Black Like Me
In the Fall of 1959, John Howard Griffin set
out on a journey of discovery. A discovery of his
own nature, as well as a discovery of human nature.
With the help of a friend, Griffin transformed his
white male body into that of an African-American
male body. Through a series of medical treatments,
the transformation was complete. He spent the next
several months as an African-American traveling
through the deep South of the United States. What
he discovered changed his perspective of himself,
as well as his perspective of others.
On his journey, John Howard Griffin encountered
what could be termed the dark side of human nature.
He experienced racism in its purest form. He
experienced what it was like to live in squalor
with a sense of hopelessness. John Howard Griffin
also experienced the antagonism of those that
feared him solely because of the color of his skin.
His experiences even included witnessing acts of
racism with the African-American community. (1)
As a “white man” in “White America”, John
Howard Griffin enjoyed certain luxuries. With
those luxuries, however, is an independence of
sorts. A majority of white people pass through
life without much notice of other white people.
What he found as an African-American was that he
developed a bond with other African-Americans. The
type of bond that is shared between people in the
same situation. (2)
With this discovery came a certain amount of
hope. A hope that the human spirit will prevail
through any hardship. Through his journey, he
would step back into his true white self, and enter
back into the white world. He would then observe
the “black” world with a new sense of clarity. (3)
While in the “white” world, he encountered white
people that had a desire to change the wrongs of
It would seem that white society is comprised
of a great deal of felicity. That is to say, a
human being will naturally be drawn towards the
preservation of the self. (4) During this time
period, the white man viewed the black man as a
threat to the white lifestyle. As experienced
through the eyes of John Howard Griffin as a black
man, the white man would have many questions as to
the nature of the black man. (5)
Through Griffin’s experience, he learned that
there is no fundamental difference in the nature of
the white man as compared to the nature of the
black man. There seems to be a desire to survive.
The white man attempted to survive by making the
black man a “second citizen”, which is to say
“lesser citizen”. The black man attempted to
survive by banding together as a race. This helped
the race survive through a feeling of empathy. If
a human feels that he is not alone, it tends to
give a more powerful sense of strength.
Another interesting finding from John Howard
Griffin was that white children did not necessarily
share their parents racial beliefs. This offers
proof that racism is not a...