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…