Black Like Me

by

John Howard Griffin

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The Dermatologist Character Analysis

A white dermatologist whom Griffin visits in New Orleans when he wants to darken his skin. Griffin explains the entire project to the dermatologist, who is onboard with the idea at first but grows increasingly hesitant as time goes by, eventually coming to regret his decision to help. However, by the time he realizes that he wishes he hadn’t helped Griffin darken his skin pigmentation, it’s already too late. As such, he issues a number of “warnings” to Griffin about the danger he’s likely to encounter. Although the dermatologist claims to be in favor of racial equality, he says a number of bigoted things without seeming to understand the prejudice that has seeped into his language. Indeed, the dermatologist has formed many implicit biases against black people, making vast generalizations about all African Americans and suggesting that light-skinned black people are somehow superior to dark-skinned black people. In this way, the dermatologist is the first person Griffin encounters who thinks of himself as magnanimous and enlightened while simultaneously setting forth harmful, bigoted viewpoints.

The Dermatologist Quotes in Black Like Me

The Black Like Me quotes below are all either spoken by The Dermatologist or refer to The Dermatologist. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of Black Like Me published in 1960.
November 6, 1959 Quotes

I believe in the brotherhood of man. […] I respect the race. But I can never forget when I was an intern and had to go down on South Rampart Street to patch them up. Three or four would be sitting in a bar or at a friend’s house. They were apparently friends one minute and then something would come up and one would get slashed up with a knife. We’re willing enough to go all the way for them, but we’ve got this problem— how can you render the duties of justice to men when you’re afraid they’ll be so unaware of justice they may destroy you?—especially since their attitude toward their own race is a destructive one.

Related Characters: The Dermatologist (speaker), John Howard Griffin
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

He also told me things that Negroes had told him—that the lighter the skin the more trustworthy the Negro. I was astonished to see an intelligent man fall for this cliché, and equally astonished that Negroes would ad­vance it, for in effect it placed the dark Negro in an in­ferior position and fed the racist idea of judging a man by his color.

Related Characters: John Howard Griffin (speaker), The Dermatologist
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Black Like Me LitChart as a printable PDF.
Black Like Me PDF

The Dermatologist Character Timeline in Black Like Me

The timeline below shows where the character The Dermatologist appears in Black Like Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
November 2, 1959
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
The next morning, Griffin visits a dermatologist. After Griffin explains what he wants to do, the doctor excuses himself so that he... (full context)
November 6, 1959
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
Griffin follows his regiment for four days and visits the dermatologist for blood tests. Thankfully, the dermatologist determines that his body isn’t being harmed by the... (full context)
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
Continuing his warning, the dermatologist says, “We’re willing enough to go all the way for [black people], but we’ve got... (full context)
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
In addition to his warning, the dermatologist also tells Griffin things he has heard from black people, like that lighter skin makes... (full context)
November 7, 1959
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Implicit Bias and Systemic Racism Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
...this point, especially if he uses “stain” to “touch [it] up.” After deciding with the dermatologist that he ought to shave his head, he goes to leave the office one last... (full context)
November 8, 1959
Appearance, Identity, and Bigotry Theme Icon
Unity, Division, and Communication Theme Icon
Fear and Violence Theme Icon
...himself down as the boy’s voice echoes in his mind. He also thinks of the dermatologist’s remark, “Now you go into oblivion.” “Seated on the church steps tonight, I wondered if... (full context)