt the effects of "system institutionalized racism?" Or my feelings are less valid for that reason? I am saying that it does not feel good. And with all the changes that have happened over the past 100+ years, there is racism and will always be. Not just between whites and blacks but all people. I do not entirely understand what you are saying. Are you saying that black people are not racist, only mistrustful, based on the simple fact that their ancestors were enslaved at one point and had to fight for freedom etc...that they simply mistrust people - an entire group of people for that reason? Could you please provide some clarification? To me, racism is discrimination based on a person's race - I am white, she is black. She does not trust me for the simple fact that I am white. If I were to say that I do not trust her because she is black - that would totally be considered a racist statement, but since it's the other way around, it's not?


message 38: by kia (new)

kia While this book might have been ground-breaking and wonderful to many, I feel like it wasn't all that great. How about asking Black people how it felt to be Black in that time period? I guess his account legitimized racism in the South for people, but Black people were speaking out about their hardships back then as well. It seems like he felt he bought some validity to the issue of segregation & racism and I am sorry he didn't. He could have saved those trips to the doctor and spoke to real Black people whose Blackness wasn't going to eventually fade away.


Silverpiper Nak1a wrote: "While this book might have been ground-breaking and wonderful to many, I feel like it wasn't all that great. How about asking Black people how it felt to be Black in that time period? I guess his a..."

I was raised in this era. Black people were talking but of course, no one was listening. The publicity regarding this book was extensive and yeah, white people were reading this author. He later died from liver disease brought on by taking the huge amounts of melanin that turned his skin dark. I don't think the book was that effective but at least he tried.

There was a sort of companion book to this and I can't remember the author's name but a white woman did this as well. I read it and thought it was much more chilling-black women( as they can well tell us) were treated even worse than black men. I don't think this book was effective either.

At this time people were also trying to ban To Kill A Mocking Bird from being read in schools. It dealt with rape and the defense of an unjustly accused black man and the public was not having any of it. However, this book was a lot more effective even though it was a fictional story.


Patty I was in high school in 1961 and the author came to assembly and discussed his experiences and the book. I remember thinking at the time, that they were really reaching for an audience to schedule him into high school venues. Particularly suburban, all Caucasian venues where we had very little contact/connection to African Americans (then terminology)outside of Rock N Roll music. (Ike and Tina Turner were the house band at a local club that we all frequented.) So there were no "blacks" to ask as was suggested previously. As it turned out they were however spot on to target the youth of the time.

It is was at the very beginnings of what became the Civil Rights movement. When I started college, it was much more a part of the vernacular, current events and campus activities. Organized "Freedom Rides", demonstrations became the "to do" weekend activities.

Obviously the author was a risk taker. . ulitmately paying with his life for the foray into another culture. The book is a tribute to one man's concept of how to focus all eyes on an issue everyone was ignoring..but great literature(To Kill A Mocking Bird) it wil never be. .because it made too many "adults" of the time uncomfortable with it's reality. It was the more open minded youth of the time that embraced this work and gave it the impetus to become widely read and regarded.


Patricia L Graham Ange wrote: "Etoilenoire wrote: "That implied "Black people are racist too" is faulty logic. There is no equivalency between one person's mistrust of a group of people and another group's place in the world bas..."

Firstly, I would really like to know what your definition of race is before I engage with some of the issues you've raised.


Jimmy Nak1a wrote: "While this book might have been ground-breaking and wonderful to many, I feel like it wasn't all that great. How about asking Black people how it felt to be Black in that time period? I guess his a..."
This is not a book about what it was like to be Black. It is about is a white man's experience of being treated as if he were Black. There were many lies that the White community told itself to excuse the oppression of Blacks. "Blacks don't really mind," they said. Griffin showed his experience being treated that way, the psychological effect that a million daily indignities have in a very short time. "Blacks just different from us," they said. He only changed his skin color, not his manner or his speech, yet that was all it took to be treated as an inferior.

Griffin didn't show the Black experience; he showed White hypocrisy. And he didn't single-handedly bring about change, but he tried to do what he thought would help. He eventually withdrew from speaking about it because he didn't want to take the spotlight away from the voices of Black people who were finally being heard. People should have been listening before, but they weren't.


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