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What is it like to be black in the southern states ?

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Par   •  5 Avril 2018  •  Commentaire d'oeuvre  •  479 Mots (2 Pages)  •  820 Vues

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Beginning of the 50s in the US. A vast movement to improve the treatments towards black people grew and was spreading across the country. In 1954 a judgement of the Supreme Court (Brown vs Board of Education) declared that racial segregation at school was inconstitutional. In 1955 there was a successful boycott of Montgomery’s buses led by Martin Luther King Jr because of racial segregation in public transport. All these steps brought the fact that racial segregation was unconstitutional. So much progress hasn’t been done without tensions and violence from a rare intensity. It was in this tense context that reporter John Howard Griffin asked the following question : « What is it like to be black in the southern states ? » In my opinion he went really far to do his study, as he became black by following an ultraviolet treatment. According to me, the book is really interesting because there are three different levels of reading and it deals with a major problem of our society.

The first one concerns Griffin’s reactions and feelings to know that he is black, for him to look at in the mirror and to see a black man. The change isn’t only physical, by crossing the border between races he is now alone, away from his family, wife and children becoming strangers because of their white skin color. Two different worlds, which are in contact but never mix.

The second one, I think the most important, is the story of his adventures in the segregationist south. I think he was really brave to go in Mississipu and Alabama, the most racist/conservatives and violent states where the subject is really sensitive. His life became a nightmare as he is constantly harassed, humiliated and bullied. To be able to provide himself the most basic needs such as water and food is a big concern. Even whites whom are not racists disrespect blacks unintentionally because of their so paternalistic sympathy that it makes situations uncomfortable. Indeed, the stereotypes (that in my opinion Griffin skillfully destroyed) are so deep inside the minds that it became vicious. From hating to having pity, it even poisons those well intentioned whites. I found it very demonic.

The entire book is filled with reflexions about racism. Why, how does it work, what led to it, how does it become a vicious cycle... Reflexions that might look short and simple but are actually relevant and are currently asked everywhere there is racism.

At its publication, the book which had the effect of a bomb, ends by the reactions of the american press and shows the mentality at that time about racism. I think John Griffin was a visionary and that he was really brave to write his story and to release it during a period when racism was normal, in a period when he knew he will get criticized and hated.


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