Racism/ Black Like Me (Chapters) term paper 16347

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Book Report:

BLACK LIKE ME

October 28th - November 2nd, 1959

John Howard Griffin (JHG) is a specialist for the hard life of Negroes in the south of the USA in the 1950’s. His idea is to change the color of his skin for being able to experience the discrimination on his own. He visits George Levitan, one of his old friends and owner of the magazine SEPIA. After discussing the idea, Levitan pays for all the expenses for changing JHG’s skin color and his trip through the south of the USA. He flies to Louisiana to meet doctors which can finally help him to find the fitting medicine to change the color of his skin from white to black.

November 6th - November 7th

The therapy for changing his skin color has started, he takes special pills and as to sit under a sun lamp. The doctor’s tests were all positive and there will be no problems for JHG to change from white to black and back to white. The doctor likes the project. Unfortunately the treatment does not work as rapidly as expected. After everything is said between JHG and the doctor, the doctor sends him with the words “Now you go into obliviton” away. Now JHG is on his own in New Orleans and stays in different hotels where he continues his treatment. During he finished it, he only steps out at night. Then he can finally start his observations which succeed immediately: Everybody thinks that he is a Negro, he makes his first experiences with the segregation, like bathrooms only for white men. He meets many other Negroes and talks to them about the discrimination.

November 28th

JHG goes from his hotel to the ghetto, were he tries how it is to get along with the people living there. On his way he finds out that he must NEVER take a look at white women. In the ghetto he meets Sterling, who becomes his friend. His work is to shine shoes of white men. JHG works together with him and gets to know how the white people are behaving when their shoes are being shone by a “boy”: For them, the Negro is nothing but a thing. For lunch the eat together with Joe, another Negro. He cooks a mixture of coon, turnips and rise, they eat on the sidewalk out of cut-down milk cartons. JHG gets to know the classes in the ghetto: the lowest eat the rests of the ones who work to get at least a little bit of food. The night he stays - how so often - in the YMCA which serves Negroes. There he meets many Negroes to talk with. In the evening he is being chased by a white bully, but he is lucky and the boy leaves him alone after a while.

November 10th - November 12th

JHG is looking for jobs, as a nicely dressed Negro he wants to discover what he can get. But everywhere he goes it is the same pattern: Nobody wants him. He lives and eats together with Sterling and Joe, he is very-well treated by even Negroes which he does not know. Every Negro he meets is extremely helpful to him. At the YMCA he meets Mr. Gayle, an elderly Negro. They talk about the segregation and the taxes against the Negroes, and how the leaders of the whites try to keep the Negroes where they are. He can not eat in the restaurants that he has been eating in the week before, and while sitting in a park he is sent away by a white man. In the evening he is going by bus, the driver does not let him get off until some white passengers want to get off.

November 14th

After being a Negro for one week, JHG becomes used to not being able to use available restroom facilities and being called nigger, coon or jigaboo. He knows that all this is not against his person or character but his pigmentation. But each “reminder” strikes at the wound and deepens it, he does not only know it from himself but also sees it at other Negroes. Bad news reaches him from Sterling: In Mississippi, a white man who has killed a Negro has been found innocent by the jury. In this time, Mississippi is considered to be the state with the most discrimination. JHG decides to go there and to discover how it really is, even if everybody asks him not to go because it is dangerous. It is Saturday and because he has no money for the bus, JHG wants to cash some of his traveler checks at a shop because the banks are closed. After trying it in many stores - nobody wants to help him - he is finally successful in a catholic bookstore. When he wants to buy the bus ticket, he gets to know the "hate-stare". The woman does not want to take his $10 bill, she says she would have no change. After discussing with her he gets his ticket to Hattiesburg. On the way, the bus driver does not want to let the Negroes get off the bus for going to the bathroom, and JHG meets Christophe, who tells him how not to behave in Mississippi as a Negro. When he arrives he takes a cab to a Negro ghetto where he stays in a hotel. In the evening he meets with P.D., an old friend, who takes him to his home to stay there for a few days. P.D. is into the whole race problem and discusses with him and lets him read his manuscripts all night.

November 15th - November 16th

Tired from reading JHG gets up. The whole day he reads manuscripts and discusses, and again he reads the whole night about racist and the segregation. The next day, P.D. brings him to New Orleans, to meet Mr. Gandy, a man he works with. Together with him, JHG discusses his observations. In the evening he buys his ticket to go back to Mississippi, but his bus to Biloxi goes late, so he walks through the for Christmas decorated New Orleans before he leaves.

