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"Black Like Me" And The Movie "Gentleman's Agreement".

1229 words - 5 pages

Differential PrejudiceWhile the abhorrent prejudice evident in the book Black Like Me, written by John Griffin, and in the movie "Gentleman's Agreement", directed by Elia Kazan, against blacks and Jews respectively, seems similar in nature, it is important to note that they are not equal. An exploration of the difference in the method and complexity required for the transformation of each main character is demonstrative of the requirements for entry too the respective groups. The juxtaposition of the treatment of blacks and that of Jews in these works shows the dizzying array of inequality that permeate American society, like a malignant cancer.A person is known to be black because of an obvious physical characteristic which, while meaningless, can be empirically determined. While there may be plenty of examples of racially indistinct people; there is generally little difficulty recognizing someone who is black. The difference is a natural one, as that of a black cat and a white cat, which are still cats just the same.It is harder to pin down what makes Jews different. Certainly there is an entire religion, a set of requirements that separate Jews with dietary restrictions and religious observances, but these are contrived; everybody has food preferences and special observances. It requires human intelligence to invent a difference between someone who is Jewish and someone who is not, whether that separation is externally generated or internally generated.In beginning of Black Like Me we are treated to the transformation of a white man into a black man. This metamorphosis required the advice of a doctor and weeks of elaborate treatments using pills and tanning lights to change the pigment of his skin. In having done this he made the major change required to transform into a black man. That is he made his skin dark. All of this labor was necessary because it required a potent physical change to go from being a white man to being black man.The transformation in "Gentlemen's Agreement", is far more sublime; all it takes is a simple phrase "...and not because I am Jewish...", Phil Green says, sitting at the conference table. This was not the complex alchemy of drugs and special lights, but the simple poetry of piquing human intellect through language. No one would know or even could know of Phil Green's religion if he never spoke of it.While John Griffin, in Black Like Me, was in New Orleans he spent time looking for a job. Where before his transformation he would have had little difficulty finding work, now because of his color, he was "...gently informed..." (82) that he was not going to be hired. Had he sent a resume' via the mail and interviewed over the phone he would have been hired. Much to his surprise the business owner would have had a racially integrated workplace. Of course this would not last, even if the owner was open to the idea, because the society that John Griffin is in would not tolerate a black man doing a "white man's" job.In...

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