Selected Excerpts and Quotations from "Black Like Me" [Part 1 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.

~"It is by justice that we can authentically measure man's value or his nullity...the absence of justice is the absence of what makes him man."  - Plato

~"I began to understand Lionel Trilling's remark that culture - learned behavior patterns so deeply engrained they produce unconcious involuntary reactions - is a prison  - John Howard Griffin (said this when he understood how African-Americans felt being treated as second-class citizens by Whites)

~"Like Monoculus, he poked fun at the devil."  - John Howard Griffin

~"It is apparent he was one of those young men who possess an impressive store of facts, but no truths."  - John Howard Griffin (said this when a young White man picked him up [he was hitchhiking] and the conversation veered towards sexual stereotypes about Black men's genitals, sex life, sexual morality, etc.)

~"In despair a man's sense of virtue is dulled.  He no longer cares."  - John Howard Griffin

~"We are all born blank.  It's the same for blacks or whites or any other shade of man."  - John Howard Griffin

~"Or, more simply, the maxim of St. Augustine: "Love, and then do what you will." "  - John Howard Griffin

~"To live in a world where men do not love, where they cheat and are callous, is to sink into a preoccupation with death, and to see the futility of anything except virtue."  - John Howard Griffin

~"We spoke of the whites.  "They're God's children, just like us," he said.  Even if they don't act very god-like anymore.  God tells us straight — we've got to love them, no 'ifs,' 'ands,' or 'buts,' about it.  Why, if we hated them, we'd be sunk down to their level.  There's plenty of us doing just that, too."

"A lot of people think I've talked to think we've turned the other cheek too long," I said.  [JHG]

"You can't get around what's right, though," he said.  "When we stop loving them, that's when they win."

"How's that?"  [JHG]

"Then they'll have ruined our race for sure.  They'll have dragged us down plumb to the bottom."

"Are you just supposed to let them carry on then?"  [JHG]

"No...we can't do that any longer.  We're supposed to get our rights in a proper way.  And try to understand that it's hard for them, too, to change around from the old ways.  We've got plenty of old Uncle Toms that don't want things changed any more than the whites.  You can give them two dollars and they'll pull strings that sends us all to all.  They're a disgrace to our race.  And then we've got plenty of young smart-aleck people that don't want nothing except the chance to get even with the whites...they're full of hate and piss and it's a God's shame.  They're just as Judases as the Uncle Toms."

"As always, the conversation stalemated with "None of it really makes sense." " [JHG]

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.  It's interesting.  I'm half-way into the novel so I'll see what else happens and so far I've read, no one found out he's actually White yet...

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Bryan Adam Tomimbang's picture

Excellent read!