November 19th - November 21st

He arrives late in Biloxi and has to sleep outside, half-freezing. After having lunch in the next morning, he starts to hitch-hike to Mobile. Almost the whole day he has to walk, he gets only one ride. But after it gets dark, he begins to get rides. Soon he knows why the white men pick him up: They use him as a verbal pornographic book. They all want to know how the blacks have sex, if he had ever had sex with a white woman, if he had ever made this or that and so on. Most of them are looking at Negroes not as humans but as animals who have sex all the time. Only the last man who picks him up is not interested in the color of his skin or sex, he just wants to talk to be entertained, but JHG can not make out why. After spending three days in Mobile at the house of an old Negro, looking for a job and spending most of his time to get something to eat or to find a bathroom, JHG finds out that he would not have a chance to get a job here, either.

November 24th

On this cold day, JHG hitchhikes from Mobile to Montgomery. After some miles of walking, a white man picks him up. After some small talk, the man starts to talk about sex. He gives work to black women, but he only pays them after having sex with him, and he tells that everybody would do this. Than he tells that one could kill a Negro and no one would ever know what happened to him. After JHG has to get off his truck because the man leaves the highway, he continues walking until he reaches a small service station where he buys some food. He does not know where to sleep, but then he gets a ride from a friendly Negro who lets him stay at his house. The man has many children, and while laying on the floor, JHG thinks about how unfair it is to deny these children to go to a good school, to have fun and to have a good future. Later he has a nightmare in which he is being chased by white people with the hate-stare.

November 25th - November 29th

By bus, he finally arrives in Montgomery, Alabama. The situation there becomes dangerous for him, the discrimination is extremely high, so he wants to pass back into white society. He does not take pills any more and rubs his skin, and in the middle of the night, when everyone in the hotel sleeps, he goes to the white sector. The whole situation changes immediately. JHG is again a first-class citizen, with all the privileges like some weeks ago. The city looks different for him. Everybody smiles, he even talked to some white again. But when he goes back to the black sector, the Negroes looks say: "You white bastard, what are you doing walking these streets?"

December 1st - December 2nd

He develops a technique of zigzagging back and forth, from black to white, so he could always be the color he just wants to be. In the early afternoon, he takes the bus for Tuskegee as a black again, where he meets a strange drunk man who calls himself an observer. But JHG does not want to drink with him, so the man is angry and says that he will write bad things about the Negroes in his observations. While his bus journey back to Mississippi, there is again trouble between the black and the white on the bus. After getting there he stays on night in the YMCA. The next day, the SEPIA magazine asks him to do more stories about Atlanta. So he stays in a monastery the next night, on his way to Atlanta. In this place, there is no discrimination. In the morning, a young professor that he met in the monastery drives him to Atlanta. There he meets a photographer with which he makes a story on Atlanta's Negro business.

December 7th - December 14th

In the following three days, he works hard. Together with the photographer he meets all the important black leaders in Atlanta, and he recognizes that Atlanta is the most encouraged city in the south in solving "the problem". After finishing his work, he goes to New Orleans to start another project with another photographer: He wants to go back to all the scenes were he has been and have photos made, what causes serious problems: A white photographer and a black man do not really fit together.... On December 14th, everything was finished, and John Howard Griffin would never be a Negro again, he made his final change into white society.

December 15th - February 26th

Flying home to Texas it is clear to him that after publishing the truth about the discrimination in the south, he would be the target of all hate groups. But for this moment, he is just happy to see his family again after 7 weeks. In January, Mr. Levitan, his friend from the SEPIA magazine calls and asked if he plans to publish his work, JHG wants to. Till end of February, the news becomes known. He gets calls for interviews.

March 14th - March 23rd

After the story is published by the newspapers at the weekend, the TV brings it now. JHG gets long calls from his relatives and friends to block hate-calls against him. Whenever he goes into the public, people yell at him now. He continues giving interviews, some of them do not evade the issue at all. Meanwhile, JHG has a PR-manager, Benn Hall, who organizes the interviews for him. JHG refuses to answer questions that offend him or make him trouble, but all the interviewers are fair with him and the interviews are good.

April 1st - April 11th

The press from Europe gets interested in the story, a team of five French reporters visits JHG. In-between, the pressure on him gets bigger and bigger. He gets lots of letters, but only very few of them offend him. One morning, the phone rings and a reporter tells him that a dummy, half black and half white, had been hung on the Main Street. His parents move to Mexico because they are being harassed, and his children and his wife are being brought in safety to friends. He gets more and more letters from Negroes from the south, he had "stirred things up".

June 19th - August 17th

JHG got 6000 letters until this date, and only nine of them are abusive. Justice Bok sends him a copy of his speech at Radcliffe. A hate group wants to castrate him, but they do not try to do it. Together with a black boy that he hired, JHG cleans the house of his parents for the next owner. He has a long conversation with this boy, which finishes the book.

Word Count: 2206

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