merica since the late 1950s and 60s. During those times blacks were not treated with the rights that they were promised in the Declaration of Independence. In the book, Black Like Me, John Griffin had many unacceptable things happen to him when he was black and also when he reverted back to being white. The country has changed a great deal since that time period, but race relations have still not been perfected. If I had the chance, I would like to go back in time and make sure that black people felt secure when doing common everyday activities, like walking down the street or going to the store. It is easy to say what you could have done, but the important thing is to look back on what was done, and make sure that history never repeats itself. John Griffin was an educated white man who, by using medication that deepened his skin tone, changed into a black man living in the deep south. He had many mixed emotions going into this experiment, and wanted to involve as little amount of people as possible. He said to the doctor helping with his pigmentation, Id rather you didnt know anything about it. I dont want you involved (Griffin, pg.15). When Griffin first looked at himself in the mirror as a Negro, he was shocked. Said he, I was imprisoned in the flesh of an utter stranger, an unsympathetic one with whom I felt no kinship (Griffin, pg. 15). Griffin soon came face to face with the injustices that blacks faced as a part of everyday life. During his first day he discovered how, to blacks, modesty was a luxury. Every penny was hard to come by, and people were constantly bargaining with one another for things as insignificant as an over ripe tomato. Life for the blacks was a truly different experience for Griffin; more different than anything he had ever faced.
One of the most obvious differences was the problem with public transportation. Though blacks were no longer legally obligated to sit in the back of the bus, or give up their seats to whites, whites never sat in the same seat as a black person. Unless they could find their own seat or one beside another white person, they stood in the aisle. Griffin made the mistake of offering the seat beside him and Negroes behind me Griffin frowned disapproval. I Griffin realized I was going against the race and the subtle tug- of- war became instantly clear. If the whites would not sit with us, let them stand. When they became tired enoughthey would eventually take seats beside usand see it was not so poisonous after all. to give them your seat was to let them win (Griffin, pg. 25).Now that blacks have the ability to be equal they are subtly, but solidly taking a stand. I think that it was a good thing that the blacks were standing up for themselves. For so many years they were forced to be the weaker race, and when they acquired some minor rights, they had every reason to be proud and not bow down to ignorant white people. Griffin quickly learned not to suck up to the whites, or to even be friendly because the whites still viewed Negroes as inferiors. Until they learned to accept each other, they would never be equals in eachothers eyes. Black people at that time still lived in conditions that were a disgrace. The rooms that Griffin stayed in were probably no bigger than the closets we have today. Even going to the bathroom was sometimes a problem. Since blacks and whites did not use the same toilets, blacks were often forced to walk far out of their way in order to find a restroom that they were allowed to use. The black race was definitely looked down upon, and the conditions under which they lived proved this each and every day.
When Griffin reverted back to being white, it was not a joyous time for him or his family. He was not expecting this transition to be an easy one, I feltthe deepest dread of the task that now lay before me-the task of telling truths that would make me and my family the target of all the hate groups (Griffin, pg. 144), but I dont think he was expecting to be treated with such a little amount of respect. When Griffin was in New York doing interviews, his mother received threatening phone calls. The content of those calls was so disturbing to Griffin that he requested police surveillance of her home as well as his. Another time some people hanged a dummy, half black, half white, with my Griffin name on it and a yellow streak painted down its backfrom a wire (Griffin, pg. 152). Although Griffin never had any real threats carried out against him, the attitude of the town was enough to make both him and his parents move away. This is a disgusting display of racism when your own town goes against you, just because you care about the rights of another race.
One woman said, Why hes Griffin just thrown the door wide open for those niggers, and after weve all worked so hard to keep them out (Griffin, pg. 147). The woman represents the majority of white people in the 50s and 60s. The general feeling of race relations was us, the whites, versus them, the blacks. No one was an individual, you were either black or white. Now, in 1998, things have changed, but humanity is still not at peace with each other. Many injustices have occurred against both blacks and whites. There has been the Rodney King beating in the early 90s, The Million Man March and there are still incidents of the KKK. The color of the skin will be the first thing you notice when comparing a black person to a white person, but it should not be a factor when considering the content of their character. The association between the two races has been improving steadily with time and now many of the top paid people in America are from minority groups. I feel that one-day people will be blind to racism and judge people only by their personalities. Although that time is far off, it is attainable. Just ask a slave from the days of slavery if he ever though that one day one of his relatives would have the right to vote.
Although I know I cant, if I could I would like to change many events in history. I wish that segregation never occurred, but it did. Making someone give up their seat because their race is of lesser value is not a good reason. Denying someone the right to use a bathroom because of their skin color is wrong, and these injustices never should have been allowed. If I lived during those times I would like to say that I would have helped the blacks, but Im not sure that I could honestly declare that. After reading about Griffins experiences I dont think I would want to willingly endure that kind of hate. Many people say what they would have done, but I think the best thing to do is to realize that what was done to the blacks was wrong, and that no one should have to face the amount of unfairness. History happened in the past and the future is happening now. I think we should deal with the future because it can still be adjusted, while the past has already occurred. Presently blacks and whites are equal and share the same rights. Although their will always be some racists, I feel that the condition of life for blacks has drastically improved and I just hope that future generations of blacks and whites live together in harmony.
Reading Black Like Me taught me a lot about the deep south and what many people had to deal with. I think this book was interesting because it was a first hand experience, and it was almost like reading someones diary. This diary included many events that I never heard of and exposed me to living conditions I could never dream of. I think each and every student in America should read Black Like Me and face what John Griffin faced along with him. It will teach them more than you ever thought a book could.