Selected Excerpts and Quotations from "Black Like Me" [Part 2 of 2]

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*Everyone's entitled to their own thoughts about these, but at times I'm not the type to be partial to write certain things and ignore others.  I just thought these were interesting, that's all.  Okay?  Enjoy!

Warning, the following may contain some uncomfortable words or thoughts, but this non-fictional novel took place back in the United States, late 1950's, portraying race relations between Blacks and Whites.  You have been warned.  Reader's discretion is advised.  For a quick summary of the novel, see author's comment.  Psychologically and historically it's an interesting read, by the way.

~" "Where you from?," he asked.

"Texas." [JHG]

"What're you doing down here?"

"Just traveling around, trying to find jobs." [JHG]

"You're not down here to stir up trouble, are you?"

"Ohgodno." [JGH]

"You start stirring up these niggers and we sre as hell know how to take care of you."

"I don't intend to."

"Do you know what we do to trouble makers down here?"

"No, sir." [JHG]

"We either ship them off to the pen of kill them."

"I thanked him for the ride and opened the door.  Before I could get out, he spoke again.  "I'll tell you how it is here.  We'll do business with you people.  We'll sure as hell screw your women.  Other than that, you're just 'completely off the record as far as we're concerned.'  And the quicker you people get that through your heads, the better off you'll be." "  - [when JHG was dropped off the road]

~"I have studied objectively the cultural and ethnic differences.  And I have found their applications untrue.  The two great arguments — the Negroe's lack of sexual morality and his intellectual capacity — are smoke screens to justify prejudice and unethical behavior."  - John Howard Griffin

~"It was the same nightmare I had been having recently.  White men and women, their faces stern and heartless, closed in on me.  I pressed my back against a wall.  I could expect no pity, no mercy.  They approached slowly and I could not escape them.  Twice before, I had awakened myself screaming."  - John Howard Griffin

~"If you gave us a penny, we'd owe you change."  - (Kind Hostess who allowed JHG to stay at her home out of nowhere)

~"Night coming tenderly, Black like me."  - (song from novel)

~"I was the same man, whether white or black.  Yet when I was white, I received the brotherly-love smiles and the privelages from whites and the hate stares or obsequiosness from the Negroes.  And when I was a Negro, the whites judged me fit for the junk heap, while the Negroes treated me with great warmth."  - John Howard Griffin

~"The monk laughed.  "Didn't Shakespeare say something abuot 'every fool in error can find a passage of Scripture to back him up?'  He knew his religous bigots."

~"I showed the priest the booklet on racial justice, 'For Men of Good Will,' written by New Orleans priest, Robert Guste, in which most of the questions and clichés about the Negro are dismounted, particularly that God made the Negro dark as a curse.  Father Guste says, "No modern biblical scholar would suscribe to any such theory."

"The monk nodded.  I insisted on the point.  "Is there any place in the Bible that justifies it — even by a stretch of the imagination, Father?"

"Biblical scholars don't stretch their imagination — at least reputable ones don't," he said."

[from Jacques Maritain's "Scholasticism and Politics"]

Speaking of the religiosity of racists, Maritain observes:

"God is invoked ...and He is invoked against the God of the Spirit, of intelligence and love — excluding and hating this God.  What an extraordinary phenomenon this is: people belive God and yet do not know God.  The idea of God is affirmed and at the same time disfigured and perverted."

He goes on to say that this kind of religion, which declines wisdom, even though it may call itself Christian, is in reality as anti-Christian as is atheism.

I was startled that the French philosopher could so perfectly characterize the racists of our Southern states.  Then I realized that he was describing racists everywhere and from all times — that this is the religious trait of men who twist their minds to consider racial prejudice a virtue — whether it be a White Citizen Council or Klan member, a Nazi, 'gauleiter,' a South African White supremecist or merely someone's aunt who says, "Nobody's worse than those Italians, or Spaniards, or Englishmen, or Danes, etc.)."

~"As Alexander stated: "If we know anything, it is that if virtues do not equal powers, the powers will be misused."  - [refers to Mr. T.M. Alexander]

~" "There is no 'big Me' and 'little you,' T.M. Alexander, one of the founders of the Southeastern Fidelity Fire Insurance Company, said.  "We must  pool all of our resources, material and mental, to gain the respect that will enable all of us to walk the streets with the dignity of American citizens."

~"The long talk with the Reverend Samual Williams in his living room.  A forceful man, but quiet, of fine intellect, Professor of Philosophy.  "I spent years," he told me, "studying the phenomenon of love." "

"And I spend years studying the phenomenon of justice."

"At base, we spend years studying the same thing."

~"I hired a Negro youth to come and help me clean up my parents' house so it would be spotless for the new owners.  The youth knew me and had no reticence in talking since he was sure I was "one of them" so to speak.  Both Negroes and whites have gained this certainty from the experiment — because I was a negro for six weeks, I remained partly Negro or perhaps essentially Negro.

While we swept and burned old newspapers, we talked.

We had a long conversation during which he brought out the obvious fact that whites teach their children to call them "niggers."  He said this happened to him all the time and that he would not even go into white neighborhoods because it sickened him to be called that.  He said revealing things:

"Your children don't hate us, do they?"

"God, no" I said.  "Children have to be taught that kind of filth.  We'd never permit ours to learn."

"Dr. Cook's like that.  His little girl called me nigger and he told her if he ever heard her say that again he'd spank her till she couldn't sit down."

The Negro does not understand the white anymore than the white understnads the Negro.  I was dismayed to the exten to which this youth exaggerated — how could he do otherwise? — the feelings of the whites towards the Negroes.  He thought they all hated him."

~"Where racism is practiced, it damages the while community, not just the victim groups."  - John Howard Griffin

~"How could white men ever really know black men if on every contact the white man's stereotyped view of the black man got in the way?"  - John Howard Griffin

~"...racism always hides under a respectable guise — usually the guise of patriotism and religion — a great many people loathed us for 'knocking holes in these respectable guises.' "  - John Howard Griffin

Author's Notes/Comments: 

"Black Like Me" is a non-fictional novel written by John Howard Griffin, journalist for the Black-owned magazine Sepia. The writer of the novel is a White human rights activist and basically, he darkened the pigment of his skin in the late 1950's, shaved his head bald, and posed as a Black man in the Deep South to investigate race relations between Blacks and Whites. That's the gist of it.  I give it an outstanding ovation for this writer!!!  (^_^)

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Bryan Adam Tomimbang's picture

Excellent read!