John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me Essay

1264 Words 6 Pages
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
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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 part of human nature, but rather a by-product of the human nature of the fear of the unknown. Since the white person was unfamiliar with the black man, there was a sense of fear of the black man. Racism is merely a defense mechanism passed down from parent to child. The white men in “Black Like Me” would teach their children to use racial slurs
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