All the time I see things that anger me.
And this anger is from seeing blatant hatred people propagate and revel in. They are ignorant and evil.
My words sound strong, but everytime I witness a person hating just to hate, it bothers me. So, yes, I am pro-gay rights. Anyone against this will have nothing but shame in their lives. They are on the wrong side of history.
Which brings me to the reason I am ranting like this. I have long been a student of the past and one area that has always interested me is the Civil Rights Movement. The institutionalized racism in north american society, especially the south, was doomed to failure. But the fact they tried to keep it going as long as they did, by any horrific means necessary, is a lesson we cannot forget.
A lesson brought forth by Black Like Me.
I read this book a long time ago, most likely before high school. And it’s impact on me was immediate and profound. I saw the movie some years later and was deeply moved by it as well.
Black Like Me is a non-fiction book written by John Howard Griffin. Disgusted by the racism exhibited in the United States, Griffin decided in 1959 to try an experiment. He, a white man, would tan himself and apply shoe polish, in order to look black. He then went into the south.
And Things Happened.
The virulent hatred starts right away and it is dehumanizing in the extreme. The looks he gets, the constant putdowns, the n-word applied endlessly. All of it builds and builds until Griffin can barely take it. And he only does his experiment for a few months. Not every white person is evil in the south, and Griffin does get refuge several times with friends. Along the way, the history of hatred and the current now, are discussed at length by Griffin and his colleagues. It is sad and troubling people had to live in fear just for wanting basic human rights. The bleakness of the cause makes you wonder how anything could happen to change their future. Thankfully President Obama showed that change occurred. But wait, some the GOP still say Obama was born in Kenya. Someone send these people a wake up call and a copy of this book. They are pandering to the lowest common denominator in society.
For my part, the section that horrified me the most was when a white man is giving Griffin a ride one night. The man brags about raping black women in order to promote the white race. Elimination through rape. Griffin was as horrified and disgusted by this as I am.
The story does not end when Griffin takes off the shoe polish. He looks white again, but what does that matter? Why should that matter? He should not had to endure this. No one should have had to endure this. His soul is shaken by the depravity he has endured. And then he has to face the maw of the media and the firestorm of the public.
People were hostile to Griffin and Black Like Me. Backlash upon backlash was heaped onto him. They questioned his veracity. They insisted he had made things up. Death threats came in. Mail flooded in. Several southerners admitted that did not like being racist, but were afraid to speak up. Fear of being ostracized for being human.
I have to keep reminding myself that Black Like Me takes place in 1959. Things are better now, not perfect, but better. Incidents still happen, people grossly show off their ignorance. I did not mean for this post to be such a downer, but the fact that only six states allow gay marriage is disheartening. In 1967, many states did not allow inter-racial marriage, now they all do. Here in Canada, gay marriage have been a fact of life for years. I fervently hope that racism will be but a distant memory in my lifetime. Everyday the love for all spreads more and more. Most teens I talk to today do not understand the concept of racism. And for that I am eternally grateful. The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. will soon become reality.
This post is dedicated to everyone who has experienced hatred. I am sorry this happened to you. Someday it will all be a bad memory. Thank God for that.
P.S. Black Like Me was published in 1961 and is 157 pages in paperback. Please read it.
P.P.S. The movie called Black Like Me, was released in 1964 and stars James Whitmore. It is very faithful to the book. It seems like the dvd is out of print, since the only listing on Amazon goes for $114.